Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Verstappen leads dominant Red Bull one-two as Alonso races to third

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix summary

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Max Verstappen started the 2023 season in dominant fashion for Red Bull, leading home team mate Sergio Perez as Fernando Alonso took a podium for Aston Martin in third.

The reigning world champions never looked under pressure during the race, with both Red Bull drivers holding almost half a minute of advantage over the rest of the field.

The 20 cars lined up on the grid for the first time for Formula 1’s longest-ever season, with the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez leading the field from the front row. When the five lights vanished to begin the 2023 season, Verstappen led away but Charles Leclerc beat Perez on the run to turn one, moving into second place with Carlos Sainz Jnr remaining fourth. Alonso dropped from fifth to seventh behind the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell after he was hit by team mate Lance Stroll from behind at turn four.

Verstappen quickly built a gap over Leclerc ahead, gaining an advantage of over four seconds from Leclerc by the end of the fifth lap. By lap 11, the Mercedes were struggling with tyre wear, with Alonso able to put Russell under intense pressure for sixth place. Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 12, while Alonso passed Russell to move into fifth after battling over the first sector.

Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 15, fitting a new set of softs, while Alonso also stopped for hard tyres, rejoining behind Hamilton but with Valtteri Bottas jumping ahead of him into sixth. Perez remained out on his softs until the end of lap 17, also pitting for a second set of used softs and rejoining back in third. Alonso and Russell both overtook the Alfa Romeo ahead of them to move back up into sixth and seventh, respectively.

With the advantage of soft tyres, Perez reeled in Leclerc in second place. At the start of lap 26, Perez was within DRS range and slipstreamed up to the the back of the Ferrari, pulling to the inside and moving up into second place. Perez easily began pulling away from Leclerc, while the gap to leader Verstappen was over ten seconds.

Hamilton and Stroll were the first of the leaders to pit at the end of lap 31, both moving onto fresh hard tyres. Russell pitted a lap later, but was caught by Stroll on his way out of the pits and the Aston Martin driver was through into turn four, moving up to seventh. Meanwhile, Ferrari pitted both of their drivers.

Red Bull pitted Perez first on lap 34 for hards, before Perez followed two laps later, retaining his comfortable lead. Behind, Alonso had caught the back of Hamilton for fifth and the pair battled hard over the first sector on lap 37, Alonso appearing to take the position before Hamilton reclaimed it on the exit of turn four. The next lap, Alonso pulled alongside the Mercedes on the exit of turn eight, before cutting inside under braking for turn ten and taking fifth place for good.

On lap 40, Leclerc suddenly lost power in his Ferrari heading up the hill of turn 11, pulling off to the side of the road and into retirement. That brought out the Virtual Safety Car for a lap, while the Ferrari was pushed behind the barriers.

When the race resumed, Alonso began to catch Sainz’s Ferrari, which now occupied third place. After pressuring his rival heavily, Alonso out-dragged Sainz out of turn 10 to move into the final podium position in third. With Alonso through, Sainz was then caught by Hamilton’s Mercedes. However, Hamilton was unable to pressure the sole remaining Ferrari, and Sainz managed to pull safely clear again.

Out front, Red Bull were in total control of the race. Verstappen ticked off the remaining laps and crossed the line at the end of lap 57 to take the chequered flag and win the opening race of a season for the first time in his career. Perez secured a one-two for Red Bull, over 10 seconds behind his team mate, while Alonso took the final podium in third, almost half a minute behind Perez.

Sainz took fourth for Ferrari, while Hamilton finished in fifth ahead of Stroll in the second Aston Martin. Russell was seventh, while Bottas crossed the line in eighth. Pierre Gasly secured two points in ninth from the back of the grid, but lost the fastest lap to Zhou Guanyu who pitted for soft tyres out of the end. Alexander Albon held onto the final point in tenth, just one second ahead of Yuki Tsunoda.

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix reaction

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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69 comments on “Verstappen leads dominant Red Bull one-two as Alonso races to third”

  1. Sam (@undercut677)
    5th March 2023, 16:53


    1. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
      5th March 2023, 18:16

      Some people will never be happy. It was a good race, yes sure RB are the fastest right now, especially in the hands of Max (Checo not so much), but the racing up and down the grid was good. Alonso was phenomenal, the Aston story was great.
      Good opening race, now its up to the other teams to catch up with Red Bull.

      1. I agree, the race behind the red bulls was really exciting.

        But then, we know from the last decade that most people don’t even look beyond the battle, or lack thereof, for first. We had plenty of races over the Mercedes dominant period with similarly exciting battles throughout the field, often with the added benefit of a battle between the Mercedes drivers or serious contenders from other teams. These were called boring by a large number of people, though funnily enough many of those have the opposite view of today’s race…

      2. +1. Entertaining season opener.

    2. What, you only care for the team/driver you support, or only for the battle for the first place? If so, F1 is not the best sport for you I suppose. Alonso alone provided more fun in this race than I’ve had in some time. Pretty decent one in terms of action, not the best race ever, but what do you expect? This is why they introduce artificial elements more and more, to keep fans like this happy. Nothing personal (even though we don’t know each other so…) or against you really, I just think you expect too much from a sport.

  2. :D What a race…

    Alonso vs Hamilton especially.

    But I do agree P1 and P2 were booring as hell.

    But racing when it happened was awesome, no we just need to wait for RedBull to drop to 20% aero development time, and they’ll be as fast as #2 team.

  3. Pretty dull race.

    98% of the passing was down to DRS & therefore not especially fun to watch.

    Alonso’s real overtake was great though, Just wish we saw more real racing/overtaking rather than all the fake DRS passing that isn’t exciting or memorable.

  4. Last year I warned you what was coming 2023-2025, because even if Ferrari or Mercedes have 0.3s on Red Bull, Max will still become a champion, because he’s already The Greatest of All Time. It’s even worse for everyone, because it’s actually Red Bull who have the best car, so only reliability, injury or some “interesting” race director decisions will stop them from winning every single race this year. That is unless they are stupid and don’t throw away some races, like Mercedes have done in their dominant 2014-2020 years, to lower the heat coming from FIA and Liberty. I think it will be still massive and they will do everything in their power to dethrone Red Bull and Max with regulations changes earlier than 2026.

  5. Did Max even drive a full handful of laps at 100% throughout the entire race?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      5th March 2023, 17:06

      Doubt it – as with Hamilton when he was winning all of the time, the challenge is simply to break DRS range of the car in 2nd and then turn everything down and cruise to the flag. I’d have thought it’d be a bit boring to win races like that but they always seem happy at the end.

      1. @petebaldwin
        And Vettel before them…

      2. @petebaldwin I remember Raikkonen sometimes admitted being a bit bored during some of his more dominant wins, but I expect most drivers are quite happy to take them however they come.

        1. Raikkonen’s most dominant wins, mmm, were they with the 2005 mclaren?

  6. So all the hype about Aston Martin was real. Now it’s all about being able to keep up with the development race, hopefully it’s not falling apart after a few rounds. Next critical milestone will also be the moving to their new facilities, which could impact their current form. Hopefully it’s all under control, go Fernando ! So many years after, what a good vibe, so much talent, love it !

    1. The hype was still overblown, as Aston Martin was never competitive for either the pole or win.

      Still, a distant third with one retirement up front and another solid point finish is still a decent result compared to where they were last season.

      1. Alonso had a compromised start and would have used up a lot chasing and overtaking just to get to 3rd. I would love to know how close he would have been to the Redbulls if he had a good start and gained a place or two. Amazing performance by Aston Martin.

        1. Alex (@smallvizier)
          5th March 2023, 21:00

          The Ferrari / Aston / Mercedes performance is so finely poised, it’s exciting. For the first two thirds of the race the Aston looked dead even with the Mercedes, and comfortably behind Ferrari. But in the final third Leclerc’s engine failed and Sainz had to nurse his tires – and Alonso burst to life and seemed to will his car around the circuit.

          Was the Aston faster than the Mercedes, or did Alonso just throw caution to the wind in a way Hamilton didn’t expect? Did Hamilton close on Sainz at the end because Sainz was being cautious, or because he genuinely had a speed advantage? What could Russell have done if he’d been pitted when he asked to in the first round of pit-stops?

          The six cars in those three teams could finish in any order next race (if they even finish). If we didn’t have Red Bull out ahead it would be the most open championship in a decade. I guess we’ll enjoy a great race for 3rd…

          1. Indeed, can also get 2nd when perez isn’t performing well: 11 sec behind verstappen isn’t bad for his standards, and also a good thing to see is that it proved very very hard in recent times to be competitive with the top 3, it’s happened very rarely for mclaren but generally ferrari, merc and red bull have always been way faster than everyone else since 2015, except a bad ferrari season in 2020, so aston martin did something very special to me: mix it up with 2 of the big 3!

      2. The hype was not that they may be in contention with red bull: they were considered pretty much untouchable, and that was proved to be the case today. They’re way or ahead of everyone else, with a similar advantage to that enjoyed by Mercedes at their most dominant.

        The hype was that AM would be in the mix with Ferrari and Mercedes. That has very much been shown to be the case.

    2. + 1. I think Alonso did great. OK they’re not a match for Red Bull but look where they were last year.

    3. Anyone else feel like Alonso’s early race pace was lacklustre and it only appeared like he was on fire later on because of the tyre deg for the Ferrari and Mercs?

  7. Ferrari have resolved reliability issues over the winter. The result is a battery change before the race for Leclerc followed by a DNF !

    1. It’s incredible. And then Sainz was somehow chewing through his tyres despite being way off the pace all race.

      It’ll be a tough year of reorganizing for Vasseur, and hopefully they can start to actually put Binotto’s poor legacy behind them with a fresh approach for 2024. And just hope Leclerc doesn’t get any enticing offers…

      1. I bet they’ll be giving Sainz an extension shortly even if he’s clearly no WDC material and won’t play 2nd fiddle to Leclerc.
        Him being completely unable to nurse the tyres while being fast on 9 races out of 10 will make for pretty embarassing performances now that there is one more team ahead of the pack.

        1. It’s quite strange that this seems to be such an enduring issue for certain drivers. Bottas never really got anywhere close to Hamilton in this department, and it doesn’t look like Sainz has improved at all on this point either.

      2. MichaelN,

        Ferrari’s main problem lies in their repetitive strategy, operations, and reliability issues. It’s like a pattern that they’ve developed, and it’s impacting their performance. Same goes for their tyre management issues or Carlos Sainz who got his contract extended for no reason. I was shouting on this same forum about how Ferrari made a mistake by signing him instead of Fernando Alonso the day he was announced in 2020. Sainz is pathetically slow and can’t manage his tyres.

        In F1, where the sport evolves rapidly, Binotto’s reluctance to make even the slightest change is costly. They’ve been stuck with the same issues for years. Vasseur needs to take a radical approach, similar to Marchionne, to break the patterns that have developed in recent years.

        Leclerc is widely considered to be the natural replacement for Hamilton. If Mercedes shows improvements after switching car concepts, it may be easier to convince Leclerc to switch teams.

        1. @tifoso1989 Absolutely, and as noted elsewhere, it’s too early in the game to be putting much or anything of this on Vasseur. This is Binotto’s team still, and it’s going to take quite a bit of cleaning up to put things right. Hopefully Vasseur is up to the job; what he’s said and done so far is at least encouraging that he’s willing to make clear choices.

          Ferrari having to outright admit they can’t do the same tyre strategy as Red Bull when tyre management was already a big problem with the car last year is a pretty damning statement this early in the season. It shows that they might have even gone backwards compared to Red Bull, as I don’t recall them ever admitting anything like this last year.

    2. Funny enough, during the pre-season, I never saw it worded as in Ferrari had improved their reliability. The impression I received from articles and interviews is that Ferrari have “resolved”, as in understood their reliability issues.

      Although it still seems to take the team by surprise, as their cars crawl to a halt in the final act of a race, Ferrari are well aware of the why it is happening now. This is a considerable improvement from last season.

  8. I don’t see anyone beating Max for the WDC at this rate despite the season having just began.

    1. No I agree. The others are going to need to do a mighty amount of improvement by which time Max and Red Bull will probably be miles ahead.

  9. An absolute masterclass from Alonso today – he totally exposed Ham as the average driver he really is!

    Ham couldn’t even pass Sainz!! LOL

    1. Hamilton only got close to Sainz because he lost time fighting Alonso. It wasn’t even supposed to happen based on true pace.

    2. Hamilton left the door wide open. Again.

      1. He took the normal correct line through turns 9 and 10. Alonso simply had a lot more grip to pull off the move from the inside. That’s the only way for that to work. Had Hamilton taken the inside line, he’d have had a poor exit and gotten exposed to DRS. Look at the rate with which Alonso caught him up. It was just a matter of time.

    3. You call having a faster car “exposing” the rivals? Do you enjoy being disingenuous?

      1. SHR Modding
        5th March 2023, 18:55

        I mean considering alonso v Hamilton in Hungary 2021 when Hamilton had a car multiple seconds a lap faster at that stage in the race and alonso held him up for 10 laps, then yes that sentiment might be accurate, although I would have worded it less harshly.

        1. Hungary is a much narrower track with much shorter DRS zones than Bahrain.

          The only people drawing these comparisons are the most air headed fans. Not even Alonso himself cares.

          Bernoldi held Coulthard for 70 laps at Monaco one year and was even threatened by Ron Dennis after the race.

          What does it mean? Absolutely nothing.

        2. so by your logic Petrov is better than Alonso?

    4. Hmmm … Obvs you didn’t watch 2007 season

    5. A driver like Lance Stroll doing what he did shows Alo had a way faster car today. Far more impressive LH gap to a future champ in Russel than Alonso. People really should think before they write

  10. This race was 10 times duller than last year’s. A real red alert for this season.
    At least i’m keeping my commitment to it as low as i can.

    Ferrari as always failing with the faster driver, Aston Martin evoking strong 2012 Lotus feelings and Mercedes absolutely lackluster with a worse car than the last.

    Max is already the champion, obviously.

    1. 2014-2020 vibes kicking in…

    2. I’m a huge fan of Max and really disappointed in Ferrari and Merc that he will likely run away with the title. Look what AM achieved to catch up.
      When Merc were dominating, they had an engine advantage that nobody could touch for years. RB can absolutely be caught under these regulations if you look at the performance gain by AM.

      1. Not if they keep cheating and aren’t penalized.

        1. Red bull can’t breach the budget cap this year, they seriously risk losing one of both the titles.

        2. Seriously? The 0.8% breach thing? They sure made that tiny amount work then. Good news for other teams; it just takes a little money to become the nr1 team.

  11. Season over and next year probably merc are a complete shambles….fiat are fiat broke down at the side of the road…

  12. McLaren=Man United decade of rolocoaster seasons and today both got clowned

    1. Please don’t. Shambolic! What is the point of having two great drivers and a car that doesn’t match.

      1. That is indeed something that doesn’t happen often, mercedes has a mediocre car now with 2 top drivers, but a backmarker car with 2 top drivers, very rare, there’s the 2020 ferrari which was a midfielder with “2 top drivers”, have a hard time calling vettel that, he’s been a top driver but wasn’t any more by then.

  13. Great race from Alonso. And extra kudos for praising Stroll (no idea if he actually knew who’d bumped him at the race start).

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      5th March 2023, 23:42

      I think both alonso and Stroll did great. Stroll really did do well given he has had recent surgery due to injuries in several areas – as well as no testing. Stroll did have a lapse of concentration at the start, but alonso also misjudged the situation when being alongside sainz and that contact could have gone wrong too. Overall though, both did an amazing job.

  14. Contrary to many opinions around the net, I think the race was quite entertaining. I’ve never really been a fan of openers in Bahrain (a Melbourne traditionalist here) but it was a decent balance between the usual racing routine, strategic battles and nice battles on the track. No chaos created by race directors was also a huge plus. Apart from Alonso’s enthusiastic drive, I would probably single out the performances by Bottas, Gasly and namely Sargeant, who had a solid debut – a lot more solid than many people now notice. The guy had been consistent throughout the race, didn’t lose much on Albon and wasn’t far away from the points. On the other hand, the less is said about McLaren, the better.

    1. I agree. I really enjoyed it. There was no battle at the front but there was everywhere else. Ferrari, Mercedes and now Aston Martin all look close. I expect Ferrari have more an advantage than they showed today.

      I don’t know what’s going on at McLaren. Based on this evidence they’ve gone backwards.

    2. The racing at the front was a total RB dominance show, and boring.

      But the racing behind them was decent and I can’t wait to see the teams/cars hopefully getting closer to each other in terms of performance.
      Aston Martin probably can’t keep up with in-season development, so they will be steadily caught up by Ferrari and Mercedes, hopefully the racing in the midfield will make up for the monotony at the front.

    3. I agree. Entertaining season opener. And, in contrast to most people on this particular forum (other fora are way more positive), I feel there is a lot to play for this season. I understand there is an audience that got in a rhythm during 2014-2020 and now have adaptability issues but I am sure the true fans of the sport will adapt and embrace the new reality.

  15. Similar pecking order to the latter half of last season with Alonso thrown in as a consistent wildcard. Hulk still sucks and Mclaren continues downward trend. I feel like I will have about 48 extra hours on Sundays this year. Todays race got me up early to ff through and then get some work done.

  16. I’m a huge fan of Max and really disappointed in Ferrari and Merc that he will likely run away with the title. Look what AM achieved to catch up.
    When Merc were dominating, they had an engine advantage that nobody could touch for years. RB can absolutely be caught under these regulations if you look at the performance gain by AM.

  17. So, now we can all admit that no matter how great the driver is he needs a car to prove hia talent?max is where Lewis was when merc were dominant.

    This should lay to rest the battle between max and Lewis fans.

    1. That was never in doubt, I think most of the jibes in the first 5 years of Verstappens career from Hamilton fans were how declaring him the goat or best on the grid when he’d won nothing. You’re never going to stop that rivalry now after the conduct of Verstappen/Horner in 2021. Odds are the Verstappen fans will have most to gloat but if the wheel turns and Hamilton gets a good car before he retires then it’ll result in retaliation.

      It’s just pretty crap for the fans that 2021 is likely the only year we will ever get to see them racing in close machinery and the FIA spoiled it.

      1. I don’t see anything bad with the verstappen\horner conduct of 2021, they didn’t have the best car, verstappen drove well and that’s what kept him in contention; he got terrible luck across the year and recovered some of that in abu dhabi, a mistake of the race director that favors you counts as luck to me, can balance out the baku puncture more or less.

  18. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    5th March 2023, 22:04

    I found it quite emotional seeing Alonso still tearing it up and his battle with Lewis was nostalgic. I was at Silverstone in 2001 and still have a Minardi shirt from that year. I was a child then and now as an adult (although I feel a lot older than Fernando now) it’s weird to think that driver I watched on track in the past is still an elite talent in 2023. Even watching Lewis and Fernando in 2007, who would have imagined we would be watching them battle in 2023. In those 22 years I’ve loved him, hated him and everything in between. As a fan of the sport first and foremost it’s just simply awesome and something to enjoy while it lasts.

    1. He’s had enough crap years to have earned a good result and nice car and I don’t even like him. We’ll see how long the car stays competitive. They’ve built a good car, now they need to develop it.

    2. Yes, was thinking that too, really unexpected they’d have been battling again 16 years later.

  19. One of the commentators said something to the effect that ALO only finished 3rd because LEC retired. I don’t agree with that. ALO closed on SAI fairly quickly. It would have been very interesting if LEC kept running if ALO would have been able to overtake. There seemed to be enough laps.

    1. Yes, would’ve been good to see, probably a nice battle, could’ve ended either way, but just the performance difference between leclerc and sainz and how much better he is at defending makes me think he could’ve kept alonso behind.

  20. At last it looks like we might see a battle between Williams and Mclaren again.

    Pity it’ll be for last place.

    Mclaren and Mercedes have real design problems – going to be interesting to see which of the three Norris, Russell or Hamilton loses their cool first and absolutely blasts their team’s incompetence.

  21. Only exciting part of the race was Jeremy Clarkson in Martins Grid Walk

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