Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Verstappen confirms the Second Age of Red Bull as Alonso turns back the clock

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix review

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Page one of a new novel. Pressing play on the remote. Selecting ‘new game’ from the title screen.

Just like beginning a story in any other medium, the start of a new Formula 1 championship season offers the thrill of the unknown. Nine months of sporting narrative that meanders through highs and lows, the unpredictable and the unexpected.

But as the night sky above the Bahrain International Circuit was filled by fireworks, signalling the opening chapter of the new season had come to an end, there was a sense that Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen had just spoiled the ending of this year’s championship for everyone watching. That, just like its prequel, the 2023 season will again be the story about how Red Bull are simply unstoppable.

If Red Bull’s impressive pre-season testing form was a teaser of what they were capable of, the reigning world champions locking out the front row was a clear statement of intent for the year ahead. Fresh from bolstering their trophy cabinet with their most successful year to date in 2022, Verstappen and Sergio Perez promptly seized the top two spots in qualifying, practically daring anyone to try and match them.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had been close, but the team put their race performance before their pride at the end of qualifying, electing to save a set of softs for the start over chasing Saturday glory. But behind Leclerc and team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr sat a familiar face in unfamiliar colours.

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Leclerc split the Red Bull at the start
Fernando Alonso had waltzed into the Aston Martin factory to embark on his latest attempt at dragging a midfield team up to the front of the grid only to find they were already well on the way. Fifth on the grid was not a full realisation of the pace he and team mate Lance Stroll had shown prior to Sunday, but it was more than enough to put them in a genuine fight with Ferrari and Mercedes – the two cars of the latter team separating the AMR23 on the grid.

At 18.03pm local time, the five red lights hovering over the grid extinguished and the 74th world championship season officially began. Within metres of the 20 cars leaving the grid, it became clear Ferrari’s strategy to save fresh softs for Leclerc had paid dividends. As Verstappen held onto the lead, Leclerc jumped ahead of Perez and tucked up into Verstappen’s slipstream on the run to the first braking zone of the season. Exiting turn one, Verstappen led from Leclerc, Perez and Sainz, with Alonso holding fifth with Hamilton and Stroll seventh after getting by Russell.

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As the field approached turn four, Russell pulled to the outside of Stroll in an effort to reclaim seventh. With his focus on the Mercedes alongside, Stroll ran deep on the brakes into turn four only to find himself charging towards his team mate sat on the apex of the right hander. The thump Stroll gave the other AMR23 was somehow forceful to make them both crank on emergency steering lock to avoid spinning, but not to cause any damage to either car.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Stroll was lucky not to wipe out both Aston Martins at the start
“We got lucky,” Alonso later said of the incident. “Obviously the two cars, they didn’t have any problems and we could continue. It was our lucky day.”

However the clash cost both Aston Martins their positions to the Mercedes, dropping them to seventh and ninth, Valtteri Bottas moving between them in the Alfa Romeo. But all this behind was of no concern for leader Verstappen, who passed the pit lane for the first time with a 1.2 second advantage over Leclerc behind him.

Verstappen, as he so regularly had in 2022 once out in front, began to lap at an unmatchable pace with unrivalled consistency, with his first six laps at racing speed all within a tenth of each other. Only some mild rear brake locking on downshifts was giving him any difficulty in an otherwise strong position. Leclerc worked hard to keep within reach of the leader, but Perez was closer to him than he was to Verstappen.

The Mercedes pair kept Sainz in view ahead, but it was not long before both began to struggle for grip as their softs strained under their high fuel loads. That allowed Alonso to fill the enlarged mirrors of Russell’s Mercedes on the 13th lap. After a side-by-side battle through turn four, Alonso prevailed to move back up to fifth, courtesy of Hamilton pitting the lap prior.

Despite the advantage of younger tyres than the Red Bulls, Ferrari had been wary of their tyre wear throughout the two weeks of track time in Bahrain. They called in Leclerc at the end of lap 13 for hards while Verstappen followed on the next lap, but Red Bull bolted on a second set of softs on the former race leader as Perez sailed by to assume first. “We brought a lot of soft tyres into the race, so it seemed unfair not to use them,” Christian Horner later joked.

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One stint completed, Verstappen held a margin of over 10 seconds to Leclerc behind him. Perez continued to enjoy a brief timeshare of the race lead until relinquishing it on the start of lap 19, returning to the track with a fresh set of softs in third. The 3.5 seconds between Leclerc and Perez quickly started to shrink as the Red Bull driver enjoyed rubber than was both fresher and two stages softer than his rival’s.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
There was never any chance Leclerc would keep Perez behind
By lap 25, Perez was close enough to Leclerc to practically taste the sparks emitting from the floor of the Ferrari. Approaching the final corner, Perez was casually informed that his “battery is full” and the Red Bull driver made full use of that stored energy, closing the gap over the final third of the pit straight and diving to the inside Leclerc under braking for turn one. Approaching half-distance, Red Bull were now first and second on merit for the first time in the race.

Behind Red Bull and the Ferraris, Alonso was gradually gaining on Hamilton in fifth. By lap 30, the Aston Martin driver was within two seconds of Hamilton. Mercedes sensed a threat and called Hamilton in for a second set of hard tyres at the end of lap 30. But Aston Martin had also pitted Stroll and now Russell’s position was at risk.

Russell pitted the next lap but Stroll had more than enough speed and heat in his tyres to put the Mercedes under immediate pressure. By the time the two cars exited turn four, Stroll was comfortably ahead. A striking moment for Mercedes, who found themselves being out-raced on merit by a customer team.

On lap 34, Red Bull pitted Perez for the second and final time, changing to hard tyres for the last stint with more than enough time to retain second place. He was closely followed by Alonso, who was treated to a second set of hards, even if he was unsure whether it was the right moment to do so.

“Why didn’t we stay out?,” Alonso asked engineer Chris Cronin. But while he did not get a reply, his mind quickly focused on the more pressing matter of Hamilton ahead, who he could see tantalisingly in front of him.

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Over the next few laps, Alonso crept up to the Mercedes. It had been too long since the two multiple world champions had last fought each other on track for a top six position in a grand prix, but from the body language of both cars, it seemed obvious which of the two drivers felt the most confident at the wheel.

Alonso and Hamilton duelled thrillingly
Approaching the field’s favourite overtaking spot of turn four, Alonso looked to have an easy pass done under braking. However, a snap of oversteer at the apex robbed him of momentum, allowing Hamilton to cut back and reclaim his position.

Despite the failed attempt, it now seemed inevitable that Alonso would find a way past. Turn four offered no opportunity, so Alonso decided to forge his own. A tight exit through turn eight allowed him to pull to the outside of the Mercedes up the hill. As Hamilton went to take the racing line, Alonso cut to the inside and charged to the apex of the tricky turn 10, taking fifth from his long time rival in one of the most daring moves ever seen into the corner.

“Yes!,” Alonso exclaimed. “Let’s go!”

With Hamilton dispatched, there were less than three seconds to make up for Alonso to challenge Sainz for fourth place ahead. While one Ferrari now seemed under genuine threat from the Aston Martin, Leclerc was a further nine seconds up the road – a much harder prospect for Alonso to catch if he was to secure a podium, if he was even able to pass the first Ferrari to begin with.

However, Aston Martin’s dreams of an unlikely podium were suddenly boosted dramatically. Exiting turn 11 and heading up the hill around the winding turn 12, Leclerc’s Ferrari betrayed him. After 40 laps without his new SF-23 skipping so much as a beat, Leclerc lost all power under his right foot, leaving him helplessly coasting to a crawl, all chance of points vanishing in an instant.

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“No! No! No! Oh, come on!,” he cried, a familiar feeling washing over him. “What happened, guys? No power!”

More reliability problems for Ferrari ended Leclerc’s race
Before Leclerc could attempt any remedy his team could offer, his car had fully turned off, leaving him with no choice but to pull to the side of the circuit. As he climbed out of the car, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed. The likes of Alonso and Russell had immediately called on their teams to prepare for a quick stop, but as they passed the pit entry before the VSC was triggered no such opportunity occured.

Thanks to Leclerc’s considerate parking, the race quickly resumed. Verstappen remained comfortable out front, making Alonso, now in fourth, the fastest car on the circuit. Sainz had inherited his team mate’s third place, but Ferrari could see a podium at severe risk of slipping away from them, urging their only remaining driver to defend his position if he could. But Sainz could see the writing on the wall.

“If I push to defend, I might not make it to the end,” he reasoned. “But okay.”

That was music to the ears of the Aston Martin pit wall. “Keep the pressure on him,” Cronin told Alonso. “He’s worried about his tyres.”

By lap 45, Alonso was crawling all over the rear of the Ferrari. He tried to emulate his pass on Hamilton, setting Sainz up on the exit of turn eight, but Sainz blocked off the inside to deny him that chance. It did not matter, however, as Alonso instead took a wider line to get on the power earlier than Sainz, cutting to the inside on the run to turn 11 and completing the move before touching the brake pedal. Alonso was now in a podium position in his first drive for Aston Martin.

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“Yes!,” a satisfied Alonso shouted. “Bye-bye!”

With just over 10 laps remaining, Red Bull were untouchable out front. Alonso had brilliantly moved up to third, but he knew that was the best he could hope for, turning his attention to just getting through these remaining laps.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Verstappen played no part in the lively race behind him
“We are okay on fuel and all these things, no?” Alonso queried Cronin. “Everything is great,” Cronin reassured his driver. “Everything is good. Fuel, brakes – all good.”

As Alonso pulled away from him, Sainz now found Hamilton looming behind him. Being beaten so comprehensively by Red Bull hurt, but losing out to Aston Martin was an other level of pain for Mercedes. If Hamilton were able to pass Sainz, it would at least give Mercedes the sense that they had achieved something from the weekend.

Despite sitting within DRS range of the Ferrari for multiple laps, Hamilton never got close enough to try his luck at deposing Sainz from fourth. He fell out of the crucial one-second range in the closing laps as his tyres faded, all but cementing the final finishing order.

For the entire race, all of the action had unfolded far behind Verstappen. The ease with which he had been able to dictate the pace, hold the gap to his team mate behind and pull out an advantage of over half a minute over the first non-Red Bull car was ominous for those hoping to see any kind of championship contest this year.

Like so many of his wins over the last 12 months, Verstappen had simply looked in no doubt of ever losing the lead once he hit the front. At the end of lap 57, Verstappen rounded the final corner to be greeted with the familiar sight of his mechanics swarming the catch fencing to salute him over the finish line.

“It was a really good race,” Verstappen summed up. “The car was working well – a bit like what we’ve seen in testing and the long runs we’ve done throughout the weekend. But you still need to show that in the race.

“It has been a great start for us, for the whole team, so this is not something we were used to. So yeah, we are very happy at the moment.”

Perez may have been over ten seconds down on his team mate as he had been so many times in 2022, but the gap between them had remained static throughout their final stint. He took heart from his race pace, ultimately pointing to being beaten off the line by the Ferrari as the deciding factor for his own victory chances.

“That was really the case, missing out to Charles on that first stint,” Perez reasoned. “It was really difficult to get by him. He had the new tyres, so you could see the difference on that first stint.

“I think it’s been an amazing start to the season. Our best ever start, so very different to last year.”

But half a minute behind, Alonso and Aston Martin had successfully achieved one of the biggest leaps up the order made by a midfield team in recent memory. Having joined the team knowing all of Aston Martin’s focus is on the years ahead, this result was far beyond what he had expected for his first race.

Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Alonso enjoyed a “perfect start” to 2023
“A perfect start for this project,” said Alonso. “We didn’t expect to be that competitive.

“I think the aim in 2023 was getting in the mix in the midfield, maybe leading that midfield and get close to the top three teams eventually. But even a podium maybe was not in the radar in 2023 and we found ourselves second best car today in Bahrain, or the whole weekend, just behind Red Bull.”

Sainz had to settle for fourth while Hamilton was left facing the reality that Mercedes were now the fourth-fastest team. Stroll came home in sixth between the two Mercedes, a drive described by his new team mate as “heroic” given that he had undergone surgery on a wrist injury just two weeks prior and never driven the car in representative conditions before the weekend.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Alonso’s last team mate endured a woeful race
The final three points places were reserved for three impressive midfield drives. Bottas kicked off Alfa Romeo’s season with four valuable points, while Pierre Gasly took ninth after starting last on the grid. His team mate Esteban Ocon had started that position, but in a calamitous performance incurred no fewer than three penalties before retiring.

The final point was claimed by Alexander Albon, who once again took a surprise top ten. The FW45 may have been the slowest car in terms of single-lap pace, but its strong top speed helped Albon resist Yuki Tsunoda to take tenth.

With seven of the ten teams scoring points in the opening round, this F1 field of 2023 is in one respect highly competitive. But Red Bull’s crushing performance appears to have emphatically answered the question of whether fans can expect their world champions to be pushed harder for the titles this season, or whether this team is back to its dominant peak of 2010-13.

In 2023, Formula 1 is now unquestionably in the Second Age of Red Bull.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Car number one is still number one in 2023

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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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67 comments on “Verstappen confirms the Second Age of Red Bull as Alonso turns back the clock”

  1. If this is really going to be the way it’s going to be, I think I might just skip this season all together.

    1. So you also skipped 2014 to 2020?

      1. @afonic Thing is, Red Bull don’t run a sloppy shop. Mercedes were operationally average to good which allowed others to win races. Red Bull with a similar advantage will probably win all the races, because they’re operationally strong. Though I’m not advocating for changing the channel now any more than I was in the Merc dominance years, I think there are actually some stories worth following this year, Alonso especially.

        1. Yeah, peak Mercedes 2020 kinda reminded me of 2002-era Real Madrid. They had all the power and all the best people but sometimes things just went wrong.

          Red Bull meanwhile just seem a much tighter ship.

        2. @wsrgo You’ve nailed it there. Red Bull are always lean and mean, why even with an underpowered car and third to Ferrari and Mercedes, they grabbed wins whenever there was a chance. Now they’ve got the care design and power, a mostly flawless driver under no pressure (but now good when he is), it’s quite possiblle Russell is right and they win (virtually) every race, bar unexpected mayhem. And Verstappen will pick up 90%+ of those wins. Frightening.
          Who’s going to challenge? Ferrari? Far too unreliable by comparison and difficult to see how they make up the gap over a season. Aston Martin? Again unlikely they make the development jump to be close enough, but maybe Alonso can threaten now and again at some races. Mercedes?! I see to be more hopeful than they are… Drivers and TP seem to be writing themselves out of the season already. Maybe the new Baku sidepod (if they don’t introduce it earlier now) can add some of the downforce they say they’re lacking but it’s likely to take many races to get working properly – given they’ve wasted the start of the year already.

    2. This article is imho way too premature and meant to stir conversation rather than reflect on what we saw.

      1. Even had Leclerc not retired, Max had the pace to lap the entire field except his teammate there, and Perez wouldn’t have been far behind. It’s highly unlikely this is just track specific, and there’s little-to-no chance of anyone catching them in time to stop them taking both titles (and probably 2nd in the WDC) even if they don’t develop the car any further.

        1. I do not agree at all. We are one race in and clearly the straight line speed of Ferrari, AM and Mercedes now matches RB. Furthermore, development will continue throughout the season. This season is far from over. People might be mixing personal emotions with what was displayed.

          1. I guess we’ll see over the next couple of races, but IMHO all signs point to a massive advantage which will be difficult to close. If course it’s a long season, but they look to have over a second in hand on race pace. If so, it’ll take something very special from one of the other teams to close that sorry of margin.

        2. I also disagree, as far as I see verstappen is different to hamilton and always gives his all, if he won with 35 sec gap on non-red bulls, that’s the pace of the car, there’s no way he’d have lapped all the cars, and also answering the comments above, there’s no way they’re gonna win all races, a verstappen DNF might be sufficient for someone to beat perez to victory.

          1. That’s ridiculous, quite frankly. No driver goes balls-out flag-to-flag often of they want to do well in F1. They save tyres and fuel, they back off towards the end of they can see they can’t catch the car ahead and can’t lose their position to the car behind. The breast drivers know that the key is to win while driving as slowly as possible, anything else is just taking chances for no benefit.

            Max was not pushing for the majority of that race, you could clearly see. He was virtually coasting. For most of that race, he could have picked up by half a second a lap easily, without really pushing. If he’d really wanted to, I’m fairly certain he could have found enough to lap everyone (including his teammate if he’d really wanted, as RBR would have no problems ordering Perez to drop back and let him past).

            Quite frankly, if you are right and Verstappen always drives as fast as he can regardless of the circumstances, he’s not as good a driver as I though.

    3. You must be a new fan. Seasons like 2021 only come around every few decades. Long periods of dominance by one team are the norm and these periods are getting longer and longer with the stricter rules. Red Bull winning most of the races for the next 3 or 4 seasons before there is some real challenge is what I would guess will happen. If you don’t like seeing a bunch of engineers with a semi blank slate do their thing and then see what the consequences are on the track then maybe F1 isn’t for you. I like this aspect of it as well as the drama, but after 40 seasons of watching F1 I will only look in to this and the next few seasons once in awhile. I already know what’s going to happen. The drivers and strategists and all the window dressing are meaningless in most of the seasons. This is F1.

      1. Competitive seasons aren’t that rare, there have been multiple competitive chamionships in the past 2 decades that were still wide open at the summer break: 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2018, 2021 and at least Mercedes let us have Lewis vs Nico….

        That said, 2023 will not be competitive.

  2. Appreciate the honest assessment, quite a few commentators were tying themselves into knots pretending this wasn’t exactly what it looked like.

    Unless Saudi Arabia shows otherwise, this season is ripe for a ‘free highlights only’ experience.

    The fact this is happening after Red Bull was the only big team to break the budget cap gives it a sour taste, too, even if the effects of that were probably minimal.

    1. I wish I could be more diplomatic about this, but can’t: Perfect summary of how thing are not. An opinion coloured by the UK media. We are one race in! This ‘I can not stand we deviated from letting Hamilton win everything’ generation is starting to take on new levels of absurdity.

      1. Not quite, though. This has been going on for a full year already. Save for a fine showing by Ferrari in Australia, Red Bull has had the field covered. Once Ferrari had to stop pushing their PUs beyond their limits they were left fighting for scraps with Mercedes.

        Not sure what Hamilton has to do with it.

        1. I suspect the bias and colouring coming from UK press is fed by their disappointment their man is not winning anymore (mind you that other press are mainly excited of the chances the new season brings and were positively surprised by both AM and Ferrari – apart from Charles bad luck). If you look at the data you can actually see the field has bunched up and the degradation was very particularly characteristic of this circuit.

      2. This season should be a fairly exciting one, but only if you ignored the fight for the top, because there isn’t going to be one. RBR were dominant last year, and all evidence suggests they’ve increased that lead still further.

        Unless this has been a massive fluke, and it just so happens that the RBR suits this track and the others don’t, RBR have this pretty much sewn up. We obviously need to see a few more races, but when Max had the pace to lap everyone except his teammate… They look like they could be even more dominant this season than Mercedes were at their peak.


        1. *However, we are looking likely to have a really exciting battle behind the Red Bulls. Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin look close, and there should be plenty of action further down the field, too. Should be an exciting season even though we know the top spots are probably sewn up.

          1. I doubt the battle between Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston will be fun for long. Most probably Mercedes will scrap their concept and start from scratch, which means we will only have Aston and Ferrari in the mix. Ferrari will make sure they kill all the joy of the entire battle with their poor reliability and operational issues, and Aston will have only one driver fighting for podiums.

            This might be a really boring season.. as much as 2015, 2019 and 2020.

    2. Appreciate the honest assessment:INDEED.
      Quite a few of them here.
      more power to racingfans!!
      the only question remaining is does MAX wins 100% of the races and 100% of pole positions or not.
      And fire Toto wolf for bringing shame on Mercedes brand.

  3. Since 2013, there were:
    One season that saw two teams fighting until the end: 2021 – which is what f1 should aim at (…)
    Two seasons that were decided at the last race but between teammates: 2014 and 2016.
    Three seasons that looked promising but ended up in an anticlimactic fashion: 2017, 2018, 2022
    All the others saw no or little competition: 2013, 2015, 2019, 2020, 2023 (?)

    Pretty sad picture, isn’t it?

    1. 2021 is a relative outlier in F1 terms. From 1987 to 2005 (19 years), only 4 years had a season finale where drivers from different teams with a shot at the title (1994, 1997, 1998, 1999). The 2006-2012 period was actually closer than usual with respect to that, with 5 out of 7 years having drivers from different teams taking the title fight to the last race. The V8 era really spoiled us.

      1. You forgot 1990 and 2003.
        But 2000 was an exiting season too, even if the championship was decided at the penultimate race.

        1. I did forget 2003, yes. But 1990 the season was over at Suzuka, not Adelaide. Senna made sure of that.

    2. It is a sad picture indeed, and it’s not even the fact that there is no last race decider that’s all that bad: various exciting seasons were wrapped up with one or two races to go. Instead, F1 is now so restricted that it’s pretty much impossible that anything major will change until 2024.

      If Ferrari hadn’t done such a poor job, and been limited by excessive wear on Bahrain uniquely abrasive surface, Alonso would probably have been P5, denying F1 even that small glimmer of excitement.

  4. I am just going to wait for DTS in 2024. Anyways, there is no F1 TV broadcast in India this year.

    Look at it. Red Bull were 38s ahead of the competition (may be 25 if Leclerc finished) without even trying. They didn’t even let Checo pit and get the fastest lap and diminish his gap to Max in the final points tally.

    WCC = Red Bull, WDC = Max.

  5. I watch F1 for more than 30 years now. For almost half of this time there was one clear dominant driver, whether it was Schumacher, Vettel or Hamilton. Dominance is part of this sport but never good. I really hope the big teams step up their games.

    I hope not, but the 2021 Jeddah GP might go down in history of the last race that Hamilton won. That is just as surreal as the 1997 Luxemburg gp was the last race that Villeneuve won or 2013 Spain was the last race that Alonso won (also I hope not!)

    1. Hamilton (like Schumacher etc) won a lot of races in a superior car. Now he’s having to fight a superior Red Bull, better Ferrari and now an Aston too.

      I can’t see him winning many more races (let alone another title)…but this is how F1 works.

      Sorry Lewis but the new guys have matured and they’re using better tech than you.

      1. Lewis never ever has had a bad car in F1 – he always had a top 3 car and for most of his career an extremely dominant car. In the whole history of F1 there isn’t a driver that over their career had better cars than Hamilton.

        Looking at the top 6 of most race wins it shows the win record of the cars they drove with Lewis clearly statically driving the best cars yet being less dominate over his teammates than others top 6 winners.
        Lewis driven cars won 9.31 races per season (48% of all races) – 69% won by Lewis – 2007-2022
        MSC driven cars won 7.2 races per season (43% of all races) – 84% won by MSC – 1992-2006
        Prost driven cars won 5.92 races per season (35% of all races) – 66% won by Prost – 1980-1991+1993
        Senna driven cars won 5.6 races per season (35% of all races) – 73% won by Senna – excl 1994
        Vettel driven cars won 5.42 races per season (28% of all races) – 82% won by Vettel – 2008-2019
        Max driven cars won 5.25 races per season (26% of all races) – 83% won by Max – 2015-2022

        Longer seasons and having more years driving better cars is the only reason why Lewis managed to surpass MSC, without it he would have been another Alonso, Button, Vettel, Raikonnen etc – clearly a very good driver but by no means the GOAT like half of Britain proclaims him to be.

        1. Sure. Funny how you include Prost and Senna, who certainly took a lot of wins off each other.
          Rosberg was a very good driver, and allowed to race Hamilton. While having much respect for Verstappen as a driver, he’s in a one-driver team designed around himself. Put Leclerc in there (an equivalent to Prost-Senna maybe, or even Hamilton-Alonso) and the situation would be very different.
          Fact is that aside from some minor individual quirky edges, Hamilton and Verstappen are similar and similarly fast drivers in terms of how they smoothly handle the car and their feel for the track.

          1. Conveniently forgetting Bottas? I do not agree Lewis has Max level in terms of feel for the car and track, although he might be close.

        2. Thank you very much for this factual explanation. Lewis is clearly WDC material, very gifted but his tally is largely influenced by the car. He certainly is not the goat.

          1. Will you concede the same for Max in 2026 if he’s sewn up all the following championships with a similar win rate in the same car, or is he just the GOAT? Be honest.

    2. I didn’t write this down correctly. I meant to say that in more than 30 years more than half of the championships were won (not dominated) by either Schumacher, Vettel or Hamilton. I am privileged to have seen these great champions in action, I just never liked it when they dominated (just like now with Verstappen).

    3. It is good. Without dominance there’s no protagonists, no heroes, no villains, no David and Goliath. Other series might have more winners, but there’s often no depth. A win in F1 means way more than say IndyCar because of its relatively scarcity (for those in a non-dominant position of course).

      If you create a series that is designed to alleviate the possibility of dominance the less popular it will become. F1 will learn this if they go to hard towards spec-racing.

      1. Fair point honestly. Senna, Schumacher, Hamilton all became legends because they were a dominant force at one point, the benchmark and the hero that youngsters want to be. So I agree with you that the sport needs some kind of dominance to create their legends. But David would not have been a legend without Goliath and the protagonist would not be the protagonist without the villain. The hero needs someone to fight.

      2. Because extended periods of dominance have never hurt F1’s popularity, right…?

        Indycar has their ‘heroes, villains, Davids and Goliaths’ too, BTW – without anyone actually being dominant in even a remotely F1-esque sense.
        The consistently close competition and unpredictability only raises the challenge, the reward and the value of the experience for everyone involved.
        A win in Indycar is huge for everyone who achieves it, as they do so knowing they don’t have a technical/machinery advantage to assist them. It is their skill and performance as drivers first and foremost that leads to their results.

        Before you “but, but” about the two series’ viewing figures, please remind yourself that Indycar is a domestic series and not a global world championship.

      3. The problem is, the sport has (once again) engineered itself into massive development restrictions at the same time as a regulation change – just as F1 accidentally baked in the Mercedes engine advantage with the token system (until it was binned off) there is zero scope for anyone to radically redesign their concept mid-season, only iterate within tight rules.

        To use your analogy, there are a few David’s, but one has a broken slingshot, another has a slingshot that doesn’t work and the third new guy seems to have a good slingshot, but he’s only just working out how to use it.

  6. For all the criticism several fans seem to be indulging in dishing out they seem to be forgetting that F1 has always been like this. The exception is when more than one team is on the pace.

    Who’d have thought that generation-tik-tok wouldn’t have much patience/attention-span?

  7. I don’t understand some people.

    Yes, this year will probably have no fight for the top spot in either WDC or WCC, and even Perez is probably going to walk 2nd. We also won’t have any battle between team mates for the top. So, in terms of the top spots, there is very little chance of anything interesting happening. That part of the championship is likely to be even more dull than any part of Mercedes’ dominance.

    However, the top spots are not the only things which exist. It’s looking like we’re going to have an exciting, three way battle between Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin for best non-Red Bull, and there looks to be a much closer field behind them, too.

    If you ignore the Red Bulls, there will probably be plenty of excitement. But, then again, we had similar situations, and better, throughout Mercedes’ dominance but people still called it boring. Funnily, though, now that it’s Max winning by a country mile in an utterly dominant car instead of having, many of those complaining before have changed their tune…

    1. *instead of Hamilton

      1. That Jordan guy on twitter is particularly bitter about the whole situation.

    2. I agree, but it goes both ways. Didn’t see complaints 2014-2020 and now suddenly after just a single race ‘all is dull’. I believe we will have plenty of good races. This is just race one. I know the UK media immediately wants to stimulate fans throwing the season under the bus, but hope the fans know better. It is not like the UK press isn’t a phenomenon (that is world wide common knowledge). There is plenty out there to enjoy even if one team is a bit further ahead (should that be the case as we also know one race doesn’t complete a season). During 2017-2020 when it was clear the dominance would remain during the entire regulatory period, I watched races not counting in the two Mercedes. Some of the best races & seasons ever. So yeah, there is plenty to watch beyond the top 2.

      1. What!? If you didn’t see complaints during 2014-202 then you simply weren’t looking! There were plenty of fans that were just as bored of the Mercedes dominance then, as there are now bored (already!) of the Red Bull dominance. Remember there are 10 teams on the grid and just because someone complains about the RB dominance, doesn’t automatically mean that they were happy when it was Merc. Regardless of which side of the fence they were on, most will agree that the end of 2021 was exciting because it was a two team/driver battle. Whilst I agree that there should still be plenty of interesting battles this season, it would be far better if it was for the lead/championship, not just who can grab the last spot on the podium.

    3. @drmouse I think yesterday’s race was a good reflection of the season in a nutshell: Verstappen/Red Bull pulling away, behind them great battles for the podium. I liked yesterday’s race, just as I will like this entire season. The battle between Hamilton and Alonso was long overdue and thrilling to watch. I hope this will happen often this season and that Hamilton can return the favour to Alonso as well.

    4. I agree. Unless something very unexpected happens the titles are sewn up. But how much air time was given to the Red Bulls yesterday? Virtually none. The majority of the coverage was showing some great battles – Hamilton, Alonso, Sainz, Russell, Stroll were all involved in some great racing.

      Yes we’d all prefer a nail biting title and different race winners, but we aren’t going to get that this season. So we just have to enjoy what we will get – a season long battle seemingly between 3 teams and 6 drivers for 3rd place in the drivers and 2nd place in the constructors. There should be lots of great racing.

    5. @drmouse There is some good racing to be had in F1, but the problem for F1 is that without the tension that comes with a fight for the real prizes (which is artificial to an extent, but still impossible to deny) a lot of those racing moments can easily be captured in a 5 minute highlight clip. It’s still fun to see, say, Russell put a move on Stroll – but for the vast majority of people it’s not really worth getting invested in for 90 minutes to see which of them comes 7th.

      F1 is competing for attention with a sheer endless amount of ‘content’. Doesn’t even have to be racing related. They’re selling their sponsors and hosts the idea that however many million people will spend two to three hours over a weekend watching the event, but for that to happen you need some investment. Whether fair or not, many more people care about who wins than who comes third.

      In the F1 Highlights for Bahrain 2023, they spend about 1 minute on the start, 1 minute on Alonso vs. Russell, 1 minute on Bottas being overtaken by Alonso and Russell, half a minute on Pérez sailing past Leclerc on softer tyres, close to a minute on Russell’s pitstop and subsequent tussle with Strolll, then a minute on Alonso passing Hamilton, half a minute on Leclerc retiring, less than half a minute on some back of the field passes after the VSC, another minute on Alonso passing Sainz, and then the last minute is basically the finish and podium.

      So, basically it’s 4 minutes Alonso, and 3 minutes everything else. That novelty of Alonso doing well is going to wear off soon as well, and then that’ll be a much tougher sell.

    6. I love F1 and motorsport in general, and I’ll watch the races forever, even if they are one sided. But it’s ridiculous to suggest that people need to watch beyond who’s winning to enjoy the races, and that people didn’t complain before.

      The big stories are who wins the title and who wins the races each weekend. Regardless of the excitement behind the leader, it’s what matters, there’s nothing more thrilling than a fight to the win. Not a fight for 10th…

      I admire Red Bull because they are consistenly good operationally, and they usually design a very strong car. And Max is absolutely outstanding. But I wish they had real competition. In the same way I wished Hamilton had real competition (when Rosberg wasn’t around), or Vettel before him, or Schumacher…

  8. One of these days the FIA may realize that going into a rules shake-up with severe limits on development for those who don’t get it right from the get-go lends itself to producing several lopsided seasons.

    Whoever hoped to kneecap the leading team(s) with the reduced aero allocation may now have realized that when they are this far ahead, there’s no reasonable chance of catching up with them within a season, if not longer.

    1. We were all saying this at the start of the 2014 season, but nothing was done about it until 7 years later. And Merc had a huge engine advantage. This is only the start of the 2nd season where Red Bull have an advantage. Its too early doors to write this season off just yet. lets get back to Europe to see where everyone really is.

    2. @proesterchen

      Whoever hoped to kneecap the leading team(s) with the reduced aero allocation may now have realized that when they are this far ahead, there’s no reasonable chance of catching up with them within a season, if not longer.

      I think Aston just proved you wrong. They’re literally 2 seconds a lap faster than they were last year. So, it is possible to cut the gap during the winter, as well as, cut it further as the season progresses. The problem for 2023 is that the team best placed to cut the gap to Red Bull is Ferrari… which unfortunately, operate like Ferrari… and disappoint like Ferrari always does. The only other team that could have done it is Mercedes, who have gotten this regulation change so horribly wrong that they might not recover from it till 2026.

      I don’t think the rules and development caps are a hinderance to competition, but it’s some of the big hitters dropping the ball big time.

      1. I think Aston just proved you wrong.

        I’d argue the Aston Martin comparison is skewed by them going into the 2022 season with a car they had basically abandoned in October or November of 2021, and losing their lead driver to Covid probably didn’t help, either.

      2. @todfod Aston Martin started the 2022 season with a car that would get a significant (and mocked because it was said to be a copy) upgrade within a relatively short period (I forget at which race). So their Bahrain-spec car had already effectively been scrapped, and to make it worse they started with a last-minute replacement for Vettel who would most likely have been faster than Stroll; as he usually was.

        Also, while Aston Martin did indeed improve this year they’re still nowhere near competitive. They were over 6 tenths off pole, and they weren’t in the game during the race. We’ll see at other tracks, but if set up issues indeed limited Ferrari’s tyre use as they’re saying, those two cars should quite easily be ahead of Aston Martin too, as Leclerc already was during the race. It’s not bad to be fighting with Mercedes, but that’ll still put Stroll 8th more often than not – which is something he also did multiple times towards the end of last season.

  9. As another contributor said yesterday, if you let teams make their own interpretation of the guidance and build there own cars, you are going to have some years, or maybe several years where one team is dominant. It’s not a good thing but it’s nothing new in F1.

    We all have our favourites and it can be very disappointing but that’s the way this sport is. The battle behind RBR does look really interesting though this year. There is also the glimmer of light that as the season moves on, the wind tunnel testing time limit on Red Bull could begin to make a difference. The other teams may start to catch up.

    If we think about what Aston might have available, based on their 7th place last year, then from what we have seen so far, they may be real threat for race wins later on. This all being based on what we have seen so far of course.

    1. it is a good thing, and it’s the key component in F1’s success.

      You can copy IndyCar with spec chassis, but then you get IndyCar viewing figures.

      1. Indycar viewing figures in each country that F1 visits would still be a lot of viewers, wouldn’t it…


          Look at the numbers it’s Youtube Channel is doing and compare to F1’s. It’s frightening bad for Indycar. Some videos are sub-1000. spec-racing (or a significant portion of spec components) is very very bad from a spectator and engagement standpoint. it can’t be underestimated.

          1. The Indy race highlights has about 100k views compared to 5800k views for F1. It’s a big gap, but the difference can’t just be explained by looking at that one aspect. Lots of racing series have different manufacturers, and none of those get even close to Indycar’s figures either.

            F1 is unique in the public perception of motorsport. You can credit Ecclestone for much of that. A lot of people watch F1 and not a single other motorsport because they believe, or have been convinced, that F1 is somehow the epitome of motorsport, the pinnacle, and something special. It’s not – it’s just slightly faster open wheel single seaters. But it’s a myth that makes a lot of people a lot of money, and it works well enough for everyone involved.

            Also, like Super Formula the Indycar series is a regional championship – no matter how many times Americans give their sports the ‘World Series’ moniker. It only races in the US (minor exceptions notwithstanding), and does so for only half a year. The ELMS doesn’t attract the same level of attention as the WEC either. It’s normal – even if it’s not entirely rational in today’s online age – for regional series to attract less attention outside their home region.

          2. True, the differences can be looked at with multiple aspects but IndyCar was only a threat to F1 when it was open to multiple manufacturers. The only myth is spec-racing being better racing and better for fans. Less people watch it, and there’s inherently less at stake.

            Multiple-manufacturer racing is the only way to engage vast audiences. It’s just the way it is. Just look at media outlets. There’s nothing to write about between races. Just on Bahrain alone we have a substantial amount of content surrounding their technical team.

            IndyCar has limited its potential. Maybe it’s the right bet for them to survive. But having series where dominance is possible, like with F1, isn’t a BAD thing. It’s representative of a good thing.

          3. Did you consider that Indycar is more accessible before it reaches YouTube? And also that they give out far better (30min) highlights packages for free too? And put full races up too, all for free?
            (Not mentioning again that Indycar is a domestic series, of course…)
            Also consider that Indycar doesn’t actually require that engagement to survive and grow in its current form? It doesn’t set out to engage with a global audience in the way F1 does. Also unlike F1, Indycar doesn’t hype itself up to levels that it can’t possibly deliver.
            It simply delivers.

            And have you also considered your own location compared to Indycar’s?
            I assume you are in a European location – so of course you are going to see (and look for) more information on F1 as it, too, is European based. F1 is also (clearly) your preferred series of the two, so you want some confirmation bias to support your version of things.
            You’re comparing apples and oranges. Of course the apple is going to be more apple-y…

            If direct manufacturer involvement is the key to success, why do so few major racing series take that route? Why do so few manufacturers get involved? F1 had only 3 of them in 2014, and only (the vastly cheaper and less developed) Cosworth offerings additionally prior to that… Since 2009, F1 has largely lacked what you say makes it ‘better’ than every other competing series.
            It wasn’t Honda or Audi or the money from branding partnerships with Alfa Romeo or Aston Martin that increased F1’s popularity was it…. It was the vast improvement in the on-track product and the docu-dramatisation of the series. It was the gradual shift to a more on-track focused product, more so than the development competition. It was the shift away from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’ – including in terms of audience demand.
            Going along with your theory, can you explain why F1 (collectively) is so against GM’s participation? Wouldn’t a US manufacturer be the greatest key to the US market?

            Extended dominance is certainly not representative of anything good about a sporting series that relies so heavily on attracting and holding viewers’ attention. It drives people away faster than anything else – proven in each of the times it has happened over the last 2 decades.
            It will happen again very soon – that is 100% guaranteed.

      2. I think this is key.

        F1 is not, and never had been, purely a driver competition. It is as much a technical competition to design the best car. That’s a massive part of what makes F1 what it is. It’s a multi-disciplinary team sport, where designers, engineers, mechanics and a whole slew of others are just as important as the drivers. The drivers grab the spotlight, but they are nothing without the others.

        F1 is not unique in this regard, but that’s a massive part of what makes it special IMHO.

  10. That Aston Martin looks fantastically maneouverable in Alonso’s hands. Not just his pass on Hamilton, dinking inside last second, but also his near collision with Sainz, simply because he powered out of the corner so fast. Easily the best part of the race.
    Leclerc has hardly been mistake-free at Ferrari, but I get his despondency. However, it’s not as though he really has anywhere better to go just now. May as well be positive about it.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      7th March 2023, 13:14

      @david-br yep, Brundle commented on how it can take any line it wants and still be quicker than either the Mercedes or Ferrari. Only Red Bull could do that before. Even the mighty Mercs weren’t able to do that to other cars especially top teams’ cars.

      At least it has to wait until the corner to do it, unlike the Red Bulls which have power and stability and can overtake coming out of the previous corner ;-)

  11. Good job from Aston Martin, and good to see Alonso doing well.
    Some good racing down the field.
    My main positive thought for the season ahead, is that as Adrian Newey has again built such a great car, it’s likely that MV will be mostly driving on his own, making this a safer season.

    1. Red bull have never used an egalitarian approach to how they treat their drivers, so perez wont compete even if he could. So yeah, MV on his own….

  12. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    7th March 2023, 13:21

    Horrible year – no competition in Red Bull. Checo will never see Max on track and have no one in front or behind him.

    Ferrari – Leclerc/Sainz – we know this one. Sainz will play the long game.

    Mercedes – they’ll be fighting for P3 and possibly P4 in the constructors’ championship. They will not be racing each other much. They can’t attack the Aston Martin, they can’t attack the Ferraris, and they probably cannot attack a McLaren either.

    Aston Martin When Stroll is ahead, Alonso will not fight him. When Alonso is ahead, Stroll will have a near impossible time passing Alonso and it won’t be worth the risk.

    Most of the drivers for the other teams seem to be off pace to their teammates. I didn’t see anyone chasing their teammate.

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