Verstappen gets title defence underway with win in Bahrain

Verstappen gets title defence underway with win in Bahrain

March 5, 2023

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen got the 2023 Formula One season underway with a win, with his teammate Sergio Pérez making it a 1-2 for Red Bull. Aston Martin’s new signing Fernando Alonso scored his 99th career podium, as the two-time World Champion finished third following an incredible drive from the veteran. 

The only Ferrari that finished, of Carlos Sainz, ended fourth, ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who was fifth, with Lance Stroll sixth, ahead of George Russell in seventh. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was eight with Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon rounding up the top ten. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc suffered another engine issue, which saw him retire towards the final third of the race. 

Verstappen got a brilliant start as he sped off the line, but his teammate Pérez was caught by Leclerc in the opening corner. Further behind, Lance Stroll hit his new teammate Fernando Alonso, but luckily for Aston Martin, both were able to continue. By Lap 5, Verstappen was already four seconds clear of Leclerc, while Alonso had dropped to seventh.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was the first to pit, on Lap 10, and it was McLaren’s Lando Norris who was also called in the next lap, with the team suspecting an engine issue. Luckily, Norris was able to continue. His rookie teammate Oscar Piastri also had an engine issue, with his gearbox failing, making the Australian the first retiree of the race. 

By Lap 26, Verstappen was way clear of Leclerc in second, but it was Pérez who reclaimed his second place from the Ferrari man, passing him on the inside. Verstappen came in for his second stop on Lap 37 and re-joined in second place, with his teammate taking the lead.

Behind the leaders, Alonso was involved in a stellar battle with former teammate Hamilton. The Spaniard passed Hamilton for fifth following a daring dive on the inside of the Brit, with Hamilton not having an answer for Alonso.

Pérez pitted on Lap 35, which saw Verstappen take the lead and Leclerc go to second. Leclerc’s strong start to the season ended on Lap 41 as he suffered an engine issue that saw him retire and brought out the Virtual Safety Car.

Racing resumed on Lap 43, with the two Red Bull men in front, ahead of Sainz, who was being chased down by his compatriot Alonso, who pushed him to the limit and produced yet another stunning move to get past the solitary Ferrari into the podium place. Inside a couple of laps, he had left Sainz behind.

Up front, meanwhile, Verstappen cruised to a comfortable victory, with Red Bull taking a 1-2 for the first time in Bahrain. Williams’ Alex Albon drove a brilliant race to take home the solitary points’ place, while debutant Logan Sargeant also had a strong debut, finishing just outside the points. 

Winter testing showed us that the Red Bull had improved over last year’s car in every aspect. Bahrain was just a sneak-peek of things to come. Verstappen has gotten his title defence off to the best start possible, while Ferrari seemed to be plagued by the same issues once again. Mercedes’ struggles, on the other hand, have put Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso right in the mix.

With multiple teams in play, it seems like we are in for an action-packed season ahead of us. After the season opener in Bahrain, racing returns in two week’s time in Jeddah. 

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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