Race report

F1 Bahrain GP: Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2, Alonso third

Max Verstappen dominated Formula 1’s 2023 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to win ahead of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso, while Charles Leclerc lost a nailed-on podium to an engine issue.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Verstappen led easily away from pole position, while Perez lost second to Leclerc after he made a slow getaway and fell behind the Ferrari driver.

Any hope of a battle for the lead was quickly extinguished when Verstappen romped clear of Leclerc by over half-a-second a lap, with Perez tracking Leclerc across the first stint before the made their first of two pitstops.

Leclerc was the first of the leaders to stop to switch from softs to hards on lap 13 of 57, with Verstappen coming in from nearly 10s clear to take a second set of softs after both Red Bull cars had come into the race with just one set of the white-walled rubber available.

Perez ran a few laps longer before he stopped to take more softs too, which he then used to close in on Leclerc and took second with a DRS-assisted blast to the inside of Turn 1 on lap 26.

From there, Verstappen was only bothered a by a minor downshift issue causing occasional rear-locking, and ran clear of Perez to win by 11.9s after they had both completed one more pitstop to finally take the hards in what was a crushing performance from Red Bull.

That was made even better when Leclerc, who had dropped to nearly 10s behind Perez before making a second stop for fresh hards on lap 33, retired from the race after suddenly losing drive on lap 40, with Ferrari later saying it had “lost the engine” on his SF-23.

That triggered a brief virtual safety car as the Ferrari was recovered, after which Alonso charged after and passed compatriot Carlos Sainz to score a podium on his first appearance for Aston Martin.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

He had earlier lost a place to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on the first lap, then lost another to George Russell when Lance Stroll tagged his new Aston team-mate outbraking himself while battling Russell into Turn 4 on the opening tour.

Alonso followed Hamilton through the race’s early tyre management phases and two stops for both Astons and Mercedes cars, with the Spaniard running long before making his second stop after Mercedes had pitted Hamilton early for a second time to ward off an undercut threat from his former McLaren team-mate.

The two world champions engaged in a thrilling fight over what was then fifth place, with Alonso needing two attempts to clear Hamilton after his first pass at Turn 4 went wrong before he pit in a brilliant Turns 9/10 dive to clear the Mercedes.

Post-VSC, Alonso quickly caught Sainz, who had been running a long way adrift of Leclerc and concerned about his second set of hards making the finish, and also had a close call with the Ferrari when he tried to pass for the first time at Turn 4 on lap 45 – lightly tagging the Ferrari’s right-rear with his left-front.

But a few moments later, Alonso’s superior pace meant he benefitted from DRS down the back straight and he blasted by to take a third place he would not lose.

Hamilton shadowed Sainz to the finish in fourth and fifth, with Stroll beating Russell to sixth after Aston pulled off the undercut at his second stop.

In other incidents of note, Pierre Gasly rose from last to finish ninth, with Alex Albon 10th for Williams.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris stopped five times due to a pneumatic pressure problem on his McLaren before he was retired late on, as was Esteban Ocon after he picked up three penalties – for being out of position in his grid box, Alpine working on his car before he finished serving his five-second penalty at his first stop and the speeding in the pitlane.

Full Bahrain GP results:

Cla Driver Gap Interval Points
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen     25
2 Mexico Sergio Perez 11.987 11.987 18
3 Spain Fernando Alonso 38.637 26.650 15
4 Spain Carlos Sainz 48.052 9.415 12
5 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton 50.977 2.925 10
6 Canada Lance Stroll 54.502 3.525 8
7 United Kingdom George Russell 55.873 1.371 6
8 Finland Valtteri Bottas 1'12.647 16.774 4
9 France Pierre Gasly 1'13.753 1.106 2
10 Thailand Alex Albon 1'29.774 16.021 1
11 Japan Yuki Tsunoda 1'30.870 1.096  
12 United States Logan Sargeant      
13 Denmark Kevin Magnussen      
14 Netherlands Nyck de Vries      
15 Germany Nico Hulkenberg      
16 China Zhou Guanyu      
17 United Kingdom Lando Norris      
  France Esteban Ocon      
  Monaco Charles Leclerc      
  Australia Oscar Piastri      
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