The long-awaited 2023 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain on Sunday, March 5, did not disappoint, Red Bull that is, as Max Verstappen crossed the line first having lead the race from pole position at the lights. Over 11 seconds later, Sergio Perez followed his teammate to complete a Red Bull 1-2 finish, but only after Charles Leclerc was forced to bow out of the fight with engine failure on the 41st lap.
Leclerc lost second place to Perez as the lights went down on the Sakhir circuit, but kept up with the Mexican until he encountered reliability issues, leaving the second Scuderia Ferrari of Carlos Sainz to battle it out. However, the Spaniard was perhaps surprised by a charging compatriot in the form of Fernando Alonso, who pushed Sainz off the podium with an overtake in the closing stages of the race.
Having impressed all weekend in a remarkable Aston Martin, Alonso had a race to remember in Bahrain, as he overcame a collision with his own teammate at the start to go on to fight his way on to the podium. The 41 year-old’s charge included a spectacle of a battle with his former teammate Lewis Hamilton, before he eventually overtook the seven-time world champion on the tightest turn of the track. This dominant display on his debut made Alonso the fan-voted ‘Driver of the Day’, and a threat to the rest of the grid going forward, while the Aston seems rugged enough to survive a hit and fast enough to catch up with some of the fastest in the race.
Meanwhile, a less than impressed Leclerc suffered the opposite fate, as he cruelly lost power. “No, no, no! No power!” Leclerc sighed over the radio as he slowed to a stop, with his and Ferrari’s championship hopes taking a dent so early on.
Speaking on another Ferrari fiasco, Leclerc said “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.”
Thankfully 22 races remain in the race calendar, with the next round being the Saudi Arabian GP on Sunday, March 19.
Featured image courtesy of Ferrari, Charles Leclerc