It’s time for the season opener for F1 in Bahrain this weekend as the grid hopes that their hard winter work pays off with points.
All of the engine fire-ups, car launches, and tests are behind us, as F1 returns to Bahrain this weekend to open the 2023 season. As we embark on the new season, let’s look at where each team stands heading into the weekend and where should we expect them to line up.
Toward The Top
We start with Red Bull, who are fresh off a double championship in 2022. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez remain in the cars, and all signs from testing indicate that the team will still be the one to be early in 2023. Their top rivals, Ferrari, also retained their drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The Scuderia seem to be similarly capable of competing for a championship this year, though their relative pace to Red Bull is unknown at the moment.
Then we have Mercedes. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton returns alongside George Russell as the team seeks to carry their late-season momentum from last year into 2023. Aston Martin looks to be the surprise of the season after an impressive performance during pre-season testing. Lance Stroll returns with new teammate Fernando Alonso, who replaces the retired Sebastian Vettel, with the potential to break into the top three.
Alpine rolls out an all-French driver lineup this season with Pierre Gasly who joins Esteban Ocon for 2023. The team looks solid so far and seems to be near the front of the midfield after last week’s testing sessions.
Room For Improvement
McLaren, on the other hand, struggled heavily during testing. Still expected to be in the midfield mix, the team lost out on valuable time during last week’s test due to reliability issues. While that may not be a massive hindrance to Lando Norris, rookie Oscar Piastri may be on the back foot having lost out on some of his testing time with his new team.
Toward the back of the midfield, we expect Alfa Romeo and Haas. For Alfa Romeo, they retain both Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu for 2023 and will look to offset the loss of team boss Fred Vasseur with the addition of Andreas Seidl from McLaren. Kevin Magnussen is back for Haas alongside Nico Hulkenberg who replaces the departed Mick Schumacher, now a reserve driver with Mercedes.
Finally, we come to the projected bottom two teams. AlphaTauri is facing an uphill battle and looking to improve from last year’s disappointment with the help of new driver Nyck de Vries, who joins Yuki Tsunoda for 2023. Then we have Williams, who recently added former Mercedes man James Vowles as team principal. They hope that Vowles can lead them back to glory down the line, and they’ll start this year with Alex Albon and American rookie Logan Sargeant at the helm.
Hopefully, that sets the stage for this weekend. Of course, all will be revealed this weekend when we get the true order of things and see who is actually the fastest when it counts. The stopwatch never lies, and it’s almost time to see whose offseason work will pay off the most.
Pedal to the metal 💪#F1 #F1Testing pic.twitter.com/8Di3OUhm87
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 26, 2023
The Bahrain International Circuit opened in 2004 and has hosted at least one F1 race every year since. It is 5.412 km (3.36 miles) long. While the main Grand Prix circuit we know is used today, both the Endurance layout and Outer Loop were used for races in past years. Lewis Hamilton has the most wins at the circuit with six, with the most recent coming in 2021. Charles Leclerc is the defending winner of the race, and also took pole position for last year’s race.
Sunday’s race will be 57 laps long. The tire compounds available to the teams will be the C1 (Hard), C2 (Medium), and C3 (Soft). The Pirelli tire range spans from C0 to C5, with the former being the hardest and the latter being the softest of the range. The C1 is a new compound developed just this year and has never been used in a Grand Prix before.
A Lap of Bahrain
The drivers start on the front stretch with the first of three DRS zones and barrel down toward the hard braking zone at Turn 1. After making the right-hander the drivers navigate the kinks of Turns 2 and 3 into the next DRS zone down to the right-handed Turn 4. This opening sequence of corners creates amazing racing, and just last year Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen swapped the lead multiple times in this section in the span of just a few laps.
The drivers then head down the hill for the winding Turns 5, 6, and 7 before another hard braking zone at the right-handed Turn 8. A quick Turn 9 sets up the difficult Turn 10 where you’ll see frequent lockups in the tricky braking zone. Then the drivers make their way toward Turn 11 in the third DRS zone. Turns 11 through 13 wind back up the hill before taking the drivers onto the penultimate straight. The final two corners take the drivers back onto the main straight to complete the lap.
Both Red Bull and Ferrari seem to have the pace to be able to grab a win this weekend. While Charles Leclerc took victory last year, I’m taking Max Verstappen this year. Red Bull seems quite comfortable with their results from testing, and unless Ferrari has a surprise in store this weekend, I think Red Bull will simply have too much pace in Bahrain.
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing
How To Watch: The Bahrain Grand Prix (U.S. and UK times)
- Practice 1: Friday, March 3rd – 6:25 AM – ESPN2 (11:30 AM Sky Sports F1)
- Practice 2: Friday, March 3rd – 9:55 AM – ESPN2 (15:00 PM Sky Sports F1)
- Practice 3: Saturday, March 4th – 6:25 AM- ESPN2 (11:30 AM Sky Sports F1)
- Qualifying: Saturday, March 4th – 9:55 AM – ESPN2 (15:00 PM Sky Sports F1)
- Grand Prix Sunday (Pre-Show): Sunday, March 5th – 8:30 AM – ESPN (13:30 PM Sky Sports F1)
- Bahrain Grand Prix: Sunday, March 5th – 10:00 AM. – ESPN (15:00 PM Sky Sports F1)