If the 2023 F1 season-opening Bahrain GP is anything to go by, Red Bull is set for another strong season. Reigning champion Max Verstappen took a dominant win ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, while Ferrari had a difficult start with Charles Leclerc retiring from the race.
However, the biggest highlight was Fernando Alonso taking the final podium spot in his first race for Aston Martin. The two-time F1 champion made some incredible moves on Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, finishing third in the race.
As Verstappen pulled away from pole position, it soon became clear that he had a clear leg up on the rest of the field. A clean run to victory saw him cross the checkered flag, 11.987 seconds ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.
“It was a good first lap where I basically made my gap, and from there, it was all about just taking care of my tires because you never know what’s going to happen later in the race. So we just wanted to make sure we had the right tires and in good condition,” Verstappen said.
Perez lost a place to Leclerc at the start of the race. He played his cards well and regained position on lap 26 to finish Red Bull 1-2 in the first race of the season.
Aston Martin certainly turned heads in testing and the Bahrain GP proved that the hype is real. He didn’t have a great start with Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll and dropped a few places as a result. However, they were able to continue racing, and as the laps went by, Alonso soon emerged as a potential podium contender.
This potential turned into reality when Charles Leclerc stopped on the track with suspected engine failure. By this time, Alonso had already overtaken Lewis Hamilton inside Turn 10 to move up to fifth. He then began to hunt down the only remaining Ferrari driver, Carlos Sainz, who was struggling for pace.
On lap 45, Alonso passed Sainz after an incredible battle from the second sector. They finished third, returning to the podium for the first time since Qatar 2021.
Mercedes was hoping to take the battle to Red Bull this year. They have some work to do if they are to reach that goal, with Hamilton admitting the team dropped to fourth place. He finished fifth, followed by Lance Stroll, who braved an injured foot and wrist to finish sixth in another Aston Martin car. George Russell was seventh, followed by Valtteri Bottas.
It was a mixed day for Alpine. On the one hand, Esteban Ocon had perhaps the most difficult race of his career, but on the other hand, Pierre Gasly was able to show the true potential of the team.
Okon was initially given a five-second penalty for not lining up correctly in his grid slot. When the mechanics started working on his car 0.4 seconds earlier, he was given a further 10-second penalty for an early incorrect submission. To add to this, he was later given a further five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Gasly performed much better in his Alpine debut. After starting last on the grid, he employed a three-stop strategy to gain a total of 11 places and finish ninth. Williams’ Alexander Albon rounded out the top 10, just one second ahead of Yuki Sonoda.
McLaren suffered a disappointing start to the season. Rookie Oscar Piastre’s first F1 race ended on lap 13 due to an electrical problem. Lando Norris, meanwhile, dropped down the order after a slow pit stop and was the last of the finishers in 17th.
Next on the calendar is the Saudi Arabian GP between March 17 and 19. The high degradation of the Bahrain International Circuit naturally lends itself to cars like Red Bulls and Aston Martins. So it remains to be seen if the strong performers in the season opener can become strong on other types of circuits.