Bahrain GP 2023

MARCH 5, 2023

Race Notes - Verstappen takes Red Bull 1-2

Max Verstappen, Bahrain GP 2023
© Red Bull

By Mark Karp

Max Verstappen won the season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix in his Red Bull-Honda, winning over his team mate Sergio Perez by seconds. Fernando Alonso took third place in his Aston Martin-Mercedes to take the final spot on the podium, 26.650 seconds behind the winner.

Verstappen’s win is his 36th career victory, and he said “really good result!”

Alonso takes his 99th podium finish, his last podium coming at the Qatar GP in 2021.

Carlos Sainz (48.052s) in the Ferrari finished fourth, while his team mate Charles Leclerc dropped out with a mechanical failure late in the race while running third.

Lewis Hamilton (50.977s) in the Mercedes GP was fifth, followed by Lance Stroll (54.502s) in the second Aston Martin was sixth, George Russell (44.873s) in the second Mercedes was seventh, Valtteri Bottas (1m12.647s) in the Alfa Romeo-Ferrari was eighth, Pierre Gasly (1m13.753), after starting last in the Alpine-Renault, took ninth place and Alex Albon (1m30.870s) in the Williams-Mercedes took the final points position in tenth place.

Before the start of the opening race for the 2023 Formula One season the sun was setting on the Bahrain circuit.

Verstappen sits on pole in his Red Bull, with team mate Perez alongside on the front row, the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz sit on row two, Alonso and Russell took row three, Hamilton and Stroll, mending a broken wrist, on row four and Ocon and Hulkenberg round out the top ten grid positions.

A two-stop tyre strategy looks likely for all the drivers during the race, with most teams expected to run soft-hard-hard, while the Red Bull’s are expected to run soft-medium-hard. All drivers starting on soft tyres except for Magnussen on hard tyres.

At the appointed time, the drivers took to the formation lap, the lined up on the grid. The lights went out and the race began with Verstappen getting a quick start, Stroll bangs the rear wheel of Alonso, followed by Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Hamilton, Russell, Alonso, Bottas, Stroll and Norris in tenth.

At lap 3 Verstappen has a 1.9s lead over Leclerc.

On lap 4 Ocon and then Albon get past Norris.

On lap 5 Verstappen has extended his lead to 4 seconds over Leclerc and Perez.

On lap 9 Russell goes wide at a corner but continues. Alonso is closing on the two Mercedes.

At lap 10 Verstappen leads Leclerc by 6.4 seconds, followed by Perez (8.1s), Sainz (13.5s), Hamilton (16.9s), Russell (18.5s), Alonso (19.6s), Stroll (20.9s), Bottas (25.0s) and Ocon (28.1s) in tenth place.

Gasly pits for hard tyres, Norris pits for hard tyres the next lap.

On lap 12 Russell tells the team

Albon and Bottas pit.

On lap 13 Hamilton pits for hard tyres and rejoined eighth. Ocon stops again as well as Sargeant and Zhou.

Alonso passes passes Russell for fifth.

Leclerc, Sainz and Russell all pit.

On lap 15 Verstappen pits from the lead for another set of soft tyres and rejoins second. Alonso pits and rejoins eighth.

On lap 16 Stroll pits from fourth and rejoins ninth.

Russell sets last lap at 1m37.450s.

Perez, yet to stop, leads Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, Hamilton, Bottas, Alonso, Russell, Stroll and Albon.

On lap 17 Alonso passes Bottas for sixth place.

On lap 18 Perez pits from the lead for another set of soft tyres and rejoins in third.

Russell passes Bottas for seventh.

At lap 20 Verstappen leads Leclerc by 10.5 seconds, followed by Perez (14.3s), Sainz (22.9s), Hamilton (27.0s), Alonso (30.6s), Russell (32.6s), Bottas (36.5s), Stroll, and Albon in tenth place.

Stroll pases Bottas for eighth place.

Ocon pits and the team changes the front wing.

On lap 21 Perez sets fast lap at 1m37.240s, and the 137.169s.

Ocon and Norris battling for 18th, Norris passes the Alpine.

Perez is closing on Leclerc in second place.

Ocon is handed another time penalty.

Alonso is catching Hamilton in fifth.

On lap 26 Perez passes Leclerc and takes second place.

On lap 29 Norris pits and rejoins

Verstappen tells the team, “my left front is giving up a little bit.”

At lap 30 Verstappen leads Perez by 13.6 seconds, followed by Leclerc (18.6s), Sainz (31.3s), Hamilton (34.8s), Alonso (37.0s), Russell (42.4s), Stroll (44.6s), Sargeant (1m07.5s) and Zhou (1m11.0s) in tenth place.

On lap 31 Hamilton pits for another set of hard tyres and rejoins seventh.

Stroll and Sargeant pit as well.

On lap 32 Sainz pits from fourth and rejoins fourth, Russell pits and rejoins in seventh.

Stroll passes Russell for seventh before Russell’s tyres are up to tempeture.

Stroll sets fast lap at 1m36.546s.

On lap 34 Leclerc pits for hard tyres and rejoins in fourth.

On the next lap Perez pits from second place for hard tyres and rejoins still in second. Alonso pits for hard tyres and rejoins in sixth.

On lap 37 Verstappen pits from the lead for hard tyres and rejoins still in the lead.

On lap 36 Alonso sets fast lap at 1m36.156s,

On lap 37 Alonso battles with Hamilton for fifth.

The next lap Alonso gets past Hamilton for fifth.

At lap 40 Verstappen leads Perez by 11.5 seconds, followed by Leclerc (24.2s), Sainz (33.6s), Alonso (36.0s), Hamilton (37.1s), Stroll (43.3s) and Russell, Bottas and Albon in tenth.

On lap 41 Leclerc pulls off to the side of the track and retires. Thwe Virtual safety car is out. Many drivers pit.

On lap 43 Gasly passes Albon for ninth.

Tsunoda passes Devries for 11th.

Gasly set fast lap at 1m35.068s on new soft tyres.

Alonso is closing on Sainz in third.

On lap 46 Alonso passes Sainz for third place, and says “Yes, bye bye”.

Hamilton is right behind Sainz, who continues to struggle on his tyres.

On lap 49 Norris pits for a fifth time.

At lap 50 Verstappen leads Perez by 10.7 seconds, followed by Alonso (35.9s), Sainz (41.3s), Hamilton (42.2s), Stroll (46.9s), Russell (49.2s), Bottas (1m04.5s), Gasly (1m10.3s) and Albon (1m22.3s) in tenth place.

Magnussen passes Devries for 14th. Stroll runs wide at a corner but continues.

Alonso tells the team, “this is a lovely car to drive.”

Tsunoda closing on Albon for the final point.

Verstappen crosses the line with the win over Perez and Alonso in third.

Guanyu Zhou on the final lap took the fastest lap at 1m33.996s, but as he finished outside the top ten, does not receive the extra point, but taking it away from their rival AlphaTauri.