Tue, 04 April 2023
Reigning Formula One world champion Max Verstappen made a dream start to the 2023 F1 season by leading Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez to a dominant one-two in the Bahrain Grand Prix after another dazzling spectacle at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Fernando Alonso rolled back the years and joined the podium party on his Aston Martin debut at the grand age of 41 as the track was showered with fireworks at the culmination of the three-day festival of fun and speed.
Mexican Perez took the chequered flag 11.9 seconds behind his team mate, whose win was the team’s 10th in 12 races stretching back to last July as the signs already look ominous for another one-sided season.
“Very lovely that, really good result. We had good race pace,” Verstappen, almost a dead-cert for a third successive title this season, told the team on his victory parade.
“That’s exactly the start to the season we wanted and needed. A perfect one-two”.
As Red Bull celebrated and the night sky filled with fireworks, Ferrari were left licking their wounds again with Charles Leclerc retiring from third place and Carlos Sainz then overtaken by Alonso.
It was the first time the Dutch driver had won in Bahrain, the first time he had triumphed in a Formula One opener and a marked turnaround from last year’s race where he retired and Leclerc won.
Leclerc seized second place at the start from third on the grid and looked good for the podium until he slowed and pulled over 17 laps from the end, shouting “No, no, no! No power.” over the team radio.
Ferrari blamed the breakdown, which triggered a virtual safety car period, on an electrical problem on the power unit.
Veteran double world champion Alonso, in his 356th race, then passed Sainz with a thrilling wheel-to-wheel move 12 laps from the end and was voted Driver of the Day by fans.
“To come here and finish on the podium in the first race of the year, it is amazing what Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second best car on race one. This is just unreal,” the Spaniard told the sell-out crowd after the finish.
Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes, who were a long way off Red Bull’s pace and effectively the fourth-best team.
Canadian Lance Stroll, who broke both his wrists and a big toe in a cycling accident in Spain just two weeks ago, gave Aston Martin more points with sixth, lifting them to a giddy second in the constructors’ standings.
George Russell was seventh for Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas eighth for Alfa Romeo and Pierre Gasly ninth on his Alpine debut after joining from AlphaTauri and starting the race in last position.
Gasly’s team mate Esteban Ocon picked up three separate time penalties before retiring. Alex Albon took the final point for a markedly more competitive-looking Williams, with US rookie team mate Logan Sargeant a strong 12th.
Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou set the fastest lap but there was no bonus point as he finished outside the top 10. Australian Oscar Piastri retired 14 laps into his debut, with his stricken McLaren wheeled into the team garage after suffering an apparent electronics issue.
The 21-year-old had complained of gearbox problems and mechanics swapped the steering wheel when he pitted but he could not restart.