Who were our unsung heroes of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend?

RaceFans Round Table

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Red Bull dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix and Aston Martin pulled off the surprise of the weekend by grabbing a podium finish.

But which performances at the first race of the 2023 Formula 1 season didn’t get the credit they deserved? Four of our writers offer their views.

Logan Sargeant

Despite the race being a fairly underwhelming event in terms of championship prospects, some exciting storylines emerged behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, which have caught the attention of those in the paddock.

Among them my unsung hero is Logan Sargeant, who produced a stand-out performance on his debut weekend. He qualified 16th, a few tenths off his team mate Alex Albon, and matching the time set by Lando Norris: Sargeant was just one-thousandth of a second away from joining Albon in Q2.

Williams newcomer Sargeant got off to a strong start
He drove a strong race on Sunday under the eye of new Williams boss James Vowles. Despite all the pressure pilled on the shoulders of F1’s first full-time American driver for 16 years, Sargeant kept his head down and produced a mature drive.

He finished his F1 race debut in an impressive 12th place. Not just that, but he was within 10 seconds of his far more experience team mate.

It put him as the highest-placed rookie after McLaren’s Oscar Piastri suffered a mechanical failure and Nyck de Vries crossed the line in 14th. Sargeant was praised by Albon afterwards for his “natural pace” and his ability to give feedback to the team. He was just as delighted, and seemed unable to wipe the smile from his face as he told us Williams had “out-performed everything they expected from testing”.

Claire Cottingham

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Mike Krack

How many of us can honestly say we were familiar with Mike Krack when he was first announced as Aston Martin team principal early last year?

There was no doubt whose team has made the most progress
Despite his extensive experience in F1, Formula E and the World Endurance Championship as well as his time as head of motorsport at BMW, Krack was hardly a well known name among F1’s fanbase. Replacing Otmar Szafnauer, Krack took the reigns of a team undergoing a heavy transformation with lofty ambitions for its future.

After a slow start to 2022, Aston Martin improved rapidly over the second half of last season and stunned the paddock by convincing Fernando Alonso to leave Alpine and join them after they lost fellow multiple-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel to retirement. But few will have predicted what a major step forward the team would make in 2023, with Alonso fighting to a well-deserved podium to set expectations for his time at the team skyrocketing.

Lawrence Stroll has naturally been the face of Aston Martin since becoming part owner of the team, but Krack deserves credit for how much momentum they have gathered since he has joined. Yes, Aston Martin are enjoying major growth through heavy investment in their facilities and team talent, but if they were failing to make any progress with all the money being pumped into the team, Krack would absolutely be held accountable for it.

That’s why, no matter how content Krack seems to be with keeping out of the spotlight compared to his fellow team principals, he should be given credit for his team’s remarkable start to the 2023 season.

Will Wood

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Valtteri Bottas

I was sorely tempted to hand my prize to Lando Norris, who produced superior driving despite an inferior car in qualifying, and came close to denying Stroll’s much quicker Aston Martin a top-ten start.

Bottas ensured Alfa Romeo beat their key rivals
But my choice is a driver whose efforts often fly beneath the radar: Valtteri Bottas.

With Aston Martin seemingly swelling the ‘big three’ into a ‘big four’, the battle to be best of the rest is now being fought in the lower points-giving places, and Bottas ensured Alfa Romeo was at the front of it. His younger team mate Zhou Guanyu, now in his second year, is no slouch and increasingly keeps Bottas honest in qualifying. This time Bottas was ahead by just three-hundredths of a second.

But come the race Bottas nailed his start – often a problem for this team last year – and managed to split the Aston Martins after they got physical at turn four.

Alfa Romeo had a close eye on the threat from Alpine (so much so they deployed Zhou tactically to deny their rivals a bonus point), and with Pierre Gasly pitting early on what turned out to be a three-stopper the team soon had Bottas in to cover. But he stretched his remaining stints out to finish the race with just one more stop.

Gasly closed on him at the end but Bottas hung on to eighth to ensure Alfa Romeo began the year ahead of their rivals. It was the definition of an ‘unsung’ performance which had all the qualities you’d expect from a multiple race-winner now at a midfield team.

Keith Collantine

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McLaren’s pit crew

The hardest-working crew in the pit lane
It can be easy to choose to retire a car once you know it’s inflicted with a problem that won’t go away and will cost your driver a chance at scoring, so McLaren’s pit crew have to be applauded for willing to go out and service Lando Norris’s six times on Sunday.

A pneumatic leak meant Norris had to head to the pits every ten laps to be refilled with air, with his multiple stops eventually putting him two laps down but still classified as a finisher in 17th place.

“I think the best thing was the mechanics had a lot of pit stop practice,” Norris joked after the race. “So that’s the biggest positive of today.”

It was important practice for the McLaren mechanics, as they didn’t get a chance to conduct a proper tyre-changing pit stop on the second car being driven by Piastri as he retired after just 13 laps. And that retirement also involved the pit crew having to get busy replacing a steering wheel as they tried to diagnose and fix an electrical fault.

Ida Wood

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Over to you

Who was your unsung hero of the Bahrain Grand Prix? Explain your choice – and what you think of ours – in the comments.

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Author information

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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12 comments on “Who were our unsung heroes of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend?”

  1. The same quartet. Albon deserves an honorable mention, but no one or anything else stands out.

  2. I think Ferrari pit crew are more deserving of a kudos for the competitive double stack of Leclerc and Sainz.

    1. Good point – always impressive to see that done well, and in the first weekend of the year no less.

  3. RandomMallard
    7th March 2023, 18:44

    I have to admit, not necessarily unsung heroes, but I think Williams’ pace is something that has gone a bit under the radar. Albon got into Q2 and Sargeant was very, very close. OK they needed problems for a few cars ahead (Ocon, Norris, Leclerc), but they took full advantage of it when it happened and have started the season with a points finish for the first time since 2017, which I think can only be a positive. It might not be the championship glory days for them but compared to how the last few seasons have gone for them I think they’ve had a great start.

  4. I have an opinion
    7th March 2023, 20:07

    David Croft on the telly was an unsung hero for gently steering Martin Brundle away from his repeated error of saying “Williams” when he meant “Mercedes”.

  5. Nico Hülkenberg

  6. Sky for showing Mike Krack so much and having a caption that said Mike Krack every time.

  7. Not that SKY showed much of his race, but Gasly must have had a heck of a race to climb from the very last position to finish 9th. Unsung and unseen!

    1. Definitely. I’ve been guilty of underraring both Gasly and Albon but this race woke me up.

  8. Nice addition! I hope this stays as a regular returning item

  9. I wish the national anthems before the races would remain unsung. They kill the anticipation and remind everyone of Putin.

Comments are closed.