Red Bull Dominates, Aston Martin Shines, Ferrari Flounders In Bahrain Grand Prix

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The first race of the 2023 Formula 1 season — the Bahrain Grand Prix — is in the books, and we now have our first taste of what these cars can do on race day.

As expected, Red Bull didn’t put a foot wrong. The back-to-back soft tire stints Red Bull used with both race-winner Max Verstappen and runner-up Sergio Perez proved to be a good call, and once they were out front they were unchallenged.

For real. Watching the broadcast, you’d be forgiven for forgetting they were even on the track. They were so far up the road at times they were probably planning their strategy for the next race in Jeddah, two weeks from now.

However, behind Verstappen and Perez, the race got very interesting. Some teams proved they’re the real deal, others had mixed results, while others still will be happy to leave Bahrain.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso’s first race was Aston martin was spectacular and ended with a podium finish. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Fernando Alonso Grabs Podium In Aston Martin Debut

Aston Martin is bringing it so far, and Fernando Alonso is driving like a man possessed.

They’ve been the talk of the F1 world with their quick new AMR23, which proved to have the race pace most people expected.

However, it was a rough start to the race with Alsono and teammate Lance Stroll making contact with each other on the opening lap. Both cars were unscathed and from there they chipped away at the Ferraris and Mercedes ahead of them.

Alonso picked off Lewis Hamilton in a thrilling multi-corner tussle and had his sights set on Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. Catching Sainz for P4 was inevitable, but it seemed like catching Leclerc in P3 was going to be a pipedream.

Then Alonso and Aston Martin were given a gift from the F1 gods. Charles Leclerc’s power unit took a crap and gifted the Silverstone-based team a bit of a surprise podium.

The 42-year-old, two-time world champ described his new ride as “lovely” to drive. That’s high praise from a dude with that level of experience.

On the other side of the garage, Lance Stroll had a strong performance. Even with a recently broken wrist and toe, he finished P6. That’s a phenomenal points hall to start the year for Aston Martin, who look like they could be competing at the sharp end of the field at most circuits this season.

Charles Leclerc
A podium looked like a sure thing for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc until he was forced to retire with a mechanical issue. (Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ferrari Leaves Points On The Table With Poor Reliability

Oh, Ferrari…

The move to start the race on fresh soft tires helped Leclerc jump Sergio Perez for P2. but that was about all it did. He managed to hold him for the first stint, but Perez managed to catch him on during the second stint.

Leclerc built a gap to Sainz in P4 and looked to have a podium locked up.

But then, as previously mentioned, the power unit crapped out.

Before the race even began, Ferrari replaced the energy storage unit in Leclerc’s SF-23. You’re only allotted two of those for the season, and they were on No. 2 before the lights went out on Sunday.

That’s a big problem, and it looks reliability could be an issue, but not like it is for other teams on the grid *cough* McLaren *cough*.

Unfortunately, Sainz didn’t have the race pace to hold off Aston Martin for P3.

The high-speed nature of the Jeddah street circuit in two weeks could bode well for Ferrari, and they’ll need to bounce back after massive disappointment in Bahrain.

Lando Norris McLaren
McLaren mechanics perform one of Lando Norris’ six pit stops during the Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

McLaren’s Horrendous Start To The Season Continued

McLaren had a terrible test weekend in Bahrain and continued to have massive problems during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri started P11 and P18 respectively, and almost immediately things fell apart.

Just a few laps into the race, Norris pitted with what the team believed to be a pneumatic issue. This wasn’t something they could fix, all they could do was top it off with fluids and send him back out on track. He had to stop twice in the first 17 laps of the Grand Prix and ultimately boxed 6 times.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Oscar Piastri’s highly-anticipated F1 debut ended early with an apparent electrical issue.

It was a disastrous weekend for McLaren who may be more on the backfoot than any other team on the grid.

Nico Hulkenberg, Logan Sargeant, and Pierre Gasly
Haas had a “meh” evening in Bahrain, while Williams’ Logan Sargeant and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly had solid drives. (Getty Images)

Other Random Thoughts From Bahrain

• Alpine had an interesting race. A total nightmare for Esteban Ocon who was slapped with a slew of penalties. However, Pierre Gasly had a solid drive from P20 to P9 to still a pair of points.

• American Logan Sargeant had a solid F1 debut for Williams, going from P16 to P12. Yeah, two of those positions were thanks to Ocon’s penalty issues and Leclerc’s retirement, but he was still just 8.5 seconds off of experienced teammate Alex Albon. Good start for Sargeant, and a good point-scoring performance from Albon.

• Haas had a race I can only describe as “meh.” The beginning of Nico Hulkenberg’s race was tanked by front wing damage he received on the first lap and sent him dropping down the order. Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen started in P17 and tried to gamble with a start on the hard tires that simply didn’t work. They were invisible for most of the race which will have been one to forget for the only American team on the grid.

Not the most exciting race there’s ever been, but interesting nonetheless. The next Grand Prix is in two weeks at the Jeddah Corniche Street Circuti in Saudi Arabia.

That one is typically interesting too, if rockets blowing up an oil refinery during a practice session counts as interesting.

That’s what happened last year.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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