Formula 1

Verstappen leads 1-2 in Bahrain season opener as Leclerc retires and Alonso takes final podium place in style

Red Bull enjoyed a perfect start to the season in the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix as Max Verstappen cruised to victory over team mate Sergio Perez – while Fernando Alonso finished third as Charles Leclerc retired from the race.

Everyone bar hard-shod Kevin Magnussen (P15) began the race on soft tyres and Verstappen had a solid getaway, but team mate Perez fell back and lost second place to Leclerc – while Carlos Sainz couldn’t quite pry P3 off the Red Bull. The reigning champion stretched his legs in the lead and eventually won by more than 10 seconds. Perez completed the one-two with both Red Bull drivers on similar soft-soft-hard strategies.

Aston Martin’s hopes of crashing the podium fight seemed to have come crashing down on Lap 1 when Lance Stroll made a lunge on team mate Alonso into Turn 4 and hit the rear-right of his car, allowing both Mercedes ahead.

Ferrari’s hopes of the podium did however come crashing down on Lap 41, when Leclerc retired with an engine issue. That was just after Alonso produced an absolutely brilliant move to take P5 off Lewis Hamilton, down the inside of Turn 10. Alonso went on the warpath and on Lap 45 he passed Sainz after a stunning battle through Sector 2, to seal his first podium since Qatar 2021.

Sainz therefore settled for fourth, fending off a brief attack from Hamilton, who ended up fifth on the board. As for Stroll, he was perhaps relieved not to get a penalty for hitting his team mate on Lap 1, and perhaps more relieved to see Alonso finish on the podium. The Canadian made an admirable recovery from his wrist injury, however, and finished sixth between the Mercedes – as George Russell was undercut by the Aston Martin in the second pit stops and finished seventh.

Valtteri Bottas capitalised on poor starts for his rivals and finished a solid eighth for Alfa Romeo, while Pierre Gasly recovered from P20 for Alpine, pitting three times, to finish ninth. Alex Albon finished 10th for Williams after a great start, while Yuki Tsunoda narrowly missed out on the final point in his AlphaTauri.

Rookie Logan Sargeant battled with Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu to take 12th on debut, while Zhou pitted on the penultimate lap of the race to promote Kevin Magnussen – whose hard-hard-soft gambit didn’t yield points – to P13.

Nyck de Vries took P14 on his AlphaTauri debut, leaving Nico Hulkenberg 15th with a five-second penalty. Zhou was classified 16th for Alfa Romeo, and Lando Norris endured a tough race, a slow pit stop seeing him barrel down the order. A last-lap pit stop for softs saw the McLaren driver round out the standings.


Race results

1  Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:33:56.736 25
2  Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +11.987s 18
3  Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +38.637s 15
4  Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +48.052s 12
5  Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +50.977s 10

Categories: Formula 1, Race Recap

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