Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Red Bull make most dominant start to an F1 season by a team in 25 years

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix stats and facts

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Red Bull’s dominant one-two victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix was the best start any team has made to a season in 25 years.

You have to go back to the 1998 Australian Grand Prix – before Red Bull were on the grid and Bahrain was on the calendar – for the last time a team’s car finished further ahead of its closest rival. Max Verstappen won last week’s season-opener ahead of team mate Sergio Perez with Fernando Alonso 38.637s behind in his Aston Martin.

Not since the 1998 Australian Grand Prix, which also saw a dominant one-two victory for an Adrian Newey designed car, has the opening race been won by a larger margin. On that occasion Mika Hakkinen brought his McLaren-Mercedes home followed by the sister car of David Coulthard while Heinz-Harald Frentzen took the flag a lapped third in his Williams.

The biggest gap during the intervening period occured in 2004 when, as last weekend, Alonso also finished third. On that occasion it was behind the all-conquering Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.

Hakkinen got emotional after McLaren won 1998 opener by a lap
Do either of those seasons tell us whether we should be optimistic or pessimistic about the standard of anything about the standard the rest of year is likely to produce? Not really. The 1998 title fight went down to the wire between Hakkinen and a resurgent Schumacher, but six years later the latter dominated proceedings, winning 12 of the first 13 races.

For Red Bull, this was their most dominant win since Baku last year. Verstappen notched up the 36th win of his career and 21st pole position, the latter leaving him one shy of Alonso’s tally, though perhaps he will add his first pole in more than a decade later this year.

Despite his dominant start to the season, Verstappen was unable to complete a hat-trick as the fastest lap went to Zhou Guanyu. The Alfa Romeo driver took the second fastest lap of his career, the other having come at Suzuka last year.

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Alonso achieved the 99th podium finish of his career and is poised to become the sixth driver in F1 history to reach a century. He has now competed in 20 different seasons, which is a record, exceeding the tallies of Schumacher, Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Alonso’s last podium appearance was at Losail in 2021
It was officially the second podium finish for an Aston Martin driver, the first being Sebastian Vettel’s in Baku two years ago. Vettel also stood on the podium in Hungary that year, but was stripped of the result when his car failed a post-race technical check.

Aston Martin demonstrated the scale of the progress they have made by scoring 23 points in the opening race. It took them 14 races to score that many last year, on their way to a total of 55. The last time this team opened a season with a podium finish was in 1999, when it still raced under its original name Jordan.

Mercedes finished fifth and seventh, making a worse start to the season than they did last year when they placed third and fourth. Even factoring in the two places both cars gained in that race due to the Red Bulls breaking down in the final laps, there’s no doubt Mercedes started the season less competitively than they did 12 months ago.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Mercedes made their worst start to a season in a decade
The last time Mercedes began a season as poorly as this was in 2013, when Hamilton also finished fifth in his first appearance for the team, while then-team mate Nico Rosberg retired with an electrical problem. The following year it was Hamilton’s turn to retire from the season-opener, but Rosberg won, and so the team scooped more points than it did last weekend.

This was the first time Verstappen has won at the Bahrain International Circuit. It means there are only four venues left on the calendar where he has never won, including Las Vegas, which is new to the schedule. The other three are Albert Park, Singapore and the Losail International Circuit.

Have you spotted any other interesting stats and facts from the Bahrain Grand Prix? Share them in the comments.

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Red Bull make most dominant start to an F1 season by a team in 25 years”

  1. Jonathan Parkin
    9th March 2023, 17:32

    Remember though, because of the events of Brazil 2003, Alonso has to finish in the top three 101 times to stand on the podium 100 times

  2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    9th March 2023, 17:50

    Now here’s a stat. Verstappen in the most dominant starting team to a season can pass Hamilton’s 103 race wins before the regulations change again in 2026 with a 23 race calendar.

  3. Hopefully Ferrari, Aston Martin or Mercedes can compete with Red Bull soon. Otherwise this is going to be a bit boring. Would be fine if Perez was allowed to win but that’s never going to happen.

    1. @redearedrabbit He’s allowed but simply unable to outscore over a season.

  4. Max is th first driver to win 16 races within a 12 month period breaking the record previously held by Lewis Hamilton at 15.

    Based on current form of the teams only Lance Stroll is a possible new race winner this season so likely no new race winner in 2023.

    1. Good point, would need something to happen to both red bulls and other special circumstances for stroll to win and with all ferrari, merc, red bull drivers + alonso having won already, that anyone else wins his first race is less likely than stroll doing that.

  5. From the last 20 races, Max has won 15 or 75%, starting from last season’s Emilia-Romagna GP, which is a new record.
    Even Lewis Hamilton didn’t achieve this winning percentage over a 20 consecutive-race stretch in 2014-21, as his best was 70% over 14 races, the previous record. For comparison, Seb’s best was 65% over 13 races.

    The first four & Russell’s starting positions were the same as in last season’s final race.

    Tsunoda finished the race as the lowest-placed driver on the lead lap in P11, just like in the last Abu Dhabi GP, & likewise, Sainz’s finishing position was the same.

    Zhou got his second FLAP honor, although like in Suzuka, without getting the bonus point & coincidently, also for P16.

    Ocon matched a dreadful record of three penalties in a single race, solely held previously by Maldonado, who received three in the 2015 Hungarian GP. Additionally, most penalties per lap in F1 history, with 20 seconds in 27 laps.

    For the first time in six seasons, a Williams driver finished in the top 10 in a season-opener, with the most recent occasion being Massa’s P6 in the 2017 Australian GP.

    Coincidently, Alonso qualified & finished in the same positions as Checo on the 2014 weekend with Team Silverstone under the Force India identity.

    For the first time since the 2021 US-Mexico City GP interval, Ferrari is outside the WCC top 3.

    1. “From the last 20 races, Max has won 15 or 75%, starting from last season’s Emilia-Romagna GP, which is a new record.”

      Actually that is not a new record – Micheal Schumacher already did this when he won the Japanese GP in 2004.
      From the 2003 Italy GP in 2004 Japanese GP Schumacher won 15 of those 20 races.

      The 5 races he didn’t win in that period were the 2003 Japanese GP (Barrichello), 2004 Monaco GP (Trulli), 2004 Belgium GP (Raikonnen), 2004 Italy GP and 2004 China GP (both Barrichello).
      That accident behind the safety car in the Monaco tunnel between Montoya and Schumacher lead to Trulli’s only F1 win and prevented Schumacher winning 13 races in a row from 2004 season start

      If instead you are looking over a 12 month period Max did break the record previously held by Lewis with 15 race wins in a 12 month period (22-Jul-2018 to 14-Jul-2019 and 24-Jun-2018 to 23-Jun-2019).
      Max winning Bahrain means he won 16 races in last 12 months (27-Mar-2022 to 5-Mar-2023) and next weekend he could extend that to 17 wins in 12 months if he wins in Saudi Arabia.

      1. @Jimmy Cliff Okay, I got the reference elsewhere, although that indeed could’ve been about a 12-month period, idk.
        Thanks for the clarification anyway.

  6. How many of those season-openers have been without a safety car? It was only Leclerc’s considerate parking by the marshals’ post that averted a nice fake showbiz finish that would have mangled the stats and hyped-up narratives… but there was certainly a sinking feeling afterwards that brought that 1998 McLaren finish to mind.

  7. Red Bull make most dominant start to an F1 season by a team in 25 years

    From a championship points perspective, Ferrari had a more dominant start to the season last year putting in 44 over their main and only championship rival.

    But i get the point of the article.

    1. Plus Verstappen had no safety car to wipe out his lead like Charles did last year. There’s probably similar circumstances across other opening races in the last 25 or so years.

  8. I was sure Verstappen had more tracks where he hasn’t won

  9. Earliest start to an F1 season since 2002.

    Going by the engine names on statsf1, Honda RBPT are the 4th engine supplier to take victory in their 1st World Championship races, following Alfa Romeo (1st ever World Championship race), Offenhauser (1st World Championship Indy 500), and Mercedes.

    Russell has exactly 300 career F1 points.

    Stroll has had a single 6th-place finish in each of his 3 seasons with Aston Martin – he is yet to finish higher with them.

    First time since Styria 2020 that a team other than Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari have been in the top 2 in the Constructors’ Championship.

    Verstappen keeps alive his run of at least 1 win every year since 2016.

    Hamilton’s 17th consecutive point-scoring season – equals Button’s record.

    Red Bull keep alive their runs of at least 1 podium every year since 2006, and at least 1 lap led every year since 2007.

    Only the second time (after 2011) that Red Bull have won the opening race of a season.

    First time since Abu Dhabi 2013 that Red Bull have both started and finished a race 1-2.

    Australia 2015: in the second year of a new era for regulations, Vettel (replacing Alonso at Ferrari) finishes 3rd behind the team who had dominated the previous season.
    Bahrain 2023: in the second year of a new era for regulations, Alonso (replacing Vettel at Aston Martin) finishes 3rd behind the team who had dominated the previous season.

    Thanks to statsf1 and the official F1 site for some of these.

    1. Max is the 6th driver with at least 1 win in 8 consecutive seasons.

      The 6 drivers are with # of seasons and age when they achieved 8 seasons
      * Lewis – 15 seasons – 29y82d
      * MSC – 15 seasons – 30y119d
      * Prost – 10 seasons – 33y39d
      * Senna – 9 seasons – 32y71d
      * Piquet – 8 seasons – 35y20d
      * Max – 8 seasons – 25y156d

  10. The 1998 Sauber C17 had Red Bull as a sponsor on their F1 cars that year!

    1. And the current Red Bull team dates back to Stewart Grand Prix which started in 1997.

      1. Sauber had Red Bull as a sponsor since 1995 so it cannot be said that Red Bull was not on the grid in 1998.

  11. Leclerc DNFs and Alonso was hindered at the start else he would be closer.

  12. While as a stat 38 seconds looks better, that was 38 seconds ahead of a driver who had to fight past cars and rely on a retirement to come third. Melbourne 2015 Mercedes were 34 seconds ahead of a Ferrari that just followed them with no drama

    We’re almost certainly in for a level of domination by Verstappen beyond anything seen before this season, but I don’t think the car is at the same level of dominance that the 2014-16 Mercedes was

    1. @philipgb Difficult to tell because Red Bull/Max were almost certainly coasting at some point to make sure they finished and to preserve the engines – at least they should have been. Mercedes obviously did the same in their own era of dominance.

      1. @david-br I can’t know for sure but Mercedes almost certainly ran a lot of the 2014-2016 races in reduced power unit modes even if the drivers were free to race, they will have been told to do so within more conservative modes

        And I’ll never forget the rate they pulled away from the rest of the grid in Bahrain 2014 while actually fighting each other for position such was the cars dominance

  13. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my memory the only team ever that started the season with a 1-2 and did not end up winning the championship is Ferrari. And they managed to do it twice (2010 and 2022).

    1. It had already happened way back in 1963. Graham Hill and Richie Ginther finished 1-2 in the opening Monaco Grand prix, driving their BRMs operated by the Owen Racing Organisation.
      The drivers’ championship was won by Jim Clark driving for Team Lotus with Climax engines, while G. Hill and Ginther finished 2nd and 3rd.
      The Manufacturers Cup was won by Lotus-Climax, with BRM second.

      Also in 1981, Williams’ Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann finished 1-2 in the opening race (US West) but neither won the championship which went to Nelson Piquet, although Williams-Ford won the Constructors title.

      1. Thanks for that. I knew about the Williams win, but ignored the BRM 1-2. But it’s an awfully long time ago.

  14. It’ll be interesting if Max retires from F1 having never won the British Grand Prix, but still having a win at Silverstone.

  15. Most of these stats are pointless with more races and points awarded than ever.

    Even Hams race win total, making people think hes the best ever, is ridiculous. If Schumacher had the luxury of 20+ races in his dominant years he’d have racked up at least 150 victories.

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