Max Verstappen reigns supreme at Bahrain GP: Key takeaways from the season opener

Verstappen, who started from where he left off in Abu Dhabi last season, sealed his maiden victory at the 5.412 km long Bahrain International Circuit. 

Max Verstappen | Bahrain GP
Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain.

Red Bull’s reigning World Champion Max Verstappen took up the reins at the 2023 Formula 1 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the UK-based franchise secured a 1-2 finish with Sergio Perez finishing second. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who dominated the FP sessions over the weekend, came home third on his Aston Martin debut.

Here, we take a look at the key takeaways from the season opener.

RB19 is a rocket ship with Max’s aeronautical craft to back it

Verstappen, who started from where he left off in Abu Dhabi last season, sealed his maiden victory at the 5.412 km long Bahrain International Circuit.  And boy, oh boy, with some margin. The Dutchman was at least 38 seconds ahead of a non-Red Bull car on the grid.

This victory, which comes after a front-row lockout from the constructor in Saturday’s qualifying, marks their first win at the Bahrain GP since 2013.

Aston Martin hype is real: The battle for the best of the rest gets intense

It’s been just one race weekend into the season but it would be safe to say that Aston Martin, who finished seventh in last year’s constructor’s championship, have put in the winter work to come up with a competitive car this season. Arguably, the second best car on the grid, ahead of Ferrari.

While Alonso guided his AMR23 to round off the podium, his teammate, Lance Stroll, put on a heroic display finishing P6, with metal screws in his wrist and a broken toe – which he fractured in a pre-season cycling incident.

New season, same Ferrari?

We’re into the new season but Ferrari’s reliability woes seem far from over. Charles Leclerc had to take a new energy store (ES) on his car ahead of the season opener, however, no penalty was issued as two such changes are allowed over the course of the season. 

Leclerc, who started at P3, lost power during lap 41, forcing the Italian to retire and lose out on points in what was looking like a promising effort. 

Apart from that, both drivers were struggling with tyre degradation. Carlos Sainz lost out the battle for the podium as his compatriot, Alonso, made a brilliant move on him towards the latter stages of the race to secure P3. 

Mercedes needs to put in the hard yards

Toto Wolff had the hopes high on their W14, having confirmed that they have got rid of the porpoising that they struggled with the W13 last year. However, the car is far from being competitive in terms of pace, leaving the drivers to push harder, which in result, hurt the tyres over the weekend.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton saw the chequered flag in fifth while his teammate George Russell finished in P7 after a hard day’s work. 

The Silver Arrows need to put in the hard yards before they think about title contention this season and if there needs to be a wake-up call then Bahrain GP was just it.

A day to forget for McLaren

After failing to put any of their cars in Q3 for the second successive season at Bahrain Grand Prix, the writing was on the wall for McLaren. The eight-time constructors’ champion had to retire Formula 1 debutant Oscar Piastri’s car due to an electronic issue.

It didn’t stop there, Lando Norris, who was struggling with a PU issue on his car and made half-a-dozen pit stops, finished P17.

Furthermore, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo finished P8, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly as Alex Albon grabbed up the last available point for Williams. Yuki Tsunoda crossed the finish line in 11th, ahead of Williams’ debutant Logan Sargeant, who was followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Nyck De Vries finished 14th on his Formula 1 debut, ahead of Nico Hulkenburg and Zhou Guanyu at 15th and 16th, respectively.

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First published on: 06-03-2023 at 12:17 IST
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