The opening race of the Bahrain Grand Prix is officially in the books, and we now have the official pecking order on how the teams stack up. By the looks of things Red Bull may well run away with both the driver’s and constructor’s titles. And they may do so well before the end of the 2023 Formula 1 Season.
Although testing and free practice in Bahrain alluded to the team’s dominance, there has been no decisive indication on the measure of performance of the teams this year. With teams and drivers running set-ups and race simulations in testing and qualifying, the leader boards saw several drivers topping the time sheets.
Early on, Red Bull suggested they will be in sharp end of the grid, with Ferrari also in the mix. Aston Martin on the other hand seemingly made the biggest advancements. But testing, practice and even qualifying, would not solidify each team’s performance. It would take the race itself, all 57 laps on Sakhir to weed out the contenders for the 2023 Formula 1 Season. Here’s what we can surmise on how this season will play out for the teams.
Red Bull Is The Team To Beat
Dominant on all fronts, Max Verstappen cruised to victory in Bahrain with massive gap to the driver’s behind him. Teammate Sergio Perez secured the 1-2 for the team despite being 11 seconds behind. The RB19 car is no doubt fast with amazing race pace. Red Bull’s rivals will certainly be challenged in reducing the deficit to the Milton Keynes team. The good news though, it is a long season ahead.
After last year, you have to feel a bit for Ferrari, especially for Charles Leclerc. In 2022, the Scuderia and the Monégasque were leading the standings before the season unravelled with reliability issues and questionable tactics. This year, despite a strong showing in qualifying, there’s still work to be done on the Ferrari SF-23. Reliability remains an issue with Leclerc retiring on lap 41. Despite Carlos Sainz finishing fourth, the car also suffers from tyre degradation issues. The question remains now – how the Scuderia will look to turn things around to avoid another potentially heart-breaking season.
Aston Martin Impresses
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 5, 2023
The team that made the biggest step forward for the 2023 Formula 1 Season. Aston Martin teased their credentials in testing and practice and despite not being fast enough over a fast lap in qualifying, the AMR23 showed it has race pace and good tyre management. One of the highlights of Bahrain was watching Fernando Alonso, the oldest driver on the grid, masterfully weave his way through the pack, eventually making his way to third. Granted Aston Martin benefited from Leclerc’s retirement for the podium position, but Lance Stroll’s sixth position, despite nursing an injured wrist and no limited testing, has effectively made them a threat to this year’s frontrunners.
Mercedes On The Backfoot
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished 5th and 7th for Mercedes in Bahrain. Although getting some decent points, it is not a result one expects from one of the most dominant teams of the past decade. If struggling to keep up with rivals Red Bull wasn’t enough, Mercedes also saw Alonso overtaking both their cars in a Mercedes-powered AMR23. “One of the worst days racing,” commented team principal Toto Wolff after race in an interview with SkySports. The Austrian also admitting that the team is focusing on a ‘much more radical update’ for the W14.
With the past decade dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, the midfield pack is where most of the racing action takes place. In the last few years, the sport has seen several teams swap positions to be “best of the rest”. However in Bahrain, the chaos that ensued in the midfield left no clear indication who will be competing for those valuable points. With on track incidents (Nico Hulkenberg-Haas Lap 1 contact/front wing damage), retirements (Oscar Piastri-McLaren Lap 16), and penalties (Esteban Ocon-Alpine) being dished out, Alfa Romeo, Alpine and, an impressive, Williams benefited from point finishes in the race. Alpha Tauri also wasn’t also too far behind with Yuki Tsunoda just outside the points in 11. As the midfield runners find their footing, expect the midfield order to change race to race throughout the 2023 Formula 1 Season.
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For a team that finished fourth in the constructors in 2021 and fifth in 2022, McLaren suffered an incredible dip of form in Bahrain. Lando Norris required six pitstops on his way to finish 17th and last in Bahrain. Teammate Piastri’s debut was one of the forget as it ended on Lap 16 due to an electrical issue. With dismal performances, McLaren is admittedly in trouble and there’s no doubt the team has to go back to drawing board to rectify these issues in order to salvage their season. Failing which, it could leave them scrapping at the back end of the grid.
(Main and featured image: Red Bull Content Pool)