It is finally that time of the year. After what seemed like an eternity, Formula One resumes this week as the cars hit the track in Sakhir, Bahrain.
A new season is upon us, and it promises to be even more exciting than the one we just left behind. With the promise of a shake-up of the order in the midfield, exciting new storylines, and new driver line-ups everyone is waiting for, there are plenty of things to look forward to in the upcoming 2023 Formula One World Championship.
As we head into the very first week of the season, here are our predictions for the opening race in Bahrain.
Also read: Formula One 2023: Driver Line-ups
Verstappen to kick off from where he left off
The writing is more or less on the wall — there will be only two teams competing for the win in Bahrain on Sunday. Unless Ferrari and Red Bull get into incidents of their own, no one else on the grid should be able to beat them on pure pace. And when it comes to the tussle between the top two, Red Bull have a good advantage over the Scuderia, with reigning double World Champion Max Verstappen pipped to take the win.
Verstappen has been cruising. His form, coupled with the fact that the RB19 looks even stronger, should tell you all you need to know about this year’s contenders. Red Bull were comfortably ahead in winter testing, and while Ferrari too looked strong, the Austrian team seem just a bit too quick for them.
While Red Bull have a second driver in Sergio Pérez, Verstappen has just been in a different league for the past two seasons. Only a madman would bet against a Verstappen win in Sakhir come Sunday.
Pole prediction: Max Verstappen
Win prediction: Red Bull
Watch out for Alonso
Aston Martin were the ones to look out for last season, but they turned out to be underwhelmingly disappointing. Over the winter break, though, the team have gone back to the drawing board, wiped the slate clean, and come with a challenger that seems easily a cut above the rest in the midfield.
Aston Martin’s progress has been so impressive that, during the winter testing, they were the third-fastest team on the grid after Red Bull and Ferrari, ahead of the likes of Mercedes and McLaren.
Along with a worthy challenger, Aston Martin have probably the most talented driver on the grid in the wily old double World Champion, Fernando Alonso. Since his return to the sport in 2021, the Spaniard has easily been the best driver among the remainder of the teams after the top three, and with him firing on all cylinders and having a car that can help him fight at the front of the grid is a positive sign for the British team.
What also bodes well for Alonso is the fact that, even though he moved to a new team across the winter, he has had a good amount of time in the Aston Martin car due to Lance Stroll’s injury, which saw the Canadian miss out on pre-season testing.
Don’t count out Alonso for a surprise result on Sunday. It won’t be a big surprise should the Spaniard finish on the podium.
What’s Haas been cooking?
Apart from Aston Martin being a surprise in winter testing, American team Haas have also had a strong winter test and go into the season high on confidence, backed with a strong Ferrari power unit and two experienced drivers in Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg, who replaced Mick Schumacher ahead of the 2023 season. Haas have all the tools to become serious midfield contenders this season.
While Haas might not have the pace of an Aston Martin, they have shown solid pace and, more importantly, good reliability through the three days of pre-season testing. While they might not be fighting for a race win or a place on the podium, do count on them to deliver solid points in the midfield.
Along with Haas, Swiss team Alfa Romeo also have shown strong progress over the winter break and shouldn’t be taken lightly either.
Dark horses: Haas / Alfa Romeo
Race details: When and where to watch (India)
Circuit: Bahrain International Circuit
Venue: Sakhir, Bahrain
Practice Session 1 time: 17:00 (IST), March 3
Practice Session 2 time: 20:30 (IST), March 3
Practice Session 3 time: 17:00 (IST), March 4
Qualifying Session time: 20:30 (IST), March 4
Main race time: 20:30 (IST), March 5
Where to watch: F1 TV Pro
Also read: Top 10 Best Formula One Race Tracks – RANKED