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Formula 1 - What We Know After Bahrain - News

The first race of the Formula 1 season has concluded - and while the dust is still settling out in the Bahrain desert, we wanted to diagnose what went on out on the track and how the information we all gathered has informed our understanding of the main runners and riders for the 2023 season.

The off-season period has been dominated by talk around Red Bull's R19 car, whether Mercedes would build on its strong ending towards the back end of the 2022 season, and if Ferrari would ever sort out its engine issues and become a genuine contender. However, despite all the chatter, no one would truly know how the teams were positioned until after the waving of the first chequered flag.

  • Red Bull – Can anyone catch them?

Red Bull's dominance last season was astounding, and all the pre-season talk was not just if that would continue, it was more about how much it could grow over the other teams. From what was on display in Bahrain: a frightening amount.

Over the past decade, the Red Bull team has had to play second fiddle to Mercedes and Christian Horner's desire to get his team on top of the pile has resulted in them creating such a competitive car that it is now blowing everyone else out of the water.

Is it absurd to say that this car could potentially deliver a perfect season for the team? No. Is this a damning indictment of the other teams' cars? Potentially.

After the race, Horner was in a more reflective mood than their dominance suggested, quick to play down expectations, quoting the race as a 'sample of one', but the way Verstappen cruised to victory, never looking under any sort of pressure from the moment the green light flashed up, means many fans are already inscribing Verstappen's name on what would be his third Formula 1 Drivers' Championship. Yes – a bold statement after the first race of the season.

Verstappen was less reserved than Horner, genuinely purring at the end of the race, heaping praise on how the team had lived up to the "hype" of the car despite a couple of wobbles during practice and qualifying.

Perez, who fell behind Leclerc at the start, was also bouncing and feels that he can mount a challenge on Verstappen if the wind blows in his favour. The +11.987 second gap between him and Verstappen at the end makes us feel this belief is more bravado than actual truth.

  • Mercedes – One of the team's worst days of racing?

It seems that Bahrain was the final nail in the coffin for Toto Wolff and his belief in the car. Yes, one race in and they've decided that the dominance of Red Bull means they have to already make drastic changes if they're to save their season.

The 2023 car was built on the concept of their initially disastrous 2022 car, which did see slight improvements towards the back end of the season, but it was so off the pace in Bahrain that Wolff has said there will be "radical" changes made instantly.

Both Mercedes cars were about one second-a-lap off the pace of the Red Bulls and Wolff was open in his feelings about it, admitting it "hurts" to see them so far ahead and that the day was "one of the worst in racing."

Hamilton, who had a tremendous start, battling his way up to fifth when the lights went green, lacked any power to combat Aston Martin's Alonso when he went on the attack with 18 laps remaining. Hamilton finished the race in an also despondent mood, claiming the car is going "backwards" and cannot fight the Ferraris or Aston Martins in its current state.

What of Russell? Well, his start meant he slipped back to seventh on the grid and was never really in the fight. Moments after stepping out of his car at the end of the race, he declared that "Red Bull have already got this championship sewn up."

So, will these promised radical changes be enough to save their season? The Aston Martin car's engine has the Mercedes engine so one would believe the power is there, the car's concept just needs to be overhauled. We're unsure if whatever they do will be enough to catch Red Bull, but it may just help them claim some pride back if it manages to help them compete with Ferrari and the emerging Aston Martin team.

  • Ferrari – Same old, same old…

Ferrari's car was touted as being competitive with the RB19, especially over the straights, and qualifying suggested that a competitive race may be on the cards. But the race once again showed how Ferrari can't shake the albatross hanging around its neck: its persistent inability to look after its tyres, and those engine problems.

With Leclerc forced to retire on lap 41 after his engine cut out unexpectedly, could the demons of previous years still be in the car? The tyre issue was also clearly on display, with Verstappen outlasting both Ferraris when he was on softs, and they were on hard compounds.

What is more worrying, is that Leclerc has already had to use 50% of his energy store allocation for the year so unless Ferrari can start to get on top of their engine issues, this season could get out of their hands before it has even really got going.

  • Aston Martin - Hitting headlines…

Despite Verstappen's dominance, it was actually Aston Martin who grabbed many of the headlines in this race, with both Stroll and Alonso featuring heavily in some of the more exciting moments in Bahrain.

Rumours were circulating during testing that Aston Martin was in a position to compete with Ferrari and Mercedes this year – noteworthy that we've excluded Red Bull here due to the 38 second gap at the end of the race between Alonso and Verstappen – and this race only cemented those rumours.

Alonso has been out of a competitive car for a long time and, while many cannot question his racing ability, some queried how long he would go on for now that he is definitely in the twilight of his career. However, it seems that his faith in Aston Martin was right, and he is now towards the top of the pile once more.

A particular race day highlight was his battle with Hamilton with 18 laps remaining, with the two old nemeses going back and forth for a lap or so, both demonstrating why they're so revered by all in Formula 1 before the Aston Martin finally came out on top and pulled away.

A podium finish for Alonso was headline-grabbing and well-deserved. It's great to see the Spaniard back up the final standings.

Lance Stroll also had a promising race. Despite undergoing recent surgery on two broken wrists, this race was one which would've taken a lot of weight off the young man's mind. At the end, he placed sixth and, despite mentioning how tired his wrists were, it puts him in a great position to push on for the remainder of the season.

This first outing has put Aston Martin as the cat in amongst the pigeons - and we think they will ruffle a few feathers this season.

We're sure that there will be further drama throughout the season and will check back during the first main break to see where the top teams are at.

If you would like to enjoy the thrill of driving a Single Seater Racing Car yourself, you can visit the Single Seater Driving Experiences page today to browse and book from available dates on our Single Seater Experiences Calendar or purchase one of our open Gift Vouchers.

Formula 1 - What We Know After Bahrain
06 March 2023

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