A long wait during the winter, car launches, pre-season testing and for the delight of the fans, Formula 1 is back with some proper action for this 2023 Championship with the Bahrain Grand Prix, the race which has opened the last few seasons of the fastest single-seater league in the world. The scarce three days of testing here at Sakhir have given their first verdict and created some expectations, but only in race trim the teams will show the full potential of their cars. The season picks up exactly where the last Championship ended, with Ferrari on the hunt of the Red Bull and the Mercedes in difficulty. This year various sporting and regulatory changes have been introduced: radio communications between drivers and teams are relaxed, the scoring system in the event of a race terminated by a three-hour limit has been approved with that of the other FIA categories, in order to remedy to what happened during the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix when full points were awarded despite the race being finished after 28 laps due to the three-hour limit. Grands Prix finished with a short distance are awarded reduced points even if they were not concluded with a suspension. Last year, after the stormy ending of the 2021 Championship, the FIA had taken the decision to appoint two race directors, Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, to be alternated from race to race. However, this set-up was maintained until the 2022 United States Grand Prix, a race in which the Federation abandoned the idea of rotating the race directors by defining, starting from the same race, Wittich as the sole race director for the last four rounds of the previous championship and for 2023. Former Formula 1 driver, Briton Derek Warwick, is appointed assistant commissioner for the Bahrain race; he has already performed this function in the past, most recently at the 2022 San Paolo Grand Prix. The English car manufacturer Aston Martin will supply the safety car and the medical car. For this Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers the choice between C1, C2 and C3 compound tyres, the central range made available by the Italian company, same option chosen in the previous race in 2022. The Italian company simultaneously appoints the choice of tyres for the next two Grands Prix, that of Saudi Arabia and Australia. Starting from this season, Pirelli introduces a new type of tyre, between the old C1 and C2: it will have the name C1, while the old compound C1 takes the name of C0. A new conspicuous wet compound is also introduced, following the complaints from drivers and teams, making it more performing. It will be available starting from the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. In this regard, Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, declares:
"The first race of the championship will be an important test bench to validate all the development work we have carried out last year, which allowed us to further improve the structure of the tires and introduce a new compound.Our latest C1 will make its debut at Sakhir : an entirely new compound based on last year's C2, which allows us to reduce the performance gap between the harder compounds in the range.We expect it to be a valid option for the race this weekend as well.The 'undercut' is often pivotal to the Bahrain Grand Prix, so it will be interesting to see how the teams make use of this new element in the trio of compounds that are nominated for Sakhir".
The organizers of the Spanish Grand Prix announce changes to the layout of the Catalunya circuit. The variant introduced in the 2007 season to reduce the speed around the last corner has been removed, while the layout of the circuit in the last two corners returns to the original design of the track in 1991. Coming back to Bahrain, the Federation confirms the three zones of the Drag Reduction System used from the edition of 2019, when the world motoring body decided to increase the areas where to use the mobile device to three. The first zone is established on the pit straight, with the point for determining the gap between drivers placed before turn 14; the second zone, introduced later, is present in the section between curves 3 and 4, with a detection point set before the first curve; the third zone is established between turns 10 and 11, with the point to determine the gap between riders placed before turn 9. Among the changes introduced this year by the FIA there are also those relating to the DRS zones, introduced after a careful analysis of the circuits on which racing will take place in 2023. The aim of these changes is to make overtaking easier or more difficult in some circuits where it is felt that the area to use the mobile device is too easy or difficult to overtake. The Manama circuit is one of the tracks subject to these changes. The DRS activation point on the main straight has been moved further forward to 250 meters after turn 15. Starting from this Grand Prix, after the introduction of the budget cap, Formula 1 teams can spend 138.6 million dollars, which can be waived depending on certain situations or events. The spending limit, compared to the previous year, set at 140 million, has decreased.
In addition, following the large amounts of porpoising during 2022, the Federation has imposed a 15mm increase in the fund. Furthermore, the stiffness of the bottom end has been increase and an additional sensor is required to monitor the porpoising more effectively. Important changes have been made not only in terms of the market between teams and sporting regulations, but also in terms of the single-seaters’ structure. Due to the accident of the Chinese Alfa Rome’s driver Zhou Guanyu at the 2022 British Grand Prix, the cars are now obliged to have a more rounded roll-bar profile to prevent it from rolling over subjected to excessive forces and the width of the mirrors is increased by 50mm to 200mm to increase visibility. The minimum temperature below which fuel cannot be found is redefined, either 10 °C lower than ambient temperature or 10 °C (limit lowered from 20 °C in previous years), hoping to improve power reliability unit. The minimum weight of the car had initially been lowered to 796 kilograms, only to then return to the 798 kilograms of the previous year. The Bahrain Grand Prix, as we said, represents the first round of the season, the first event of 23 established in the championship calendar, an absolute record in the category. This is the opening race for the third consecutive season, but this time in early March compared to the last edition held at the end of the month. Present in the Formula 1 World Championship calendar since the 2004 season, the Grand Prix also characterized the opening of the Championship in 2006, 2010 and initially also in 2011, before being canceled due to the Arab Spring. The contract for the Bahrain Grand Prix is valid until the 2036 season. The race is held at night and the official sponsor is, since the inaugural edition, the airline of country flags: Gulf Air. The Bahrain International Circuit, venue of the race, has been the subject of two main configurations: the current one used from 2004 edition to 2009 and in 2012, and the one used in 2010 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the category, except for one more configuration used for the Sakhir Grand Prix edition. The most destabilizing news of this first Thursday of the season is certainly that of Lance Stroll's accident: after a fall from his bike the Canadian driver has several important fractures. The British team Aston Martin during the pre-season tests have in fact decided to field the third driver of the team, the Brazilian Felipe Drugovich. Stroll's participation at the Grand Prix is confirmed a few hours before the start of the race weekend, these are the driver's statements:
"It was frustrating not to be out in Bahrain for the pre -season test and I was disappointed to miss the three days of running. However, given the injury to my wrist, the team and I felt it was best to focus on recovery so that I would be ready for this weekend and the long season ahead. It was an unfortunate accident - I fell from my bike when my tire caught a hole in the ground - but thankfully the damage was not significant and a successful minor surgery on my right wrist fixed the problem very quickly. Since then, I've been working hard with my team to ensure that I am fully fit to compete this weekend. I would like to thank the F1 community for their support and privacy, as well as the team who helped my recovery. Now I'm ready to get my head down and concentrate on racing this weekend - something I'm really looking forward to. The start of a new season is always interesting and, having missed pre-season testing due to my cycling accident, I am even more excited to get going. The team looked to run well in the test and both Fernando and Felipe were pleased with developments that have been made, so I am hoping we can continue that positive momentum this week and put in a performance that we can feel proud of. As we have seen in previous years, the circuit is often windy, sandy and hot, which are tricky conditions to contend with. There are some great opportunities for racing though, and that is what we are all looking forward to after a long winter break".
The long winter break represented a period of great changes in the sponsorship and partnership arena. The Swiss Alfa Romeo team announce that their partnership as both title sponsor and technical partner will end at the end of the season, after having collaborated and contributed since the 2018 season with the Italian car manufacturer of the same name. Even the Polish title sponsor Orlen leaves the Swiss team and arrives as principal partner of the Italian AlphaTauri. To replace it, Alfa Romeo sign an agreement with the Canadian company Stake, which acts as co-title sponsor, so the team is called now Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake. The US racing team Haas sign a new agreement with MoneyGram, which acts as title sponsor, so the team change their name to MoneyGram Haas F1 Team. Great return of Honda which, after a year of absence in the category, officially returns to the top formula, placing its name alongside the RBPT power unit (Honda RBPT) to consolidate the collaborative relationship that began during the previous season, after the Honda's exit as an engine supplier. Winter of great negotiations also for the drivers, triggered by the retirement of Sebastian Vettel.
His place in the British team Aston Martin is in fact filled by the two-time Spanish World Champion Fernando Alonso, who leaves the French team Alpine after two seasons. In place of Alonso, the 2021 Formula 2 Champion, the Australian Oscar Piastri, was initially announced. Subsequently, the driver denied having signed an agreement with the French team and stated that he would not race for the team this season, in fact the commission for the recognition of contracts of the Federation established that Piastri had no contractual obligation to race with Alpine. On occasion of the first race of the Championship, Piastri declares:
"I'm excited for my first race in Formula 1 and for it to be in papaya is really special. I've been waiting a long time for my Formula 1 debut so it's great that the moment is finally here. I'm feeling prepared for the challenges ahead and to get back on track in a competitive environment. It's been a while since I last raced so I'm itching to get going again. The work I've put in with the team over the past few months and the welcome I've had from McLaren and the fans has set me up well for the season ahead. I still have a lot to learn and some bits to get my head around with the MCL60. As a team, we've still got a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be, but I'm feeling optimistic for the season. I'm looking forward to the battles, the challenges and everything ahead of me as I properly kick start this journey. Let's go racing".
He silences any kind of speculation and shifts the focus back to the most important goal: to drive for his first Formula 1 Championship. French driver Pierre Gasly terminates his contract with Italian manufacturer AlphaTauri by one year early to take the vacancy left by Alonso. Despite the change, the French driver declares himself ready to start a new season, with the curiosity that accompanies every driver at the start of a new chapter with a new team:
"I am very excited to race for the first time with Alpine this weekend in Bahrain. Since my first test in December with the team in Abu Dhabi, I've been looking forward to this moment, and now it's almost here. All my focus is on preparing well for the race weekend and I'm already eager for my first qualifying laps in the A523 before we battle on Sunday in the race. I know it will take a bit of time to get totally comfortable with the team and the car, but right now, I'm definitely confident that we can have a strong race here in Bahrain and the target is to come away with some points in the bag and begin the season in the best way possible".
Gasly is replaced by the 2020-2021 Formula E and 2019 Formula 2 Champion, the Dutch Nyck De Vries, who has already made his debut in the category during the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, when he replaced the Thai driver of the Williams, Alexander Albon, who had been stricken with appendicitis. On the occasion of the first race of the Championship, the Dutch driver declares:
"I'm definitely feeling ready for this first race of the year. In October last year, I kind of knew I would be on the grid, so the lead-up and preparations have been long, and I've been looking forward to this moment, not only for the past five, six, seven months, but pretty much a lifetime, so I definitely feel like I am as ready as I can be. Testing was really good. We completed a lot of laps in which we were able to execute our program, learn a lot about our package and test many different things. There was plenty of information to digest and put together in time for this weekend and it's hard to get a good read on where we sit because the midfield seems very tight, but hopefully we can be up there. I think two tenths in lap time will put you up and down the order a lot, and it will probably swing round a little bit from weekend to weekend, so it is challenging but we'll obviously do our best. I only had one test in last year's car but it's clear that this one is a bit of an evolution. If you look across the grid, everyone tried to optimize their package a little bit and so did we. My honest feeling about it is that, because the rules remain the same, fundamentally, there isn't a huge difference between the two cars. I've had to adapt to working with a new PU supplier to the one I've been with in the past. It's obviously always a little bit different in the way they work, but it's not miles apart and it's fairly straightforward. How will I feel on the grid, starting my first full F1 season? You know, when you're in the car and when the engine is fired up, you're actually quite alone and it's very quiet, just you and the car alone, so I don't think it will feel much different than any other time you're on the grid waiting for the lights. It's just another car really. I don't think that will feel much different. It's more the whole circus around it which probably feels a little bit different during the weekend and in the days before, but otherwise, I've done many starts, so this is going to be another one".
Alongside De Vries in his first year in Formula 1 there will be Yuki Tsunoda , who a few hours before the first race of the Championship makes a technical reflection on the sensations he had during the pre -season tests:
"Testing in Bahrain went smoothly and produced plenty of information about the car. We identified some limitations, some positives and negatives, all of which will be very useful for this weekend's first race. There are some areas of the package in which I feel definite improvements compared to last year's car, while there are other areas we still have to work on. Overall, it was a good test in which we did the most mileage of all the teams, with a mix of long runs and performance runs and so far, reliability looks good. That was an issue for us at the start of last season, so it's encouraging to see an improvement and we need to keep that momentum going into this weekend. With last year's car we lacked some downforce, particularly noticeable at high speed where the car would slide a lot, and so we struggled to save the tires . In this area, I noticed a significant improvement with the new car. The tire spec has changed for this year and in last week's test I could feel that they behave differently, especially on a long run, so we have to adapt to that, which I think is the case for everyone. Degradation seemed quite high, but I did most of the running in hot conditions in daylight, while this weekend at the same track, the important times will be at night and therefore cooler. In terms of the PU, I was pleased to see last week that if I suggested something after one session, it was already better in the next one. Everyone is working well as a team and pulling in the same direction. Now I'm really looking forward to going racing again. This year, my aim is to perform more consistently over the whole weekend, which will then produce a better performance in the race. There have been a few changes as I have a new trainer and some of the engineers are also new to me, but I feel well prepared personally and my aim is to keep moving forward from where I was at the end of last season. As usual, I will be giving 100 per cent".
There is also strong interest in the future of Daniel Ricciardo, one of the most popular drivers of recent years who unfortunately remained without an official seat for 2023. However, the Australian driver returns to his origins, as a reserve driver for Red Bull Racing from which he left in 2018 continuing his career first in Renault and then in McLaren. His place is taken by his compatriot Piastri, who chooses to compete with the number 81. New destiny also for Nicholas Latifi, who ends his presence at Williams after three years. His seat is occupied by the American Logan Sargeant, thanks to the fourth place obtained during the 2022 Formula 2 season. He becomes the first American to race in the category since Alexander Rossi in 2015 at the helm of the former English team Marussia. He chooses 2 as his racing number, last used by Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne at the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix driving for McLaren. On the occasion of his Formula 1 debut, Sargeant declares:
"Heading into round one, I feel like I'm prepared as I can be. We maximized our mileage throughout the three-day test and really built in terms of my driving as well as the car. So, I'm looking forward to seeing how we stack up this weekend and hopefully we can have a good one".
Sargeant's teammate will be Alex Albon, who now knows Formula 1 well and declares himself optimistic in view of the new 2023 Championship:
"I'm feeling positive after winter testing has gone smoothly, however there's still a lot of data to go through and a lot of work to be done before the first race. Going into round one, we 're going to have to maximize everything we've got with the car, using this time between testing and the first race to better understand the car and go into the weekend with some good balance that we can compete with".
Staying at Williams, Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, analyzes the results obtained by the team during the pre-season tests:
"Following an incredibly busy pre-season test, we have had a few days to reflect and analyze, and we're looking forward to getting the cars back on the track to finalize the preparation for this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix We completed a lot of valuable running last week, which allowed us to run a comprehensive testing program The team in Bahrain and in Grove have since worked through the data, which has helped inform the plan for Friday Both drivers have had time to reflect and recover and, having completed more than 1100km each, they are in a good position to tackle the weekend.For Logan, this will be his first full Grand Prix event and, whilst he is very well prepared, he will inevitably take some time to adjust to the rhythm of a race weekend, the brief nature of the free practice sessions, and the disciplined aggression needed for qualifying and the race.The whole team is excited for the season ahead and the opportunity to push the FW45 to its limits . At the same time, the challenge to expand those limits as quickly as possible has been enthusiastically embraced".
Nico Hülkenberg, who has been absent from the category since 2019, is expected to return to Formula 1 in place of the German driver Mick Schumacher who is leaving Haas after two seasons and becomes the third driver of the Mercedes and McLaren team. Nico Hulkenberg will dispute thus the 182nd Grand Prix of her career. On the occasion of the great return, the German declares:
"It's not like I've never been away but I've raced nearly all my life, this is what I'm trained to do, and I think racing DNA is so engrained inside me, that when we start working I just know what to do, all the instincts kick-in. I've felt really good from the get-go and throughout the test, which I'm pleased about, and since I've been relaxing, training and analyzing all the data. The midfield has always been tight, and small things make a difference to whether you're at the top end or bottom end and even a good day or bad day can have a huge impact. We just need to make sure we do our homework and here onwards develop our car efficiently and maximize what we have. I feel like I've settled in well, the team has welcomed me nicely - it already flows well. I'm more of a race guy than a testing guy so I'm looking forward to showtime where it matters and counts a bit more - I'm ready for attack mode".
Likewise enthusiastic and ready from a psychophysical point of view seems to be Kevin Magnussen, who declares:
"I come into this season prepared physically first of all, and I feel way better than I did this time last year. It's nice to hit the ground running and we had a good pre-season test where we've learned the things we wanted to learn. I didn't see Nico much as we were splitting the days as when he's been driving, I've been watching and then when I jumped into the car he's been watching. He's been giving good feedback and he's been very consistent, having a good test as well, so it's going to be good. It's the usual suspects at the front but after that there is a big group of teams where it's very difficult to see where you are. We know we're in the mix and it's a long season ahead, it's a development race that's going to happen. It feels that high-speed is very strong in this car and overall, it feels like a good car. It's been a good job done by all the team and we're ready for 2023".
The great work done by Haas during the winter break seems to give the whole team the strength to start the new 2023 Championship with great optimism, confirmed by the words of Team Principal Guenther Steiner:
"I think it was the best pre -season test in Formula 1 ever, we didn't if it's many red flags and for us it was preparation and running- wise. The guys got a lot of information and this year's car is an evolution from last year, it's not a completely new car so you can learn a lot quicker because you know already what you'll think you will encounter. On the mechanical side, it takes a lot less time to make changes because we know the car - last year everything was new. Nico has fitted in very well like he's been here a long time, and the team is excited to be working with him. It's the experience we wanted, and I think we've got it. If you ask me where anybody in the midfield is, I couldn't tell you. I think this year some cars will be better on certain tracks, while others will be better elsewhere because it's so close together - I could be wrong but that's how I look at it. You cannot base your performance on other people failing, you won't get successful with that approach. It's been an incredible job by the entire team - both at track and at our three factories - to get us in the position we are heading into Bahrain and I hope this weekend we'll have a result that reflects all that hard work".
After Binotto's farewell to Ferrari during the winter break there is a real movement of the cards between the various teams. Among the news that cause the most sensation is, in fact, the interruption of the relationship between the Ferrari Team Principal and the team. His place is filled by former Alfa Romeo Team Principal, the Frenchman Frédéric Vasseur. He, on the occasion of the start of the Championship, declares to be excited and ready for this new challenge:
"I've had this feeling quite often in my career, but I have to admit, this time it's extra special. I can feel the passion not only from every single employee in Maranello, but also from the fans - and it only took me a couple of months to get infected by this passion and excitement. We can't wait to get the season started. Testing was good and the three days last week showed that the car is matching our expectations and now we need to continue fine-tuning in order to get the most out of it. One thing is clear: this will be the Championship with the most races ever, so no matter what the result, the title won't be won or lost in Bahrain. We know the track pretty well, but the changing air and track temperatures, as well as changing wind conditions, plus the new Pirelli tires will make it very tricky to get the set-up of the car right, but both Carlos and Charles collected a lot of data during the three test days, so we should be well prepared for a good weekend".
Vasseur's role was filled by former McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl, assisted by Alessandro Alunni Bravi as team representative. A few hours before the start of the race weekend he declares:
"Putting pre-season testing behind us, it is finally time to go racing again. We have been working hard over the winter, going the extra mile to get ready and set up, and everyone both here and back at home in Hinwil can be proud of that. We are ready and motivated for the new season: we did a good job in testing, and we are now looking forward to the challenges ahead. Much like all the other teams, we are of course eager to get started and see where everyone else is standing; it is of course early to set targets for the new season, but our goal is to keep on growing and developing as a team.Entering their second year as teammates, our drivers form a strong, diverse line -up, and we are delighted to be continuing working with them".
To replace Seidl, McLaren promotes Andrea Stella from Executive Director to Team Principal. After two seasons at Williams, Jost Capito steps down as Team Principal, followed by Technical Director François-Xavier Demaison. Mercedes Chief Strategist James Vowles becomes new Team Principal at Grove.
The big news this year, albeit soon to tell, seems to be the presence of Fernando Alonso in an Aston Martin; during the three days of testing, held right here in Bahrain, he seems to be ready to challenge the World Champion Max Verstappen:
"I am excited for the first race of the season with Aston Martin and the start of this new journey. The car felt good across the three days of the Test, but it is only testing and everyone will reveal their true pace this weekend.It is very early days but I think there is a lot of potential to unlock in the car and we will see what we can do here in Bahrain.It is great to have Lance back in the car after he missed the Test His input and experience of the 2022 car is invaluable for us to learn more about this year's car and hopefully he can get up to speed quickly".
The times recorded during the winter tests allow us to make predictions about possible teams ready to compete for the world title and about the ones that will probably encounter some difficulties in terms of performance and reliability. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the case for McLaren and Mercedes, which during the tests seemed to be in difficulty and with times significantly lower than their competitor teams.
Right at McLaren, Lando Norris declares:
"It's finally race week and I can't wait to jump back in the MCL60 and get on track. I'm entering my fifth season in Formula 1 now but I'm as excited as ever to go racing and get the season underway. Testing wasn't without its challenges, but we're working hard to continue to push us forward to get us back to where we want to be on the grid. We've learned a lot about the car, and we've already implemented some tweaks to optimize performance where we can. Thank you to the whole team for their work in building the MCL60 and the effort that's gone into getting us racing. Let's get the season underway".
At Mercedes, the first statements come from Toto Wolff, who states:
"We didn't have the smoothest winter test in Bahrain. We had some reliability problems and struggled with the car set-up on day two. But the key objective was to learn about the car, and we did lots of learning. We made good progress on the final day, which gave us directions to work on in the short period between the test and this weekend's race. It's always hard to have a clear picture of competitiveness at pre-season testing - and even more so with only three days of data available. Our expectations were that we would likely be playing catch-up to the front, based on how last year ended. That seems to be the case so far, but we will only know for sure after this weekend. Nevertheless, we are confident we have got a car we can work with and are in a stronger position than 12 months ago. More importantly, we are relishing the challenge. This championship will be fought over 23 race weekends, and each one will give us an opportunity to improve. The start of a new season is always exciting, whether you've been working in this sport for a few decades, years or weeks. So much hard work has gone into the W14 over the winter and the anticipation to be get racing has kept on building. We will be going flat out this weekend - and are determined to keep that going to the final lap in Abu Dhabi".
At Alfa Romeo, Valtteri Bottas sums up the first year of collaboration with the team and ready and motivated declares:
"It's been an interesting first year with the team, we have become stronger over the course of the season, and we made some solid progress together. Now, the direction to follow is only one: up, higher, and better. I think these first few days will help us getting a proper idea of where we are standing com-pared to the other teams and see who our direct competitors will be. Once again, a long season is ahead of us: I am very motivated to get back on track and eager to score good results, both for us here in Bahrain and for the home team in Hinwil: their effort is essential to get the cars on track. We know we have it in us to do well, and we must stay focused to unlock the full potential of the C43. Let's go racing".
His teammate, Zhou Guanyu, says to be ready to bring all the experience gathered last year to the track to grow as a driver and a professional in support of the team:
"Just like that, we are at the dawn of a new season. I learned a lot during my rookie year, and I will take all the experience with me into 2023, to improve even further. We achieved good things together as a team, and of course the expectation for the season is definitely higher. I feel much more at ease compared to a year ago, at the verge of my debut - and I am ready to turn this to my advantage. Now, I feel ready to face all the on-track challenges again.There's still a lot to learn and to be achieved, and I'm excited to see what's coming for us as a team: I am very much looking forward to it".
Alpine’s Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer declares:
"Everyone at the team is ready to race this weekend. It's been a very busy off-season with so much hard work at our factories in Viry and Enstone to keep finding gains and developing our complete package. What we do know is that this 23-race season is long and it's about where you finish it, and not where you start it.We will know where we stand by Sunday evening and we have a clear game plan - a solid blueprint - for the year ahead and we will focus on ourselves to make sure we reach our objectives.We will introduce the first upgrade of many this season to the car for Bahrain and we're looking forward to seeing what that will bring.Esteban and Pierre are both raring to go and the target for them is to bring home points to start our campaign positively".
The French team's driver Esteban Ocon claims to be excited to get back on track for the first race weekend:
"I'm feeling great and very excited to get back into the car for a Grand Prix weekend. It was a long and busy winter, and we are all keen to get back into racing mode and see what the A523 can achieve on track.We've had the last few days to relax and prepare here in Bahrain following the test, so I feel fresh and ready to begin the 2023 season on a positive note.There was also plenty to think about and data to analyze after the test, so it's been a week of learning for everyone as we try to get even more familiar with this year's car".
At Ferrari, everyone is curious and impatient to start this Championship, with the desire to go back fighting for the top positions and rekindle the enthusiasm of the fans. To such, Carlos Sainz declares:
"It's about time this break came to an end. Three months without racing is too long and I'm impatient to start. We tackled it managing to make the most of the time available. I had the right approach physically and mentally and also when working with the engineers, we were always in agreement on the direction we were going in. We tried the car in every configuration to understand its strengths and weaknesses and I feel that we are coming into this season better prepared when compared to the last one. I'm not worried about that. We have the busiest season ever ahead of us and we know that nothing will be decided this weekend. Of course, I can't wait to push all the way on track to see how the car feels on the limit. I think that as the season is about to start, there are several teams that look well prepared. Obviously, the world champions, but also Mercedes and Aston Martin seem to have done a good job. At the moment, we are just focusing on ourselves, but we know that, as from tomorrow, it's the track that will decide the true pecking order between the teams".
Alongside the Spanish driver there will be again Charles Leclerc, who claims to be curious to return to the race to verify the actual sensations experienced during the tests. Pre-season tests have always been an essential tool for teams to verify the work done during the winter break, but the actual performance of the cars can only be confirmed during the races when the car is pushed to the extreme:
"I can't wait to get out on track this weekend, because only then will we see the real hierarchy among the teams. We got through our planned program and did the all the tests we were meant to do. It seems that we have made some steps forward compared to last year. I'd say this year's car is quicker down the straights and slightly slower in the corners, but that's what we were looking for to overcome our limitations from last season. There is still work to do, as we know we are up against very tough opponents and, in the case of the reigning champions, they seem to have a slight edge over us at the moment. But our goals for this season remain the same: we want to finish one place higher in the Constructors' and Drivers' Championships. I stayed here and relaxed, played padel and trained, as well as coming to the track every day to have lunch with the guys in the team and begin preparing for the Grand Prix with the usual meetings during which we analyzed all the data gathered at the test. The whole team is motivated. We worked so hard in Maranello, in the factory and on the simulator and I can't wait to go racing".
The declarations of the Red Bull’s drivers confirm the importance of the first race as a test of the work carried out during the winter. Sergio Perez declares:
"The RB19 felt really good in testing and responded well to set-up changes we made. I am looking forward to seeing how the car responds to qualifying and race conditions. I don't think testing is a true representation of where teams are at, so it'll be interesting to see where everyone is after qualifying on Saturday. We certainly look and feel strong but it's all about how you perform across a race weekend. I want to start the season positively and have a consistent weekend in Bahrain".
World Champion Max Verstappen defines the pre-season tests as more than positive and this pushes him to want to check the power of his car also in the race:
"With all the testing we have completed, we are heading into the weekend in a good position. There's a lot to be said about reading into the data at testing, each track is very different in terms of how a car can behave, so I think as a Team we will focus on improving and always trying to do better and that's what we have to keep doing throughout the year. We had three positive days at testing but now this is where it counts, at the race".
During Friday, March 3, lots of testing will be conducted even if only qualifying on Saturday will show the real hierarchy of the grid. However, there are some certainties: Red Bull demonstrate their strength since the beginning of the weekend, confirming the good shape seen in pre-season testing. Surprisingly, but not too much, it is Sergio Pérez who comes out on top in FP1 with a time of 1'32"758. The Mexican has had a good run and the car has proven to be quite consistent throughout the whole session:
"It was quite tricky out there, the temperature from morning to afternoon changes quite a lot so the only representative session was this evening. We have some work to do over one lap and that should automatically put us in better shape for the long run. We explored the car a bit today and generally we have a good idea on how to set-up for tomorrow. I think everything is close at the top, certainly Aston Martin and Ferrari look strong, and I think it is going to go down to who puts the best lap together in qualifying and who has the better race pace on Sunday".
Pérez precedes Fernando Alonso and his teammate Max Verstappen. The defending World Champion sits more than half a second behind Pérez in FP1 to then improve to P2 in FP2 while attempting a qualifying simulation, clocking 0.169s behind Alonso Verstappen encounters some unexpected balance issues during his Friday:
"It was a difficult start to the day. In FP1 we couldn’t get the balance right, which was a bit odd as we didn’t experience this in testing. In FP2, the short run laps weren’t too bad and the car felt a bit more connected and with the long runs, the pace was good. Overall the car isn’t too bad in the long runs. Form FP1 to FP2 we went in the right direction, I just need to find my rhythm again. The Aston Martins are looking competitive, you could see that already from testing. There’s still a bit more work to do, we know we have a competitive car, it’s just about putting it all the pieces together".
The trio set their best time with the softest compound available for the weekend (C3). In FP2 the top three drivers only exchange positions. In the first free practice session it is Alonso who splits the two Red Bulls, who have some more difficulties to find the right balance, while the Spaniard claims the top spot in the second practice session with a brilliant time of 1'30"907 (soft tyres). It was not only hype after all, and Aston Martin is really establishing itself as one of the main contenders for the 2023 season. The car seems fast, reliable and, much like Red Bull’s RB19, very gentle with the tyres, allowing its drivers to push without worrying too much about degradation, a feature which only Red Bull can claim to have completely. As a result, the AMR23 shows impressive pace, especially in the experienced hands of Fernando Alonso, who is obviously satisfied:
"It felt good to drive the car today and it is nice to see both cars high up on the timing sheets especially after only three days of Testing. The team is working together well, and we are still learning a lot about the new car. I think it will not be clear who is on top until after this weekend and probably into the first couple of races at different tracks. For now, we are just concentrating on ourselves and trying to find the right balance with the car. There are a few things we need to evaluate overnight and we will prepare as best we can for the first qualifying session of the season tomorrow. We have our feet on the ground, and we are realistic with our expectations heading into tomorrow".
Only two thousandths of a second separate the two Red Bull drivers in FP2 (1'31"076 vs 1'31"078). While his teammate shines like a star in the Bahrain night, Lance Stroll spends a weekend of learning and recovery. The Canadian driver suffered a bicycle accident while training for the pre-season tests and had to undergo a double surgery to his wrists and a strict routine of rehabilitation. After missing the whole pre-season test, Stroll has to work a lot on this first racing Friday. A busy day hampered at the start with a minor technical issue, which delays the Canadian’s debut. Despite showing good performance, Stroll is caught on camera and on some team radios struggling at physical level, especially when he has to turn the steering wheel in the tightest corners, holding it in a strange position. Still, a positive day in the office after such a troubled winter:
"It was so great to be back in the car today and get my first proper laps of 2023 in. It has only been 13 days since my accident and at that point I was not sure I would be back in an F1 car so soon, so be here with the team is amazing. We lost a little bit of time in FP1 with an ignition issue, but once that was fixed we ran well and collected some important data to work through tonight. It is clear that the team have made some really good progress over the winter break; the car was feeling great to drive and I am excited to get back behind the wheel tomorrow".
Charles Leclerc is the fastest man in FP1 with the medium compound with a time of 1'34"257, which earns him the fifth position in the final classification. A good improvement brings the Monegasque up to 4th place in FP2, sitting 0.460s behind Alonso. Despite being a productive day, Leclerc still feels uncertain about the final position when it will matter the most, i.e. Saturday and Sunday, as the different programmes of each team do not allow clear predictions:
"Our first day of free practice went OK. We completed a lot of laps and I feel more and more comfortable in the car, which is positive. It is still difficult to tell where we stand as everyone seems to have been running very different plans, but we are focusing on ourselves and will keep pushing in the right direction".
Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz offer one of the most spectacular actions on Friday as he spins at turn 9 during FP1: After touching the kerb, the Spaniard completes a full 360° and ends up in the run-off area. No damage to the car but he has compromised his tyre set. Sainz is forced to head back to the pit lane without setting a competitive lap time, which relegates him in the last place. Fortunately for him, there is time to improve in FP2, where the conditions are much more similar to the ones in qualifying and race. Sainz clinches 14th place (+1.049s from Alonso):
"A trickier Friday than we initially expected. The balance was different and we were changing the car through the sessions to try and correct its main limitations. It’s only Friday and I’m confident we can analyse everything overnight and take a step forward tomorrow".
A comforting debut is what McLaren needed after a difficult pre-season test, where the Woking-based team completed the least number of laps. Difficulties that appear overcome with Lando Norris in an excellent P4 coming out of FP1. The Briton has a good run also in FP2, placing 9th just 0.663s behind the leader of the classification Fernando Alonso. Norris is also involved in one of the first clashes in the pit lane of the year, when he almost makes contact with the Alpha Tauri of Nick De Vries:
"I think it's been a reasonable Friday. We put the car in a reasonable place, and I got a bit more comfortable with it both in low-fuel and high-fuel running. We have a lot of lap time to find to be competitive and to fight with the guys we want to fight against, but we'll keep working hard overnight and look ahead to tomorrow".
An eventful day is instead what Oscar Piastri experiences during his much-anticipated debut on Friday. The young Aussie corrects a risky snap of oversteer at turn 7 during FP1 and is involved in a dangerous situation in FP2. Bringing forward racing to Friday, Piastri engages Tsunoda in a duel along the main straight, without noticing straightaway Stroll coming slowly out of the pits. Luckily, the McLaren driver, who is running on the inside line, swerves under braking and avoids the Aston Martin with a big lock-up, which he repeats some minutes later, running wide at turn 1. He ends the session in 15th place (+1.117s). Piastri states:
"My first official Friday done. I feel like I'm making progress, which is good. There are some improvements to find but I feel like I'm getting there. I'm still making a few mistakes here and there, so I'm not 100% happy with my driving but I feel like we're in a reasonable place. We'll see where we are properly tomorrow but so far, it's been good. I've enjoyed my first official Friday as an F1 driver".
All in all, Team Principal Andrea Stella can be satisfied with a solid Friday. The Papaya team seem to have recovered from pre-season testing, where they struggled with many aspects of the new car, which needed the right set-up to work properly, especially in racing conditions, under the Bahrain moon. Seemingly, now they can get into the points-fight, hoping for a decent start in their 60th anniversary:
"It's been a productive first day of the 2023 season. The cars ran without issue, and we worked through our planned programme, which today meant fine-tuning set-up and developing our understanding of the tyres, for which the evening session under lights was especially valuable. There's a lot of data to study overnight in preparation for qualifying and Sunday's race, in which we hope we can score some points".
Another rookie full of hopes for the new season is Logan Sargeant. The first driver to bring back the U.S. flag into Formula 1 since Alexander Rossi in in 2015 sees his debut delayed by some minor technical issues in FP1. Sargeant says on the radio he’s smelling something burning. After a quick repair in the garage, it is time to put down some laps. The Williams FW45 appears to be a good evolution of its 2022 predecessor and Sargeant manages to even stay ahead of his teammate Albon in FP1 (P18), although he concludes the day in last place (+1.842s):
"It was nice to experience a full day. As expected, as the temperature came down, the car really came to us. I was quite surprised with how much grip we picked up this evening which is something I need to maximise a little bit better. FP3 tomorrow is during the day when the temperatures are high so today was our best read going into Qualifying tomorrow. We're going to dig deep into the analysis tonight and see what we can go for in Qualifying. In general, it was a good first full day in the office".
Traffic is not really an issue in Bahrain, but some drivers have troubles with slower cars anyway. Sergio Pérez is one of them: in FP2 the Mexican has a misunderstanding with Carlos Sainz at turn 8, with the Spaniard going slowly and shutting the door late, forcing Pérez to lock up a bit. Practically the same thing happens to Alex Albon in FP1 with Piastri, this time at turn 13. The Thai driver concludes the day in P17 (+1.533s), but remains optimistic for Sunday. Despite probably being disadvantaged for qualifying, Albon is confident his car will allow him to have a good race thanks to a good pace and tyre-degradation under control:
"FP2 was much better than FP1. We've still got a bit of work to do but we're close. If you look at AlphaTauri and Haas cars, on race pace we are close to them, so that's who we're fighting and let's see tomorrow if we can get those little bits together to get them. Because of the way deg is around here, race pace is a bit more important than qualifying pace. Ease of overtaking is quite high, so if you're the quicker car you tend to get past. You're setting up the car for Qualifying, but with one and a half eyes on the race! There's a bit of an unknown to race one; reliability across the paddock is less than the final races of the year and some teams get on top of their packages earlier than others. Realistically, maybe we don't have the quickest car on the grid, but we can do a better job than others and maybe finish out of sequence".
A positive day for Williams Racing according to Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance. In line with his drivers’ thoughts, Robson believes the FW45 prefers cooler temperatures, a feature which will help it race at night on Sunday. Apparently, the performance is there and the British team is confident they will be in the mix:
"As usual on Friday in Bahrain, the two opening Free Practice sessions were very different. The drivers were much happier with the car in the cooler conditions of FP2. We were able to run a full programme this evening and get a good sense of how the car will perform in both qualifying and race conditions. There are still some things to work on this evening and we will be able to make the car another step better for tomorrow. However, we'll need to be careful not to get confused in the hotter conditions of FP3. Both drivers did a good job today, especially Logan who experienced for the first time the big swing in car performance in the evening session. This was valuable learning and will put him in a strong place to tackle tomorrow. There are invariably opportunities at the opening races of the season, and we will be looking to get ourselves into a position to race as many cars as possible on Sunday".
The tension feels palpable in Mercedes’ garage. After a difficult season like 2022 everybody to start the new season with a strong performance. However, the W14 has kept from its predecessor the no sidepods philosophy and has established itself as a logical (and hopefully better) evolution of the W13. The test and the first free practice sessions of the year have soon brought the Brackley-based team back to reality. The Silver (now Black) arrows are in a bit of an interlocutory position, apparently between the three top teams (Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin) and the midfield. On Friday, Lewis Hamilton acknowledges the team’s difficulties with an average performance on track, clocking the 10th best time in FP1 and the 8th best time in FP2 (+0.636s):
"We've got a lot to work on. We knew we were behind some of our competitors at testing and today, we found out that we are a long way off. We'll keep our heads down tonight, go through the data, and continue to work to find some progress for tomorrow. We've got to find out if we can add performance overnight. I think I've got the car to the best place I can set-up wise. On long-run pace, we look similar to Ferrari but are behind Red Bull and Aston Martin. It's difficult for everyone and it's not where anyone in this team wants to be. Everyone continues to work so hard and is so courageous and thoughtful in the process. We need to continue to graft away and get ourselves back on the right track".
George Russell more or less agrees with his teammate and keeps his head down for the upcoming challenges. Surely the current situation is hard to accept, but the young Brit tries to see the positive aspects. Some set-up changes made for the first race of the season seem to work better on the car and the race pace could be much closer to the one of the teams in front (except maybe Red Bull), and Russell will try to exploit these small advantages:
"We have a lot of data from today that we can look over tonight. We made some big changes from testing to today, so we need to evaluate whether they have worked as anticipated. We have set the car up in a slightly different window to last week; it feels better but that doesn't always mean that it's faster. It looks like our race pace is slightly stronger than our one-lap pace right now. We will continue to look at this as we need to find more lap time. It's difficult to say exactly where we are in the order, but we want to be higher up the timing sheets than we were today. It's only our fourth day with the W14, though, so we need to make sure we have it in the right window and are reaching its full potential".
Russell finishes his day of practice behind Hamilton, placing 13th (+0.975s). Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin confirms the impressions of his drivers and acknowledges that the car’s performance reflects the results of pre-season testing. Still, the Anglo-German team could have some aces up their sleeve to improve their performance on Saturday:
"The first session in the hotter conditions was tricky; we ran the medium tyres and even in the test we were finding that compound difficult to get into a good balance window but today seemed little better. We made some changes going into the afternoon and the cooler conditions seemed to help in terms of the feel and balance, but the pace is still lacking; single lap seems more of an issue than the long run but neither are good enough, so we've clearly got some work to do. We've got some ideas to evaluate overnight so hopefully we can put together a package of changes that will help".
Expectations are still high for Alpine. The French team is looking for the season which will see them finally competitive. Especially now, with an all-French line-up, there is the strong desire to do well in their eighth year after their comeback in Formula 1. Esteban Ocon feels positive about the car’s behaviour and is confident even more performance can be gained with some overnight work:
"After a busy pre-season test, I'm pleased with how the first Friday practice of the season went, and it feels great to be back on track in the environment of a race weekend. We saw today that the car has gained performance since the test and we have a clearer picture of where there are improvements to be made. Things are going in the right direction and we'll be discussing at length tonight how we can get ready to have a good first qualifying of the season. There's more to come from us and I'm feeling ready".
Despite being on his debut with Alpine, Pierre Gasly manages to precede his compatriot in FP2 by clocking an interesting time that places him in 7th position (+0.568s). Furthermore, the gap with the best teams seems quite small after the qualifying simulation in FP2 and allows the Frenchman to dream big. Despite a busy day, Gasly feels satisfied with the work done and is anxious to get back in the car for qualifying on Saturday:
"It feels great to be back in competitive action and feeling the demands of a Friday Practice day. In testing there's obviously a bit more time to learn about the car and make changes, but today was a reminder of how fast paced everything is and how concise and accurate you have to be during the sessions. I'm satisfied with how we've worked today. We ran through a busy programme, and we've built up a good picture on car set-up in the conditions we expect to see for the rest of the weekend. I'd say Free Practice 2 was much more comfortable. The car felt good and there's more to come from us this weekend. I'm excited for Qualifying tomorrow".
Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry echoes the words of his drivers and expresses optimism after a positive pre-season test and a further step forward in the right direction on Bahrain’s Friday:
"We're reasonably happy with our first Friday Practice of the season. Our main objective was to continue learning about our car in representative conditions for what we're likely to see for the remainder of the weekend. We've spent a lot of time working through our learnings from last week and identifying a good direction to follow on car set-up, which will serve us well for tomorrow and Sunday. Free Practice 1 was challenging in the hot conditions but I'm pleased with the improvements we made for Free Practice 2 where track and ambient temperatures were significantly cooler. Still, there's more hard work ahead of us and there's definitely more to come. Our upgrades worked in line with our expectations, so credit to the entire team for their tireless work over the past couple of weeks in preparation for the first race".
2023 comes with some spots of red for Alpha Tauri. It also comes with a new driver. After a brief but successful experience at Williams replacing Alexander Albon for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, Nyck de Vries is ready is ready to start his first full season in the most prominent motor racing series in the world. The Dutchman places 16th and 19th in FP1 and FP2 respectively, containing his gap to the leader Alonso to 1.698s. A near-contact with Norris in the pits and being in the back do not discourage de Vries, who is looking forward to improve on Saturday:
"It was the first time I participated in a FP2 session as a full-time Formula 1 driver. Overall, I am satisfied with the work and progress we made. The conditions from FP1 to FP2 were quite different, but we worked well together as a team. We found ourselves a little on the back foot, but I'm confident that if we stick together and continue improving on the areas we believe we need to find performance in, we can make a step forward. It’s hard to make big changes in one weekend, however, we are aware of our weaknesses compared to our competitors. This track may not suit the characteristics of our car, but it’s early days. After a couple of weekends, we'll be able to have a clearer picture".
Yuki Tsunoda precedes his teammate in both sessions but it is probably the only joy of Friday. Pundits look at AlphaTauri with concern, as the team seem to have one of the worst cars on the grid, although the fight in the midfield will apparently be very close during the 2023 season. Therefore, the Japanese driver does not lose hope and is ready to improve his position on Saturday:
"Today was not the easiest day. The performance itself doesn’t look good compared to our competitors so far. Obviously, we don’t know what programmes they ran, but on our side, there are limitations that we have identified. There is still one more practice session tomorrow and I'm feeling optimistic. We've definitely made a step forward compared to last year, so I'm confident we can continue moving in the right direction. It seems our long-run pace is better than our short-run one, which is maybe good for Bahrain, but there is performance missing. We’ll shift our focus now to qualifying, to improve as much as possible for tomorrow".
Chief Race Engineer Jonathan Eddolls claims the hotter temperatures encountered in FP1 did not help finding the right set-up for the AT04. There is still a lot of work to do on the Red Bull Powertrains-powered car, especially according to the drivers’ statements:
"We came into the race weekend with the benefit of having gathered data from last week’s three-day test, so the engineers have been very busy analysing and pulling this together, finding a good set-up for this week. The first session of the day is significantly hotter than the second session, and this tends to exaggerate any balance issues, so during FP1, we faced a bit of everything. We made several changes for FP2 which helped, and so too did the lower track temperature. The drivers still didn't have the perfect balance, but it wasn't too far away from the target. That said, the lap times were not competitive, so we have a significant amount of work ahead of us to understand why we seem to have taken a step back compared to the test".
A different case for Haas, as the U.S. team appear to be in fine form with both drivers. First team to present the new livery, Haas has opted for a seasoned duo of drivers for 2023. In particular, Kevin Magnussen starts the weekend very well with a 7th place in FP1. In FP2 the Dane drops in the classification but reduces his gap from the leader, finishing his Friday in P16 (+1.203s):
"FP1 was looking pretty good for us, we’ve been testing quite a bit today and we’ll put it together tomorrow. Some of the things the team have been working on between the test and now, we’ve tried them out and got a few answers. There’s a lot more to try - it was only two practice sessions - but I think we’re in a decent spot. I don’t want to jinx anything, but as usual, it will be very close, and it could be anything".
Nico Hülkenberg is back in the paddock after some years spent as a reserve driver. A nice return for the F1 circus as the German will compete in his first full season since 2019 with Renault. The years of absence did not take away the racing spirit from Nico, who is starting this new adventure positively. There are still some concerns about tyre degradation, but Hülkenberg shows impressive speed by claiming P5 (+0.469) in FP2:
"One lap pace is fun but if this is where we are come Sunday, that’s where the gold is, that’s where it matters. That’s where we still have a lot of work to do and some homework - to find pace and work on degradation. It’s going to be difficult but it’s the same for everyone, we need to come up with the best compromise set-up for one lap and for the race. Overall, it’s been a good Friday with things to take away to build on and progress".
Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner sums up a good day. Steiner can count on maybe the most experienced pair of drivers on the grid, and what seems a reliable car:
"Everything we learned at the test, today we could use. For FP1 we went out and made some set-up changes while continuing to learn. In FP2, which is obviously closer to the conditions we’ll have in qualifying, Nico did a very good job and Kevin worked around some further set-up changes, and I think there is more to come from him tomorrow. Hopefully it will be a good day, but all-in-all we’re making good progress in learning about the car - the car is very reliable, which is a plus".
The other men in red enjoy a solid Friday. After positive pre-season testing, the Italo-Swiss team aims to improve the result of last year, which saw them have a very good first part of the season, to partially decline in the second half. A good set-up for the flying lap and decent pace mean that the Alfas will be in the mix too. Valtteri Bottas is very satisfied with his car:
"We’ve had a solid day and I feel already confident with the car, especially with the setup we had in FP2. The car behaved as expected, so no surprises there, and now we can just focus on fine-tuning it ahead of qualifying tomorrow. We looked consistent also in our long runs, which was a good practice for the race. As expected, the midfield is extremely close and a small gain or loss can mean a big difference in position: finding a spot in the top ten won’t be easy but it’s a realistic target for us - with both cars. Making predictions is going to be really difficult, but it should make for an exciting day tomorrow".
Same goes for Zhou Guanyu. The Chinese driver is ready to start the new season and it shows: he precedes his teammate in both practice sessions, and both times in the top 10, and gives more or less the same impressions as Bottas. The car feels already balanced, it just needs to be worked on some more to try and beat the competition:
"Today has been smooth overall. We have been able to complete every task we had set for ourselves ahead of both sessions and the car felt good, it was comfortable straight away. As predicted, everyone is pretty close in the midfield: we must do some homework overnight, looking through the data gathered today, and try to make some gains as every little fraction of a second will matter. I feel we are in a decent spot, in terms of pace, so it’s really a matter of working out a few small details and making sure we are ready for the race".
To sum it all up, the final classification for FP1 says Pérez in first position with a time of 1'32"758, followed by Alonso (+0.438s) and Verstappen (+0.617s). Then the rest of the pack: Norris (+1.407s), Leclerc (+1.499s), Stroll (+1.540s), Magnussen (+1.644s), Zhou (+1.817s), Bottas (+1.931s), Hamilton (+2.159s), Russell (+2.208s), Piastri (+2.239s), Tsunoda (+2.257s), Hulkenberg (+2.285s), Ocon (+2.347s), De Vries (+2.644s), Gasly (+2.697s), Sargeant (+2.991s), Albon (+3.260s), Sainz (+3.314s). In FP2 the situation is the following: Alonso with 1’30’’907, Verstappen (+0.169s), Pérez (+0.171s), Leclerc (+0.460s), Hulkenberg (+0.469s), Stroll (+0.543s), Gasly (+0.568s), Hamilton (+0.636s), Norris (+0.663s), Zhou (+0.679s), Ocon (+0.701s), Bottas (+0.886s), Russell (+0.975s), Sainz (+1.049s), Piastri (+1.117s), Magnussen (+1.203s), Albon (+1.533s), Tsunoda (+1.618s), De Vries (+1.698s), Sargeant (+1.842s). Needless to say, the tyres will play a crucial role in Sunday’s race. For this year, Pirelli has brought a new compound for the C3 soft tyres, which the teams have had a little taste of during pre-season testing. Pirelli Chief Engineer Simone Berra gives an insight into the work done by teams on Friday:
"The teams used today mainly to assess the performance of the P Zero Red soft in race conditions. Many of these soft compound runs were done on full fuel, to analyse degradation management on the C3. Apart from a few laps with Williams, the new C1 wasn't really used today. As we expected, this latest hard compound is set to be a strong race tyre, which is why the teams wanted to hang onto it. Degradation is in line with our simulations as well as the data recorded during the three days of testing last week, on some of the most abrasive asphalt of the year".
On Saturday, March 4, the weather condition is good: air temperature is 28 degrees 24% humidity while the track one is 41 degrees. The teams are getting ready for FP3 before the first qualifying of the season and they have still time to experiment with the compounds in this last session. FP3 countdown starts but teams do not rush and Norris is the first driver to get on track; on soft tyres, he scores 30.013 in the first sector, 1'10"915 in the second, and completes in 1'34"633. Hulkenberg is warming up his tyres and tries his first flying lap on medium tyres. He gets +0.519 in the first sector, +1.230 in the second, and goes second at +1.517 to Norris. Magnussen on medium tyres goes third fastest in 1'36"240. The two Ferrari cars get on the track. Says Carlos Sainz Jr.:
"Yeah, for your info the seat cracked a bit, like it used to last year".
It’s the Mercedes’ turn. Russell on soft tyres gets -0.029 in the first sector, -0.238 in the second, and goes first in 1'34"102. It lasts a few because his teammate Hamilton on soft tyres scores -0.146 and gets a purple first sector, -0.630, getting another purple, and goes fastest of -0.594. Leclerc on soft tyres scores -0.135 in the first, gets a purple in the second (-0.385), and goes second at +0.066 to Hamilton, splitting the two Mercedes. Sainz gives up his first attempt to try again. During his real flying lap on soft tyres, he gets a purple first sector (-0.071), a purple second sector (-0.177) and goes second fastest in +0.015. Stroll gets ready for his first flying lap. On soft tyres, he gets +0.001 in the first sector, +0.450 in the second and goes fifth (+0.660). Alonso gets on track on soft tyres. There is no big traffic so he can go easily to try his first flying lap. He scores the fastest first sector (-0.250), the fastest second sector in 40.203 (-0.465), and goes first in 1'33"121. Verstappen on hard tyres scores goes fifth in 1'33"704 while Perez on hard goes eighth in 1.34.049. However, Albon manages to take P8 from Perez (+0.885). Hamilton tries again on soft tyres and goes second (+0.374), Devries tries his first flying lap on soft tyres and goes 16th (+1.823) and Gasly on soft tyres goes eight in +0.807. Sainz tries again on soft tyres. He gets +0.232 in the first sector, +0.648 in the second sector, but since he is not improving, he gives up and leaves the track to come back to the garage.
"I have no grip, no grip".
"Ok we’ll try again".
Replies the team via radio probably referring rather to the last changes they made to Max’s car than to the compounds used. Indeed, Max gets back to the box and the mechanics start to work on the last sets up before the qualifying. At 23 minutes to the end of FP3, Sainz tries gain on soft tyres, He scores +1.988 in the first sector, +4.850 in the second and stays in P3 (+0.402). Stroll on soft tyres gets a purple in the first sector and goes from P13 to P1 in 1'32"919. Albon gets P10 (+0.983). Bottas on soft tyres goes seventh (+0.710). Russell tries again on soft tyres. He scores -0.124 in the first sector, -0.169 in the second, scores the fastest third sector, and goes in second (+0.176). Hamilton on soft tyres gets the fastest first sector (29.330) in -0.221, the fastest second sector 40.084 in -0.410 and goes first in 1'32"555. Piastri goes fourth (+0.490), while Verstappen and Alonso try again this time both on soft tyres. Verstappen scores +0.018 in the first sector, gets the fastest second sector 39.802 in -0.264 and goes first in 1'32"345. Alonso gets +0.080 in the first sector, matches Verstappen in the middle sector, and goes quickest again in 1'32"340 scoring the fastest third sector (23.035). Ocon goes seventh (+0.776). Perez tries again on softs and gets +0.032 in the first sector, +0.036 in the second, and goes third 1'32"446 at 5 minutes to the end. Sainz tries again on soft tyres and gets +0.112 in the first sector, +0.329 in the second, and goes seventh in 1'32"945. His teammate Leclerc on soft tyres scores +0.047 in the first sector, +0.063 in the second, and goes fifth (+0.284). At one minute to the end of FP3, none driver tries again and this last session of free practices is over. In the afternoon, it is time to get serious for the qualifying. Red Bull’s mechanics had some work to do after the end of the FP3 because they were not happy with the balance of the car. Greenlight turns on for Q1. Drivers have 18 minutes to get through to Q2. The two AlphaTauris are the first to get on track, together with the Ferrari cars. Leclerc starts his first flying lap on medium tyres, probably to save a set of soft tyres for later. However, he locks up on the exit of turn 1 and gives up: it seems that a couple of pieces fly away when he opens the DRS.
"What is the part that threw away?"
Says Leclerc. Indeed, a piece of his front wing threw away from his car that needs to be changed.
"You can push next lap".
Sainz on medium tyres scores a purple in the first sector, goes 1'32"408 in P2 behind Tsunoda, who went first fastest in 1'32"132. Red flag starts to wave at 1.23 pm because of the piece of Leclerc’s car in the middle of the track that needs to be removed. Cars get back to the boxes. Red flag stops waving at 6.12 p.m. and Ferrari’s engineers work to fix the damaged part. Cars get ready on the pit lane and wait for the greenlight. All 20 cars, all on soft tyres, are out to the track, which means a lot of traffic. It is Verstappen flying lap turn: he gets -0.396 compared to Tsunoda’s 29.548, 1'09"087 compared to Albon in the second, and goes first in 1'31"295. A rotation to the P1 starts as Alonso gets -0.289 compared to Tsunoda’s first sector, -0.397 compared to Stroll’s second sector and takes P1 in 1'31"158. A few moments later, Leclerc gets -0.343 compared to Zhou’s time, -0.643 compared to Stroll’s second sector, and goes first in 1'31"094. George Russell manages to take P1 from Leclerc but only for a few because Sainz immediately after is first fastest in 1'30"939. Thus, Sainz is currently on top of the rank, followed by Russell (+0.064), Leclerc (+0.101), Alonso (+0.165), Verstappen (+0.302), and Hamilton (+0.550). Perez completes his lap in P6 (1.31.479). Norris goes seventeeth at 8 minutes to the end of Q1. Ocon is eighth (+0.695), followed by Tsunoda (+0.754), Zhou, (+0.954) and Bottas (+0.959). Magnussen is in P12 (+1.077) followed by Albon (+1.101), Devries (+1.128), and Gasly (+1.188). Drivers that risk the elimination are Hulkenberg (+1.136), Norris (+1.562), PiastrI (1.640), and Sargeant (+1.680), and Stroll with no time. Four minutes to go before the checkered flag starts to wave and Q1 will be over. All the cars are getting back to the track apart from Sainz. At two minutes to go Albon is the first to start. From P13, he gets (+0.363) in the first sector, (+0.381) in the second, and goes sixth in 1'31"461. Stroll on soft tyres goes fifth in 1'31"184 and scores best final sector.
Norris goes thirteenth in 1'31"562 and Piastri goes seventeenth in 1'32"101. Hulkenberg goes sixth and Sargeant does not improve and stays in P16. Q1 is over and Sainz is in P1 (1'30"993), followed by Russell (+0.064), Leclerc (+0.101), Alonso (+0.165), stroll (+0.191), Hulkenberg (+0.211), Verstappen (+0.302), tsunoda (+0.407), Albon (+0.468), Perez (+04.86), Bottas (+0.511) Ocon (+0.515), Hamilton (+0.550), Zhou (+0.622), and Norris (+0.659). Drivers that are eliminated are Sargeant (+0.659), Gasly (+0.825), Magnussen (+0.899), Piastri (+1.108) and Devries +1.128. Logan Sargeant is overall satisfied with his first qualifying in F1:
"It's a dream come true to go out and qualify in Formula 1. We had good pace today and the team deserved to have both cars in Q2. A slight mistake in Sector 1 cost me as I struggled to find my brake point with the change of wind at Turn 1. However, we've laid a good foundation for ourselves to build off going forward. I think we had the car in a great window this evening. In terms of balance it was right where I wanted it, I just needed to put it together slightly better. It's going to be a pretty special feeling when the lights go out tomorrow. I'll try to get off the line clean, have a good first lap and build from there".
Pierre Gasly has a different opinion about the beginning of his 2023 season but he is confident that the team can still gain some points from this first round:
"Clearly, this is not the start to the season we wanted being knocked out in Q1, that said, it means we have everything to gain for tomorrow's race and I'm definitely feeling positive that we can still come away with points from this weekend. Unfortunately, I didn't quite feel at one with the car today and that meant we were way below where our true level is. There's a lot of work ahead of us to continue our understanding of the car and I'm confident we will come back stronger for our next qualifying session. My focus is on tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to the race and giving it my all".
Kevin Magnussen explains that he got stuck in traffic jam in the final corner on the second flying lap:
"We got traffic in the final corner on the second run. It was so close - the whole field was bunched up - so if we lose a little bit, it’s game over. It’s a little bit unfortunate but the race is tomorrow, and we’ll try to do better there. There’s still stuff to work on, so we’ll see how we go in the race".
Nyck de Vries hopes for a better position in the grid but he did not have the tyres in the correct window:
"We would’ve liked to qualify higher today, but I didn’t have the tyres in the correct window. The final lap in Q1 was crucial, but unfortunately, I lost the rear. Our long-run performance has been looking more promising than our short-run pace, so that should provide for more performance tomorrow. The midfield is tight and competitive, so we need to make sure we gain some positions. It will be challenge, but we have tonight to evaluate our data".
Q2 starts but there is no rush in the boxes. Cars start to get back to the track at 12 minutes to the end of Q2. Red Bull has new tyres, and Ferrari, Mercedes and Alonso have a new set of softs in order to do an extra push in qualifying. Stroll on soft tyres starts his flying lap: he gets 29.581 in the first sector, a purple in the second, and goes first. Alonso gets a purple first sector (29.132), a purple second sector (1'08"207), and goes first in 1'31"094. However, a new rotation on P1 starts as Russell goes first in 1'31"086 a few moments later. Then, it is Hamilton’s turn to take P1 in 1'30"901. The Ferrari cars are completing their flying laps: Leclerc goes fourth in 1.32.097 but Sainz takes P4 from his teammate in 1'31"463. Verstappen gets two purple first and second sectors and goes first in 1'30"503, followed by Perez in P2 (1'30"746). Currently the two Red Bull are in the first two positions, followed by the two Mercedes, while Alonso is in P5, followed by the two Ferraris. Hulkenberg is in P8 (+1.429), followed by Bottas (1.667), and Norris (+1.688). Zhou (+1.730), Stroll (+0.114), Ocon (+0,176), Tsunoda (+0.529) and Albon with no time are in the drop zone at 7 minutes to the end of Q2.
At five minutes to go, Albon starts his first flying lap while everyone is back to garage. He gets +1.089 in the first sector but he gives up because of his front wing damage. Time passes and Ocon starts his flying lap at 1.20. He gets -0.381 compared to Norris’ first sector (29.492), the last driver to qualify for Q3 currently, gets -0.902 in the second, and goes fourth in 1'30"914. Hulkenberg scores +0.117 compared to Verstappen’s 28.925, +0.159, in the second sector and takes P3 in 1'30"809. Zhou manages to save himself from the drop zone taking P9. Tsunoda tries again but without improving and remains in the bottom five. Bottas goes eighth while Norris from P12 goes to P8 pushing down Bottas and Zhou. Leclerc gets the fastest second sector 38.789 and goes first while his teammate is in P3. Stroll from P13 and goes to P10. Q2 is over. Leclerc is in P1 1'30"282, Verstappen (+0.221), Russell (+0.225), Hamilton (+0.231), Sainz (+0.233), Alonso (+0.632), Perez (+0.464), Hulkenberg (+0.527), Ocon (+0.632), and Stroll (+0.845). Drivers eliminated are Norris (+1.099), Bottas (+1.161), Zhou (+1.191), Tsunoda (+2.228), and Albon with no time. James Key, McLaren’s Executive Director, finds this a very busy first qualifying session:
"Today saw a very busy first qualifying session of the season. Q1 was disrupted with a red flag and a scramble at the end of the session, which was a real shame as it left us with a compromised first run, with the tyres not up to temperature, and then a second run filled with traffic. Oscar just missed out, but he's shown good pace all weekend and we know he can recover from this. He did a very disciplined job in his first qualifying session. Lando did a good job to get through to Q2 and narrowly missed out on the top ten. We know we've got a bit of performance to find, and we have always said that was going to be the case with this configuration of car, but I have to say it was very, very close today. The grid has really tightened around us and it's all to play for tomorrow. With decent long-run pace we can make good with both cars and target points tomorrow".
On Piastri he explains that his pace was good and he just missed out Q2.
"Obviously it's not what we were looking for there. The red flag compromised us a bit and I just didn't nail it on the second set of tyres. That said, it was my first F1 qualifying and it is a long season ahead. We'll do our homework and see what we can do. Tomorrow is another day".
Lando also had a good performance and missed out Q3 for a few.
"P11 in the first qualifying of the year, I would say I'm reasonably happy with that. I think we pretty much got everything out of the car. There maybe was a tenth left in it but I needed two tenths to gain any positions. It was a tough qualifying, it was very close between all the midfield and even the top cars, to be honest. It was a little bit better than I was thinking coming into the session, so we'll take it. It's a long race ahead tomorrow and a track we can overtake on, so hopefully we can move forward".
Valtteri Bottas says that this was a straightforward qualifying session:
"It was a straightforward qualifying session for us, and starting from P12 we will be definitely aiming for a place in the points. I’m quite happy about the laps I delivered and it’s good to see how Zhou was able to push me as well: we were just a bit short of Q3, but the midfield is really close and everything can still happen. From what we have seen in testing, we are not bad in race trim, and it will be interesting to see how tyre degradation will affect different cars: it’s quite difficult to predict how the race will shape up, but we’re going to give it our best shot".
Says Zhou Guanyu:
"Even from outside of the top ten, I feel we have the potential to gain a few positions during tomorrow’s race. Last year we were able to climb up the field, and I see no reason why we can’t repeat what we have done before. It will be a tight fight, once again, and points are definitely the target. Looking at our performance from practice, we are in the mix for the top ten and it will often be a case of who can put everything together on the day: we went really close to it today, but ultimately fell a bit short. Still, there’s everything to play for tomorrow and I’m confident we can do a good job".
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Alfa Romeo’s Team Representative, explains that today’s result is a good first step to score points tomorrow:
"Today’s result is a good first step and a platform on which we can build on to score points tomorrow. We can be happy about the way our team executed qualifying today: both drivers did well and the whole crew, here and in Hinwil, stood up to the task. We expected the midfield to be an incredibly tight affair, and tonight’s result confirms just how close the battle will be. There are minimal gaps between all the cars around us and a single tenth can make the difference between quite a few positions: even though we missed out on Q3, we are still in the mix for the points. Our focus shifts to the Sunday now: we need to prepare our best race plan, making sure we find a way to make the most of the good long-run pace we showed in testing and practice. I am confident we can have a good showing tomorrow and deliver a good result to the team back at home".
Says Yuki Tsunoda:
"We didn’t expect to get into Q2, but getting through was very positive for myself and the team. Of course, I was frustrated we didn’t have new tyres for Q2, but we knew that was the plan from the beginning. We haven’t tested the long-runs in these conditions, but we’ll dig through the data extensively tonight to be able to build the strongest possible car going into tomorrow, especially in terms of finding grip. At the same time, I am happy with my performance today, but ultimately tomorrow is when it counts. We are aiming for points, and we know it won’t be the easiest race from what we have learnt from testing last week, but anything can happen".
Jody Egginton, AlphaTauri’s Technical Director, finds that the change they made on the car over Friday night improved the balance of the car in FP3 and qualifying:
"We had a clear picture of what the primary limitations of the car were on Friday night, and it’s fair to say that the changes made overnight improved the balance of the car in FP3 & qualifying. This is promising, but there is still much to do to get the car to where we want it. Yuki has delivered a good performance, extracting pretty much everything from the car, whilst Nyck has also put on a solid first qualifying. He’s made good progress, and more importantly, provided excellent feedback on what the car is doing and what he needs from it. As you would expect, we are not satisfied with the performance shown by the AT04 so far, but tomorrow’s race is another key milestone, and aero developments will be coming through in the next events".
Alex Albon explains:
"We had some front wing damage in Qualifying, and we lost one of the flaps, so we didn't complete a lap in Q2. It's disappointing as, looking at the times in Q2, I really believe we could have made it to Q3. I'm a bit disappointed after being P9 in Q1 and I feel like we deserved more than where we qualified but I think if you look at where we were this time last year and where we are at this year, apart from Aston Martin, we're the team that has made the biggest step forward. I'm really proud of everyone at the team and at the factory and things are going in the right direction. We really do come alive when the track becomes cold and I would say our race pace is stronger than our qualifying pace, so let's see what happens tomorrow".
Dave Robson, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, finds today’s result a bit disappointing:
"A frustrating result this evening but one that shows good promise. Logan was extremely unlucky not to get into Q2 having set the same lap time as Norris. Whilst Alex progressed to Q2 and was in a great position to set a good lap time, he had to abort his flying lap when an adjuster on his front wing failed, causing the flap to drop. Having completed so much running last week without an issue, it is frustrating to have it today in such an important session. We can take a lot of positives from today as we look to translate the performance into a solid and forward-looking race plan. Both drivers know how to compile a strong race stint at this circuit, and everyone in Bahrain and in Grove are looking forward to helping them make good progress".
Q3 starts and it is time to get the best position in the grid for the first race of the 2023 season. Still no rush in the boxes. 10 minutes to go and just four drivers are back to the track, the two Red Bulls and the two Ferraris. Verstappen on soft tyres starts his first flying lap together with Perez. Verstappen gets 28.722 in the first sector, 1'07"367 in the second, and goes first in 1'29"897. Perez scores 28.846 in the first sector, 1'07"593 in the second and completes his lap in 1'30"131. Leclerc gets a purple second sector (1'07"439) and goes second in 1'30"000, while his teammate is in P4 in 1'30"361, followed by Stroll (+2.029). Five minutes to go and Ocon, the Ferraris, the Red Bulls and Stroll are back to the boxes. Fernando Alonso starts his flying lap on soft tyres. He gets +0.130 compared to Verstappen’s first sector, +0.259 in the second and goes fourth in the second row at +0.439. Hulkenberg goes sixth at +1.158. Russell goes fifth fastest in 1'30"340 and Hamilton is seventh fastest (+0.487). Charles Leclerc gets off of his car and walks away: it seems that his car has a technical problem. Max Verstappen starts at 30 seconds to the end. He gets +0.014 in the first sector, -0.117 in the second, and keeps the pole position in 1.29.708. Perez scores +0.001 in the first sector, -0.107 in the second, and goes second (+0.138). Sainz gets +0.017 in the first sector, +0.072 in the second, and goes fourth (+0.446), behind Leclerc (+0.292). Q3 is over. Alonso is in P5 (+0.628), followed by Russell (+0.632), Hamilton (+0.676), Stroll (+1.128), Ocon (+1.276), and Hulkenberg with no time. Max Verstappen is very happy with his first pole position of the season:
"it hasn’t been the easiest weekend so far as we’ve been struggling to find the right balance and I’ve been trying to find my rhythm. Overall, it was quite a good qualifying, we recovered well with the performance. It’s great for the whole Team to have a one-two start tomorrow, and to have Checo up there as well is really promising. A lot of things can happen during a race as we all know, but I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do out there on track as a Team".
Sergio Perez explains that he missed pole position by a tenth of a second:
“When you miss pole position by a tenth of a second you always think there is a bit more you could have given, that is only a braking zone or something. It was really close out there today, look at the competition from Q2 and Q3, if you didn’t get a perfect lap then you were P5. We made some compromises in qualifying for tomorrow’s race and hopefully that will pay off so we can have a very strong race car. I am more comfortable with the car; the rear end of this car is a bit more planted, so I am able to work with it a little better so that’s a positive for me. I think Ferrari will be in the mix for the race, along with Aston Martin and Mercedes. We hadn’t seen this kind of pace from Ferrari until today, so I think they have been hiding quite a bit. If Charles was to do his final run, he would have been in with a shot for pole position. I think managing the tyre degradation will be crucial tomorrow and it will be really important for us to concentrate on our own race".
Finally, on tomorrow’s race the team will have to check on tyres degradation. Christian Horner, Red Bull’s CEO and Team Principal, says:
"This is a great start to the season in what turned out to be a very close qualifying. Both drivers managed to navigate their way into Q3 with the two sets of the softer tyres available. To lock out the front row is the best possible start for tomorrow’s race, but, the points are on Sunday, and as we know from last year, it’s important to finish. As I say though, it’s a great start from the drivers and the Team, but plenty of work still to do as we look to convert these excellent grid positions into points tomorrow".
Carlos Sainz Jr. believes that today the team made quite a lot of steps:
"Today we made a step forward as a team. It’s been a difficult build-up to qualifying for me, not having had a clean day yesterday, but we reacted well today. I lost a bit in sector 2 in a couple of twitchy corners, but apart from that the feeling overall was better. Now we’re looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll fight until the very last lap and try to bring home a good result to get the season going".
Charles Leclerc defines today as a positive qualifying:
"A positive qualifying. We were in the fight for pole, which we didn't expect coming into the weekend. Several teams seem to be quite close, which makes things more exciting for drivers and fans, and I think it's good for the sport. In terms of race pace, we could find ourselves a bit on the backfoot, as our competitors looked very strong in that area during free practice. We will give everything tomorrow and, with an extra set of fresh Soft tyres, hopefully we will have a good fight".
Says Frédéric Vasseur for his first qualifying as Ferrari’s Team Principal:
"It’s always difficult to have a clear picture going into the very first qualifying of the season, as you come here not knowing where the others are, but in the end we got a good result today. We were P1 in both Q1 and Q2 so it was looking good for the fight for pole, but then we decided with Charles to save one set of new tyres for tomorrow’s race, whereas with Carlos we used another new set since it was such a tight qualifying and a new tyre made the difference. Starting from the second row is actually a positive result considering that we will have the only driver with an extra set of new Soft tyres, so I am more than happy with this first qualifying. For tomorrow, when the points are scored, we need to put everything together and manage degradation. We have carried out some good race simulations, it’s a long season and tomorrow’s race is just the first step".
Fernando Alonso is sure about the good performance of his car:
"The whole weekend has been very good for us so far and we are very happy to be starting inside the top five for the first race tomorrow. Last year the team found itself out of Q1 and now we are lining up fifth on the grid. Everyone in the team has done an amazing job and this is a strong baseline to build upon as we start the season. We shall see what tomorrow brings, but we have been competitive in all the sessions and we are starting close to the podium positions. If there is an opportunity there for the taking, then we will look to capitalise on it".
George Russell is satisfied with todays’ results especially after Friday’s practices:
"Today was a lot better than we expected, particularly after yesterday. We had a tough Friday; we expected to add a little bit of performance overnight, but we exceeded expectations. The changes we made we thought we might find a tenth, but we found close to five or six tenths, so we need to fully understand why that was. It's positive news but after FP3, we just focused on maximising performance. The car is feeling nice to drive so we are in a much better starting place than we were with the W13. We can now focus on adding global performance rather than problem solving. Tomorrow, we are in a good place to fight for third. Qualifying three tenths behind Ferrari when they have probably been the fastest car on single lap pace is positive. Fernando is probably more of a dark horse than Ferrari".
Lewis Hamilton is also satisfied and says that the car felt much better today than it did on Friday:
"I thought today may be worse than it ended up being. We did some great work overnight and the car felt much better in FP3. Overall, Qualifying was OK. I thought we might struggle to get into Q3 yesterday, but we didn't. We were in a fight. We don't know if we have the same race pace that we showed last year but I'm hoping we can be in the fight amongst the group behind Red Bull. It's really all going to depend on what our long-run pace is like".
He gives his congratulation to Aston Martin and Alonso for today’s position in the grid:
“I am genuinely happy for Aston Martin. It's amazing to see their progress and the steps that they have taken. I am happy for Fernando as he's been here way longer than me so it's good to have him back in the mix! I'm sure we will have some good races".
Says Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO.
"The gap to the very front isn't ridiculous considering we only ran one new soft tyre at the end of Q3. Nevertheless, it's not where we want to be and not what we had aimed for over the winter. We know what the gap is and what we need to find, or more, to win. Neither driver had a clean lap in the final run. There was probably another tenth-and-a-half still in there but it likely wouldn't have changed much. We maybe could have overtaken Alonso with both cars, but this is where we are. We are super critical of ourselves and what we need to achieve. There is no such thing as a sacred cow in our team, and we look at everything. The whole Team thinks like that, so we just need to get our heads together and work out the next steps from here. But first we race tomorrow - and we will be giving it everything we've got to move forward up the field".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, says that they are disappointed to be so far off the pole position but today there were some improvements compared to Friday’s situation:
"Clearly, we're disappointed to be so far off pole, but we looked much further off yesterday. It's encouraging that the car responded to the overnight changes, and we've managed to improve a few of the issues like the high-speed cornering. Through the morning session the car was behaving quite predictably given the hotter conditions. There was a bit of fine-tuning going into qualifying and early on, it looked like we were in a pretty good place. As the sessions went on the others seemed to be finding a bit more pace. We also only had one set of tyres for the final part of Qualifying so that added up to leaving us with a gap that's bigger than we'd like but one that we'll be working hard to close down. Our straight-line speed looks strong, and our degradation seems to be in a reasonable place; the Red Bulls are out of reach from what we have seen but it would be good if we can get into a race with the Ferrari and Aston Martins".
About the main competitors, he says that currently they cannot reach the Red Bull but they are looking for to get into a race with the Ferrari and Aston Martins. Lance Stroll is please with today's result:
"I am really happy with today's result. It shows the progress we have made as a team over the winter and that our hard work is paying off. From eighth we can race well and hopefully bring home some points tomorrow. I have spent the practice sessions doing my best to learn about the car, get up to speed, and find a rhythm as we built up to qualifying. I am really pleased with the performance I put in today and feeling grateful to be here just two weeks after my accident. I cannot wait to go racing tomorrow".
Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, is satisfied with Stroll’s performance especially taken into consideration his situation and Fernando’s one, with clean and tidy laps to take fifth:
"To get both cars through to Q3 in fifth and eighth is an excellent outcome from the first qualifying session of the year. I must say a big well done to the whole team - back at base and here at the track - for their constant hard work to get us to this point. The goal has been to take a step forward and our performance across today indicates we have done just that. We can race well from those grid positions and target scoring points with both cars. Huge credit to Lance for his performance today, especially given his situation, and having missed all of winter testing. His determination to get back in the car has been very impressive and he has done a super job to qualify in eighth. Fernando, too, delivered a strong performance tonight, with clean and tidy laps to take fifth, building on the speed we have shown during practice. Tomorrow is what really counts, though, and we will work hard to convert these positions into points".
Esteban Ocon finds himself satisfied with today’s results:
"It felt good to be out there and finally really pushing the car to see what it can do and where we stand. Getting through to Q3 is definitely a good way to start the season. We are happy with the progress we have made since the pre-season test, and this is the best the car has felt on track so far this year. Our competitors in front are quick, and we have plenty of work ahead of us, but we've got a car that can get into the points and that will be the goal for the first race of the season".
Alan Permane, Alpine’s Sporting Director, has mixed feelings after today's qualifying:
"Overall, we have mixed feelings after today's first Qualifying of the season with Esteban in ninth and Pierre in twentieth. In general, that's not where we aim to be, and we certainly have improvements to make to ensure we're qualifying in much stronger positions at later races. Pierre is certainly disappointed to be out in Q1. We have a lot to review on his side to understand what happened as clearly the car had much more pace than that. Esteban did a very good job and had three smooth sessions, though, looking at the timesheets, ninth place is probably where we deserve to be today. We're definitely ready for tomorrow's race as our high fuel running looked good in pre-season testing and in Free Practice 2 yesterday. Pierre can set his sights forward from the back of the grid as this race tends to have plenty of overtaking. For Esteban, he's well in contention and there's no reason why we cannot come away from here with good points".
Nico Hulkenberg is overall satisfied even if it was not perfect in Q3:
"It wasn’t perfect in Q3 unfortunately, but I don’t think I’m going to let that ruin my day and my mood. I think it was pretty decent - I was pretty happy how I was able to produce and deliver the laps. I think we saw already yesterday how over one lap we’re in a decent spot and quite competitive, but the real test will come tomorrow. The big emphasis and focus is there, I expect a really tough battle and race but I’m excited and looking forward to it".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, finds that today was pretty good for the team:
"It was a pretty good day for us today. I think we now know what we can do this year and I think Nico did a fantastic job on his comeback. We had two down points, Kevin going out Q1. Today was not his day but he knows what he can do and he’s upbeat about what the car is doing, so tomorrow is another day for him to score points. With Nico in Q3, we didn’t end up where we wanted to but P10 is very good for us. The whole team did a fantastic job and all the work that was put in last year and over winter to make and develop this car has come to fruition, so well done to everybody".
Finally, Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, gives his remarks on the teams’ strategies concerning the tyres’ choice:
"As we fully expected, the majority of teams used the soft tyre in FP3 to prepare for qualifying, Red Bull was the only team to use the hard as well, without compromising the availability of this compound for the race - as each driver has two sets available. The new hard is sure to be a key to the race tomorrow. Qualifying was run entirely on the soft, given the performance gaps between the compounds, with Verstappen beating last year's pole time from Charles Leclerc. The fact that this year's pole was around eight-tenths faster, in similar conditions, underlines the increased performance of the 2023 car-tyre package".
The Red Bull’s garage celebrates the front row: Verstappen stops the car and jumps off for enjoy the 21st pole position in his career. Bahrain is the opening race in the F1 calendar and this year’s duel in the desert involves twists, as the two Red Bulls lock out the front row, but Aston Martin seems to be their direct rival, even if the second row is made up by Sainz and Leclerc. The two-time world champion Max Verstappen in fact took a brilliant pole on Saturday, followed by team mate Sergio Perez, while Charles Leclerc did not make the last attempt and stayed third on the grid. On Sunday, the Ferrari driver needed a new energy store and control electronics before the race. As for Mercedes, George Russell qualified sixth and Lewis Hamilton seventh. Everyone, except Kevin Magnussen, who is on hards, begins on softs. During the formation lap Stroll locks up and runs wide at turn 10. Then, the grid lines up and the five lights go out for the very first race of the 2023 season, with the roar of the 20 cars fills the air. Verstappen immediately slips away, while Perez have a slow getaway and loses out to Leclerc, with Sainz on his tail. Aston Martin do not start so well as, while battling Russell, Stroll hits the right-rear of Alonso going into turn 4: that allows Hamilton and Russell ahead of the two-time champion and yellow flags briefly flies in Sector 2 for debris. Williams drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant make great starts, each picking up three places; Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg meanwhile lose four places each, the Haas driver having made contact with Esteban Ocon on the opening lap. That allows Valtteri Bottas into P9. Verstappen’s lead grows rapidly and by the start of lap 5 he is 3.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc, while Perez is still trying to catch the Ferrari driver for P2. As for Mercedes, Russell asks himself about the tyre management of his team mate, as he is struggling for pace. On lap 10, Alonso, with DRS, tries to pass the Silver Arrows, while Verstappen is seven seconds in the lead. Pierre Gasly, who started 20th due to a qualifying lap time deleted, is the first to pit for hard tyres on lap 10, and Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda respond with the same switch on the following lap. Alonso is right on Russell’s Mercedes on lap 11, while the Briton says on the radio:
"Tyres are gone".
Asking for a pit stop. The battle comes to a head on lap 13 when Alonso makes a lunge on Russell into turn 1, taking the place down the inside of turn 4 with DRS, but Russell fights hard and the two go side-by-side down the hill through turn 5 before the Aston Martin gets the best. Hamilton pits for hard tyres on lap 13 and Ferrari respond by double-stacking a lap later, joined by Russell. Russell’s stop is a little too slow, and after Alonso’s pit on lap 15, he emerges ahead of Russell. Bottas meanwhile is sixth, having taken new tyres before that group - but Alonso makes light work of him on lap 17 at turn 4, and Russell does the same move on lap 18. Verstappen and Perez stop on laps 15 and 18 respectively, but they mount soft tyres while the Ferraris, Astons and Mercedes opt for hards on their second stints. Williams and McLaren’s Lando Norris choose the same strategy as Red Bull, while Oscar Piastri retires from his debut after just 13 laps. Problems for Alpine, too, as Ocon is given a five-second penalty for lining up in his grid slot incorrectly. Ocon is then given a further 10-second penalty for serving that penalty incorrectly. At the very back, Norris passes Ocon and with a tyre advantage he goes in P18. At the front, Perez with DRS on lap 25 makes the move for P2 into turn 1 on Leclerc. Sainz is 13 seconds away from that battle in a lonely P4, while Hamilton is another four seconds back in fifth. As for Verstappen, his lead has grown to almost 14 seconds by lap 30. Ocon is penalised five more seconds for speeding in the pit lane and Norris’s lap 29 stop for a set of medium tyres is really slow. Valtteri Bottas goes for another set of hards on lap 30, with Mercedes’ Hamilton following one lap later, as does Aston Martin’s Stroll. Russell pits for hards on lap 31 and emerges behind Hamilton. Stroll, whose tyres are warmer, cruises past Russell for P7. Sainz also pits while Leclerc stays out until lap 34, promoting Alonso into P3. Perez and Alonso respond on lap 35, emerging second and sixth respectively, while Verstappen continues in front with a 37-second lead; he pits from softs to hards on lap 37 and 2.3 seconds later, he emerges from his box before carrying on in the lead. Alonso, meanwhile, passes Hamilton for P5 into turn 4 on lap 37, but suffers a snap of oversteer on the exit and loses the place. One lap later, Hamilton closes Alonso off at turn 5 and they battle downhill into the hairpin, where Alonso enjoys a better exit. The two-time champion attacks and passes down the inside of turn 10.
The lap 41 is probably the worst for Ferrari, as Leclerc’s car comes to a stop at the penultimate corner and brings out a Virtual Safety Car, which ends too briefly to allow anyone to capitalise. With 15 laps remaining, Sainz is in the podium places but with Alonso trying to catch him. Meanwhile, there is also a battle for P9, with Gasly going around the outside of turn 1 to leave Albon 10th, both on soft tyres. On new softs, Tsunoda makes a stunning double-pass on Zhou and De Vries for P11, while De Vries finds himself 13th as Zhou passes him soon afterwards. Sargeant joins the party, passing De Vries for P13 on lap 44. Alonso with DRS passes Sainz and almost runs into the back of the Ferrari exiting turn 4 making a little contact as he is thrown off by how much Sainz is struggling for traction, and is right next to him going down the hill into the hairpin. A superior exit out of turn 10 sees Alonso sweep by the Ferrari for the final podium place, a first podium since Qatar 2021. The Spaniard says on the radio:
"This is a lovely car to drive".
As for Verstappen, he starts this season perfectly by winning the race with a lead of 11.987 seconds. Perez makes sure Red Bull also have a perfect start as he takes second place, almost 26 seconds ahead of Alonso. Sainz ends up finishing fourth, ultimately unthreatened by Hamilton, who at least holds off Stroll for P5. Stroll meanwhile finishes P6, leaving Russell seventh. For Bottas is is also a great start to the season as he makes it to P8 for Alfa Romeo.Alpine’s Gasly made up 11 places from last to ninth thanks to a three-stop strategy, something that Albon pulled off to finish 10th over Tsunoda - just a second ahead of the 11th-placed AlphaTauri. Rookie Sargeant is 11th on his Williams debut, gaining four places with a three-stop strategy, while Magnussen’s two-stopper was not a good choice as he is 13th. De Vries ends up 14th on his AlphaTauri debut with Nico Hulkenberg 15th thanks to a five-second penalty for track limits. Zhou takes the fastest lap for Alfa Romeo, pitting on the penultimate lap for soft tyres on which he rounds the track in 1m 33.996s. A late gamble for soft tyres and the fastest lap do not pay off for Norris, who ends the race 17th - pitting six times - in a miserable day for McLaren, who also suffer a retirement for debutant Piastri. Ocon’s day was downright calamitous: after accruing 20 seconds of penalties, Alpine decide to retire him 16 laps from the end, just two laps after Leclerc stopped with a suspected engine issue. Now everybody has two weeks to catch his breath after this stunning start, as the circus returns for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Red Bull hold the first positions with the maximum points, and the bonus for fastest lap, in Bahrain. The 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend takes place on March 17-19. Very good start for the Red Bull, who opened the season with a one-two. Verstappen made a great getaway and was never troubled as he cruised to victory:
"This is exactly the start we wanted, a one-two finish. I’m incredibly proud that we have achieved this as a Team. I could see early on that we had the pace in the car, I was able to build a gap from the start and then just managed it for the rest of the race, it was a straightforward day for us. It also feels good to finally win in Bahrain, I haven’t had the best history here. Looking ahead to Jeddah, it's a completely different track with different conditions, there’s a lot of long straights and fast corners, so it will give us a completely different picture of where everyone is on the grid but at least this was a very good start for us".
Perez lost out to Leclerc at the start but then picked off the Ferrari after the first round of pit stops. From there the Mexican was able to build a gap to the rest:
"My start wasn’t ideal, Charles was a little too aggressive, pushed me to the right and I did my best to avoid him. That meant my first stint wasn’t ideal, Charles was very strong on that new tyre and it was difficult to get through him quickly enough. I think that’s where I lost out to Max, I was behind him by about 10 or 12 seconds and after that it was game over on catching Max, it was all about getting Charles. It was important to get by him, minimise the damage and get that P2 for the Team. There are a lot of improvements we can still make to try and make our car better, there is still plenty of work going on behind the scenes. On this tarmac we have been very strong but Bahrain is a very unique circuit and things will be closer at other circuits".
CEO and Team Principal Christian Horner is absolutely satisfied with te race:
"What a race! Max certainly showed he has not lost any of his pace coming into the new season, grabbing pole and the victory with both hands. Checo had a bit of work to do with Charles, but he played it well and then from there it was about managing the race till the end. The pace was there, the reliability too, we also had a solid pit stop strategy. It’s great to have both the guys up there within a tenth, fighting over the fine margins. That pushes the Team forward and they certainly delivered. Comparing it to last year, when we finished with no points, is quite a contrast. However, its important to remember this is just race one, there’s a lot of racing still to do, but it is a great start, from the whole team. It was important for us to get on the board, get some good points in early and we have done that today. We look forward to see what Jeddah brings".
Fernando Alonso lost out at the start, but then attacked other cars and was incredibly competitive, forcing his way past Russell, Hamilton and Sainz to pick up a well deserved podium:
"This is an incredible result from the entire team and we must enjoy this moment. I am very proud of the job everybody has done. We did not have the best start, but the race pace was strong. The car has been very predictable from day one [of testing] and I have felt very comfortable throughout the whole weekend. I really enjoyed the race and, even after the chequered flag, I felt like I could have driven for another hour! We had some great fights out there today, especially with [Carlos] Sainz and [Lewis] Hamilton. Lewis is a legend of the sport and it was great to have so much respect between us out there. It was also an incredible effort from Lance, who was a hero today for driving so well so soon after his injury to pick up some great points. You can feel the energy in the team: everybody is working flat out at the moment and we are all very motivated. This weekend feels like a dream, but we must stay realistic because this is just one track and the first race. Jeddah is a very different kind of circuit; a very different challenge. I cannot wait to get back in the car".
Lance Stroll couldn’t quite follow him through but did get past Russell, which considering his injuries, was a pretty impressive effort:
"It was a fun race and I am super pleased to score good points tonight. It was not the most comfortable race for me, because of the injuries I have been dealing with, but to finish sixth has made it worth enduring all that pain. This is an amazing result for the team and the best way to start the season. Well done to everybody at Silverstone and here at the track. Fernando put in a great drive to take a podium first time out and has really shown the potential of this car. It feels great to be battling with Mercedes. Even with the adrenaline, the pain was the biggest limiting factor in the second half of the race. I must thank everyone who has helped me be in the best shape possible for today. I will now use the coming days ahead of Jeddah to work on recovery".
Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, talks about this massively impressive performance of the team:
"Today's fantastic result is the culmination of the hard work over many months from the team. To bring home a podium and sixth place in the first race of the season is a wonderful achievement and the team should be extremely proud. Both Fernando and Lance raced well, showing the race pace we knew was possible and making well-judged overtaking moves when it mattered. Fernando has been buzzing all weekend and that energy has transferred throughout the team. As for Lance, just to be competing has been a heroic effort, and to see him finish sixth, after a great pass on George [Russell], is a superb effort. It is a massively impressive performance having missed all of winter testing. This is a great way to start the season and I want to say a big thank you to everyone in the team, to our partners, and fantastic fans. But this is only race one and there is a long season ahead of us. We will keep our feet on the ground, keep working hard, and look to build on this strong performance next time out in Saudi Arabia".
Bad for Leclerc, who had to change some PU components before the race. He then started on fresh soft tyres and made his way past Perez, but lost out to the Mexican when he swapped onto the hard tyres and a late issue forced him to stop out on track:
"We had a great start and everything felt good. We had a solid gap behind us and were managing the pace well until unfortunately, we lost power. It’s a shame and we will look into the causes to make sure we understand what happened".
Carlos Sainz Jr. was fourth until his team mate’s retirement. He struggled with tyre wear and couldn’t hold off Alonso:
"It was a challenging Sunday. We knew already from testing that it was going to be tough here in Bahrain and now we need to focus on improving for the upcoming races. Time to put our heads down, work hard and see how we can close the gap to the top. It’s only race one, so we’ll keep pushing no matter what".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, is particularly disappointed:
"Of course we are disappointed, how could we not be. We knew we’d have to deal with tyre degradation, but we had not expected reliability problems. It’s a shame for Charles, because in the first stint his pace was good and even with the heavy degradation on the Hard tyre, he could have brought home a third place, that would have been a good way to start the season. Carlos drove a solid race, running at a consistent pace and he gave it his all to finish fourth. After this first race, we have a clear picture of the situation and we know what areas we must work on. We have to improve a lot in terms of tyre management and clearly, we have to ensure we have no more reliability problems like the one that affected us today".
As for Mercedes, both cars made a good start. Russell fought but then lost out to the Aston Martin:
"We are lacking performance and we are a long behind where we want to be. Aston Martin are the surprise package this year and our deficit to Red Bull and those ahead is too big. The positive we can take away is that there is no fundamental problem with the car, other than it is lacking downforce. As silly as it sounds, that is one of the easiest problems to solve compared to what we had to do last year. We are all here to win. If we must sacrifice some races or part of this season to give ourselves a chance to fight in the second half of the season, or even next year, that is what we are going to have to do. We know the Team is good at developing and finding performance, but we are a long way behind where we want to be. We need to find some performance quickly. Bahrain is an outlier circuit, but performance isn't going to swing more than three tenths positively or negatively from track to track".
Lewis Hamilton finished right on Sainz’s tail in the closing stages:
"We did the best we could today. We are the fourth fastest team right now, and the Ferrari and Aston that we were battling were just quicker than us. It was close for a second with Sainz, but I couldn't hang on and he just went away in the final laps. Big congratulations to Fernando and the whole Aston Martin team too. They did a great job today. It was a fun tussle we had for a moment, but he was too quick. We are lacking a lot of downforce, and we've got a lot of work to do to add more to the car. As soon as we put more load on the front and rear, we will be able to pick up our pace. We've just got to keep working; we know we are not where we need to be. I've got to stay positive, keep my head up and keep pushing the Team. I will be a positive light for them and get the best points I can".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, compares their car with the stronger ones, as the Red Bull and Aston Martin:
"That was one of our worst days in racing. It was not good at all; we are lacking pace front, right, and centre. The Aston Martins are very fast, and the Red Bull is just on a different planet. It hurts that they are so far ahead; it reminds me of our best years where we put one second on everyone else. That is the benchmark. We need to put one foot in front of the other to come back but nobody in this team will throw in the towel. We need to dig deep, deeper than we ever have done before. And we can do that".
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, admits that this was a difficult day for the team. However, he is satisfied with how the team is pulling together and how well the drivers are working together:
"It was a very difficult Sunday; the gap to Red Bull is huge and we've got Aston Martin and Ferrari ahead of us too. Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead and we need to go back and come up with a plan to try and find improvements. We are lacking overall grip and, on a high degradation track like this, there was nothing that the drivers could do to attack. However, it's encouraging to see how the team is pulling together and how well the drivers are working together. This is the second season we've started on the back foot though and we're under no illusion that this is not acceptable for our team. We've got a few days to regroup and improve ahead of Saudi; we will work together to try and make sure the next race is a better one than this weekend".
Bottas made a brilliant start; then, he didn’t put a foot wrong and picked up points in the opening race of the season for the second straight year:
"I am really pleased with our race tonight: four points are a good reward for the team and show that all the work everyone back at base did during the winter is paying off. We showed we have a good race car and that we can fight with all the teams around us. It was a solid start to our season, but the work is not finished, of course: we have to keep improving, keep pushing - I know everyone in Hinwil is working to bring upgrades to our car. My race was good, a bit quiet at times: the start was really important, making those places on the opening lap was crucial as the cars around us are very well matched and overtaking is not easy. We went out aggressively, both on track and with our strategy, and it was definitely the right thing to do. We also had to be smart and pick our battles, making sure we kept some of our tyres for when we needed it: it turned out to be important at the end, when it got a bit close with Gasly, but in the end we brought it home. It was also important for Zhou to get the fastest lap right at the end to steal the point from our competition - he did a good job and it shows how well we work as a team. P8 was the most we could get tonight and there’s".
Zhou struggled for grip on his second set of tyres:
"It’s obviously good to see Valtteri scoring points for the team in the season opener, it’s a good starting place for all of us, and I was glad to give my contribution by setting the fastest lap in the closing stages. The car felt better than in qualifying, which shows we’re going in the right direction: we must keep finding these margins to keep improving ahead of the next few races and I know everyone trackside and in Switzerland is working to do it. As for tonight’s race, I suffered a bit of wheelspin in the opening lap, losing a few places and ending stuck in a DRS train for most of the race. The VSC came out at the wrong time and there wasn’t much we could do to improve our position at that stage. Still, there are positives we can get out of this race, as a team, as we head to Saudi Arabia with the knowledge we can fight for the points in every race".
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Alfa Romeo’s Team Representative, compliments the team for everything they have done:
"The team did a really good job tonight and we can be satisfied with the final result, which shows our continuous progress and the value of the work we did during pre-season testing: we were in the top five teams for the whole of the race, and we finished ahead of McLaren and Alpine, which is as much as we could have hoped to get tonight. It was a good collective effort: the drivers did well in the car, with the added team-work contribution of Zhou setting the fastest time at the very end; the strategic choices and the pit-stops were really good, and all together we contributed to the four points we bring home. This result is in line with what we were expecting following last week’s testing and the data we got in practice. We also owe a big ‘thank you’ to the team back in Hinwil, who were instrumental in giving us a car we could fight with, and our key technical partners, Ferrari. Tonight was a good start, but there’s still a lot of work to do: we have to keep pushing to develop our car, as the battle we are in this season is going to be an exciting one".
Gasly managed to fight his way from a last placed start to the points with a brilliant drive:
"I'm happy with today's race and it's a great way to mark my debut with Alpine. After yesterday's Qualifying we were all feeling disappointed as that's not where we aimed to be, so well done to the entire team for their hard work in turning it around for the race. It was always going to be challenging to take points today, but we had confidence in the performance of our race car and we knew we had a chance to score points with a good strategy. We need to continue to work hard, we have a good base and it's important we now build on that. I know there's much more to come from us. It was a pity with what happened to Esteban, and we'll debrief collectively to make sure we're in a better position to help both cars score points".
Esteban Ocon had a terrible day. Handed a time penalty for being out of place on the grid, the mechanics were a little too early to change his damaged front wing when he served it. As such he had to come back in for a second time penalty, only to pick up a third when he was found to have been speeding in the pit lane. He ended up retiring from the race:
"Today was not our day. Unfortunately, we made too many operational mistakes and it has cost us today. We need to analyse everything, all the details and learn from those quickly. We'll take it on the chin together as a team and look forward to the next race where I'm sure we'll come back stronger. On a positive note, our race pace and performance was good and clearly, we had the speed to have both cars inside the points. I'm already looking forward to Jeddah. We're going there determined to bounce back and get our season underway".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s Team Principal, is sure that there is still a lot of work to do:
"While we can be satisfied to come away with points from today's race, given how everything played out, we also leave Bahrain knowing we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. On Esteban's side, and operationally, we must do better to make sure there is no repeat of what happened today. We demonstrated that we had the pace today to have both cars inside the points and that has to be the objective going forwards. Pierre did a fantastic job to put behind a very disappointing Saturday and come back strongly to go from the back of the grid to the points, so credit to him on a solid debut. It's been a busy and intense two weeks for the team in Bahrain and we look forward to returning to Viry and Enstone, where we will debrief as a team, before returning to the track in Jeddah where we aim for a much improved performance".
Albon made a brilliant start and then was one of the only top 10 runners to pit under the late Virtual Safety Car, so had fresh soft tyres with which to defend later on as he came home in the points:
"In my opinion we were out of position on the grid due to a tricky Qualifying session but we had a really good start, made up some positions off the line and then had our elbows out at a couple of moments during the race. We were strong, we were fighting and our race pace was better than expected. It was a tough race, a lot of management, but we made it work. We're maybe not quite midfield pace, but we're close and to get a point in the first race is pretty amazing. I'm super happy and super proud of the team; it was a job well done by everyone at Williams Racing".
Sargeant made a good debut and finished 12th:
"I absolutely loved every second of my debut race. The first time going off the line was special. I'm proud of the team, I think we outperformed everything we expected coming from testing. Congratulations to Alex and everyone at Williams Racing for scoring the first point of the season. From myself, everything went smoothly from race start to pit-stops to Virtual Safety Car. Hopefully, we can use this as a good base and continue to make progress throughout the year".
Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson analyzes the race:
"After the frustration of yesterday, today was a good comeback that got our season off to a strong start. Although scoring a point is always rewarding, there are significantly more positives to take from today. Alex drove expertly, exactly as we know he can, and he was able to gain places and then defend strongly whilst managing his tyres to the end. Logan enjoyed a fantastic opening race, which has taught him a huge amount about racing in Formula One; he didn't make a single mistake, was measured in attack and good with his tyres. He and his team have worked very hard to get to this position and they took their opportunity very well. This is only the first race of a long season. We have a lot of work to do but we now have some momentum to build upon and carry forward into the next races in Saudi Arabia and Australia".
Tsunoda was closing in on Albon in the final few laps, but ran out of tyre life to make a move on his rival:
"The race pace was better than we expected, but at the same time, it’s very frustrating to just miss out on points. The start was the decisive moment as I lost some positions to Williams, and their straight-line speed was too strong for us, so we couldn’t manage to overtake them. I'm happy with my tyre management, although we struggled more than we thought. As soon as we wanted to push, the tyres began to overheat, and I started to slide around and lose the rear. We have more work to do to develop the car so we can consistently fight the midfield, starting with Saudi Arabia. Since we struggled with high-speed performance, Saudi might be difficult, but I’m staying positive as I’m sure the team and I will be able to extract speed from the car to be able to score points".
As for De Vries, his debut for the team was steady. He did everything right, but didn’t have the pace to make progress:
"I'm pretty satisfied with our race today. Obviously, it could have been better and there is room for improvement, but in terms of performance, our race pace was decent. Given where we started, it was a good day because we could still fight some cars around us. Not pitting under the VSC meant I was driving on the hard compound tyre for the remainder of the race, but ultimately, the mileage and experience will help us for the season. Points weren't possible today, so we'll look ahead to Saudi Arabia, which is a bit quicker, meaning the midfield will look different again. We know there's more work to do, but as a team, we'll continue to work hard on the areas that require improvements to give us a stronger performance moving forward".
Jody Egginton, AlphaTauri’s Technical Director, describes the race:
"Both Yuki and Nyck have done an excellent job tonight from lights out until the chequered flag. They managed the tyres well, provided good feedback to the pit wall, and delivered a good performance. The AT04 continues to run very reliably which is positive, and although we've been fighting for the final points positions with Yuki tonight - with Nyck also putting in solid lap times - we are primarily lacking grip. The key to addressing this limitation is our aero development, so this is the focus. The call to bring Yuki in under the VSC for his final stop was a no-brainer, however, we missed out by not pitting Nyck at the same time, so the strategy group need to go through the numbers to see why this call appeared a marginal one at the time. Although the first race of the season is over, the aero development race continues unabated, with the aero and manufacturing groups focused on delivering updates on a rolling basis to move the performance forwards".
Team Principal Franz Tost, admits he is satisfied with today’s performance:
"First of all, congratulations to Red Bull Racing for a fantastic start to the season, finishing with a one-two and so far ahead of the rest of the field. From our side, I am not satisfied with our performance. From a technical point of view, we have a lot to work on as the car isn’t on the level I expect. We know where the deficiencies of the car are, and we have to work to increase the performance with new upgrades, which I hope will be effective when they arrive. After qualifying P14 and P19, we were able to recover in the race, and I must say that both drivers did a good job. Yuki pushed hard to finish in the top 10, but unfortunately, he missed out by a couple of tenths. Nyck also did well in the race; it was important for him to learn the characteristics of the car in race conditions and get as much experience as possible".
Bad day for Haas. Magnussen was the only driver to start on hard tyres, but he dropped to last place off the start line and that ended his chances of making progress:
"I was pleasantly surprised with our race pace. We started P17 but still made up a few positions and it felt like the pace was alright in terms of where we came from. I think we were struggling a lot in testing and on Friday with tire wear and in the race it seemed like we made a step, which is positive. It wasn’t the weekend we dreamed of, but we learned a lot".
Hulkenberg tangled with Ocon off the line damaging his front wing and dropped down the field before being handed a time penalty for exceeding track limits too many times:
"It was a tricky race - especially the first half. I had contact with someone on lap one which I didn’t really notice so that was a bit frustrating. I had quite a lot missing from the front wing and lost a lot of load and grip with that, and that made the first half of the race very tough. We tried to hang in there, but I was going through my tires like a hot knife through butter, so we decided there was no point in continuing like that and we pitted for a new front wing. We did a race distance though and got lots of good information, so we’ll definitely take that".
Guenther Steiner, Haas‘ Team Principal, did not expected this result on the first race of the Championship:
"The result wasn’t what we expected - Nico didn’t have a great start losing a front wing endplate and Kevin was, in hindsight, on the wrong tire at the start. I think race pace was better than we expected and that’s what we take away from here - there is good potential in the car. We qualified in the top 10 and maybe could even have been in the top eight if everything went perfectly. In the race it didn’t go our way, but we learned a lot and we now know that we’re in the ballpark on race pace like everybody else. We go to Jeddah well prepared, and we’ll see what we can do there - I think points are possible".
Bad day also for the papaya team. An issue was detected early on with Norris’ power unit, that required his air intake to be topped up every handful of laps. As a result, he pitted six times on his way to a last placed finish.
"A very tough race. We had a few issues we had to manage, which really took us out of the race but we tried to stay in it for as long as possible, just in case there was a Safety Car or something and we might have had a chance at the end. I think the pace was alright otherwise. Just too many issues today to fight for points, so we'll go again next time".
Oscar Piastri, on his debut in Formula 1, was called into the pits to retire the car with an electronic problem:
"It was disappointing to have finished so soon. We were going quite well, got a decent start and made some good overtakes. I thought up until the electrical problem, we were doing a good job. We're still working out what the issue is and we hoped changing the steering wheel would fix it but unfortunately it didn't. Obviously not the finish to the weekend that I wanted but there are positives to take, and the car seemed to have better pace in the race. I still learned a lot and I'm glad I've now made my debut, and experienced some of the F1 race weekend firsts. I'm now looking forward to having a better weekend in Saudi Arabia".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, is obviously disappointed:
"It's not the start of the season for which we were hoping. Points were certainly possible today, the cars had competitive pace in race stints, and Lando particularly was in a strong position. Unfortunately, we were hit by two reliability issues. Oscar had to retire with what appears to be an electrical problem which we are investigating. Lando, meanwhile, had a pneumatic pressure leak on the power unit side. It required him to pit every ten laps to recharge the system. We leave Bahrain knowing we have work to do but the season is long. We'll regroup and will be ready to go again in Saudi Arabia".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, analyzes the race and the strategies put into place by the teams:
"The race strategies played out largely as expected at the first grand prix of the new season. All the teams stopped at least twice, but we saw a number of different choices for the second and third stints. The key compound today was the new P Zero White hard C1, which we introduced for this year. It worked exactly as anticipated, with performance in line with the data gathered over the last few days as well as during pre-season testing. The P Zero Red soft C3 instead showed less degradation than indicated by the previous data; probably influenced by track evolution as well. Congratulations to Red Bull for choosing a unique alternative strategy that helped them to seal a one-two, as well as to Aston Martin; also on the podium".
Red Bull has scored maximum points, plus the bonus for fastest lap. Now, there is waiting for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend will take place on March 17-19.