Winning start to 2023 for Red Bull as Alonso secures podium

Max Verstappen wins the opening race of the 2023 Formula 1 season as Charles Leclerc's Ferrari suffers an engine failure

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 05: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-23 and the rest of the field at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202303050199 // Usage for editorial use only //

Red Bull started the defence of the drivers and constructors title in fine form, securing their first ever 1-2 at the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen taking victory ahead of Sergio Perez, while Fernando Alonso completed the podium on his debut for Aston Martin.

Both Ferraris put Perez under pressure off the start line, with Charles Leclerc moving up into second, but the Red Bull driver did enough to hold off Sainz.

There was almost an early disaster for Aston Martin, when Lance Stroll collided with the rear of Alonso’s car, but the Spaniard avoided a puncture.

Pierre Gasly was the first driver to make a pitstop, just ahead of Lando Norris, who was forced into an early stop due to an engine issue.

George Russell started to complain about tyre issues while coming under pressure from Alonso behind, but Mercedes elected to stop Hamilton first, with Alonso getting ahead of Russell before the Briton made his stop on the next lap.

Esteban Ocon picked up damage to his front wing, leaving parts flapping at the front of his Alpine, and the Frenchman was the first driver to receive a penalty this season when he was handed a five-second time penalty for not being in the right position at the start of the race.

There were further penalties for the Alpine driver as he was handed an additional 10 seconds for not serving his initial penalty correctly, and a third penalty for speeding in the pitlane, before eventually retiring from the race.

McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri was the first retiree of the year when he reported issues shifting gears. The team hoped a change of steering wheel would fix the issue, but the Australian was unable to restart his car after the switch was made in the pitlane.

The struggles continued for McLaren as they had to call Norris back into the pitlane a couple of laps later to top up his hydraulics system for a second time.

After losing out to Leclerc at the start, Perez start to close in on the back of the Ferrari, and managed to find a way back past to reclaim second place.

As the front runners started to come in for their second pitstops, Alonso stayed out longer than those around him in a bid to overcut the Mercedes duo, but he came out just behind Hamilton, albeit on fresher tyres.

The two former world champions battled hard, with Alonso eventually coming out on top, before he looked to close the gap to Sainz.

There was a virtual safety car inside the final 20 laps when Leclerc’s Ferrari ground to a halt with an engine issue, moving Alonso a place closer to the podium, before he closed up to the back of Sainz’s Ferrari.

The Spaniards came close to colliding as Sainz defended to try to keep the Aston Martin behind, but Alonso’s fresher tyres gave him more grip, and he moved up to third.

Stroll, racing with two broken wrists and a broken toe after a bicycle crash last month, tried to put Hamilton under pressure for fifth in the closing stages, but he couldn’t get close enough.

Verstappen never came under pressure at the front of the field, comfortably holding an advantage over his teammate throughout the race to wrap up his first win of the year.

Guanyu Zhou made a late pitstop to give him new tyres for a fastest lap charge, but the Chinese driver outside the top 10, he didn’t get a bonus point for setting the best lap time of the race.

Provisional classification:

1 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

3. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

6. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

7. George Russell (Mercedes)

8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)

9. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

10. Alex Albon (Williams)

11. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

12. Logan Sargeant (Williams)

13. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

14. Nyck De Vries (AlphaTauri)

15. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

16. Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)

17. Lando Norris (McLaren)


Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

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