Kicking off yet another year of Formula One action, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen captured his first victory of the season in the division’s inaugural race of 2023. All of F1’s crews and teams traveled to Bahrain to traverse the just over 3-mile road course in an effort to start the year off on the right foot, and for Red Bull and Verstappen to defend their title from the previous season.
Red Bull teammates Verstappen and Sergio Perez qualified together in the front row, and thanks to some stellar driving skills managed to hold their spot throughout the duration of the race. Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. were fast enough to lock themselves into third and fourth respectively, while the legendary Fernando Alonso and the Aston Martin team qualified in fifth.
On the first lap of the race, Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll cut a corner far too tight, forcing Alonso off the track for a moment. Many fans and pundits alike believed the move was just a sign of things to come with Alonso’s faltering finishing positions over the previous years. While he certainly isn’t the Ferrari driver he once was, the veteran roared back to life and climbed up the field following the mishap.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, making his debut alongside established Australian driver Lando Norris, had an unfortunate end to his night just 15 laps in when an electrical issue forced him to retire from the contest.
Alpine driver Esteban Ocon somehow managed to have an even more unfortunate day, being issued a five-second penalty for an incorrect starting position, and then an ensuing 10-second penalty for failing to serve the initial one correctly. Ocon had also been struggling to push through some front wing damage that had been affecting aerodynamics, eventually leading to his retirement from the race.
Soon enough, the gremlins started to mess with Ferrari and Leclerc was forced to retire as well as a result of an electrical issue, marking the first “big name” to be forced out of the competition. Now facing just over 20 laps to go and a thinner field, Alonso began his push to the front from fourth as he chased down Sainz for third.
Gaining 0.4 seconds every lap, the gap continued to tighten until Alonso finally made the pass along the inside of Sainz and secured P3. Once he made the pass, he moved ahead of the red Ferrari where he would stay for the remainder of the race. The two Red Bull drivers continued their unreal show of dominance, retaining the top two spots for the entirety of the grand prix.
When all was said and done, Verstappen crossed the line well ahead of the rest of the field with Perez in second and Alonso securing an emphatic podium finish in third. The win was obviously massive for Red Bull, but for Alonso the third-place finish is nearly just as rewarding. The top-three finish was his first podium since 2021 at Qatar and sets the standard for what’s to be expected of Alonso this year in what could be one of his last full-time seasons behind the wheel.
Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had unfortunate days, seeming to be unable to lock into that “next gear” and run away with the race as they have in the past. The duo finished the race in fifth and seventh respectively.
Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu was a pleasant surprise for the team as he put together the fastest lap of the entire race on the final go-around, giving some hope to a driver and team that frequented the bottom half of the field in 2022.
While Red Bull has a firm grasp around the top of the table for the Constructor’s Cup early on this year, the F1 cast’s trials and tribulations at Saudi Arabia on Sunday, March 19 will help discern the true nature of this year’s roster before the season gets into the swing of things.