Photo courtesy of Peter Fox | Getty Images
Might as well start engraving Max Verstappen’s name for a third year in a row on the Formula 1 world championship trophy as the 2021 and 2022 champion outclassed the rest of the field by a wide margin to win Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix to open the 2023 calendar.
It’s the 36th victory in Verstappen’s F1 career, putting him five wins away from tying the late Ayrton Senna for fifth on the all-time wins list.
“Yeah it was a very good first stint where I made my gap and from there it was all about the tires because you never really know what’s going to happen later on in the race so we just wanted to make sure that we had the right tires and in good condition as well,” Verstappen said after the race.
There was little question for who the victor under the Bahrain lights would be as Verstappen took off to the lead after lights out and never looked back. However, drama was still had as Ferrari’s in-race woes throughout the years reared their ugly heads again as Charles Leclerc suffered a mechanical failure on Lap 41 and retired from the race. In a situation where Leclerc needs to be virtually perfect to beat the likes of Verstappen for the world championship, it appears that the opening event already eliminates the Monégasque driver from title contention.
Red Bull grabbed the top two spots on the podium with Sergio Perez finishing runner-up.
41-year-old Fernando Alonso may have found the fountain of youth in his first season with Aston Martin as he outdueled the likes of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and both Mercedes drivers to score his first podium since the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix and 99th in his career.
“Amazing for the team. It was a great weekend and finishing on the podium in the first race of the year is just amazing,” Alonso said. “What Aston Martin did over the week to have the second-best car in race one is just unreal.”
Sainz gave Ferrari points with a fourth-place run. Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five followed by Lance Stroll, George Russell, Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon completing the drivers earning points in Bahrain.
Both Williams cars appear to have some pace as Albon tallied a point to start the 2023 campaign for the team while rookie US driver Logan Sargeant finished 12th.
McLaren has seen better days as Bahrain was a disaster for the English team. Rookie Oscar Piastri suffered a mechanical issue on Lap 15 that forced the tea to retire the car while Lando Norris had an array of issues with his car that plummeted him down to a 17th-place run, last of the cars still running the race.
Esteban Ocon will want to forget his trip to Bahrain as soon as possible as the Alpine driver racked up 20 seconds in penalties for an array of infractions including speeding on pit road and not positioning his car correctly on the grid.
In two weeks’ time, F1 will head to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on March 19.
1. Max Verstappen
2. Sergio Perez
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Carlos Sainz
5. Lewis Hamilton
6. Lance Stroll
7. George Russell
8. Valtteri Bottas
9. Pierre Gasly
10. Alexander Albon
11. Yuki Tsunoda
12. Logan Sargeant
13. Kevin Magnussen
14. Nick de Vries
15. Nico Hulkenberg
16. Zhou Gunayu
17. Lando Norris
18. Esteban Ocon (DNF)
19. Charles Leclerc (DNF)
20. Oscar Piastri (DNF)