The Formula 1 season has begun and Max Verstappen (surprise) has taken home the first chequered flag of the season! So much happened on the track at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix and we're here to break down the five biggest takeaways in what's sure to be a chaotic season.
Another race, another win for the defending 2022 and 2021 F1 Drivers' Champion. The closest any car ever came to Verstappen's Red Bull was at the starting grid. Once the wheels turned it seemed that Max was driving a different class of car than the rest.
Both of the Red Bulls were far ahead of the field for most of the race in fact. After Sergio Perez lost his 2nd position at the start, he soon recaptured it and held onto it for much of the day. A 1-2 finish to start the season is exactly what was expected from last year's champions, what might not have been expected however, was how easy it would be.
Last year, McLaren was fighting for the midfield crown, with thoughts that they had the car for it but perhaps not the driver. Entering 2023 there were hopes to enter the fight with the big three but after some disappointing practice results and an even more disappointing qualifying result, McLaren is closer to the back of the grid than the front.
McLaren debutant Oscar Piastri retired before lap 20 with apparent electrical issues. Your little brother's favorite driver Lando Norris, had to pit multiple times due to engine problems and finished 17th. Zero points and multiple headaches is not the best way to start 2023.
While first and second place were wrapped up from the jump, the Bahrain bronze became the race's climactic goal. After an engine issue forced Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to an early retirement, all eyes were set on his teammate Carlos Sainz.
Throughout practice and qualifying leading up to Bahrain, the Aston Martin car looked fast. Newly signed Fernando Alonso was zipping around the track and hopes were high. No one expected a podium finish for one of the most senior drivers on the grid. Yet with aggressive overtakes and headstrong determination, Alonso passed former foe Hamilton as well as the struggling Sainz to capture his the 99th podium of his storied career. Say hello to the bad guy.
Points! For a team that is used to trailing the grid, a points finish for Alex Albon in the opening race of the season was quite the surprise. Especially as he held off a ferocious Yuki Tsunoda in the final stretch for the final spot in the points. Add in a fabulous debut for the American Logan Sargeant who finished 12th and it begs the question, do we have a competitive Williams team?
That would be a wonderful storyline to follow for the perennial underdogs.
Esteban Ocon had a fantastic 2022 and Alpine was hoping he could continue his trend upwards as they compete for the midfield crown. Instead it was teammate Pierre Gasly who finished in the points as Ocon finished in the pit lane.
It was where he spent most of his day. A 5-second penalty for starting off outside of his grid box, a 10-second penalty for failing to properly account for his 5 second penalty. Then, finally, a 15-second penalty for speeding through the pit lane. The FIA is probably not on Ocon's nice list at the moment.
Now we look towards Sunday, March 19th as the second race of the year takes place at the Jeddah Circuit in Saudi Arabia. Can Red Bull continue the dominance? Are Aston Martin here to stay? Is Williams for real?!? Only time will tell.
Head on over to FanDuel Sportsbook to make your predictions for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as well as who you think is going to finish the season at the top of the leaderboard.