Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the first time in Monaco after one of the most thrilling qualifying sessions in years. The world champion ended up just 0.084 ahead of Fernando Alonso, while the top 10 were covered by less than a second.
The most important qualifying session of the season started under bright blue skies, almost everyone going straight out onto the circuit knowing getting a lap in early could be crucial.
The early pace setter as expected was Verstappen, who went quickest with his first flying lap backed up by his team-mate Sergio Perez in second place. Both Aston Martins were also within tenth of the leading Red Bull. With just 11 minutes left of the session the red flag came out after Perez hit the wall at St Devot. The RedBull driver would not take any further part in qualifying.
The session resumed for a frantic shoot out to get through to Q2; Verstappen ended the session quickest with a time of 1.12.386 just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri with Williams’ Alex Albon third. Both Carlos Sainz and Sir Lewis Hamilton had to leave it late after scrappy first runs but they both got through in the end. Out of Q1 were Perez, Guanyu Zhou, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant in the Williams.
After a frantic Q1 the second session began in calmer fashion, Verstappen once again quickest straight from the off, closely followed by Alonso. The first runs were all completed without any dramas. Norris had a scrape with the wall at Tabac after damaging his left front suspension when exiting the chicane, ending the McLaren driver’s session. Hamilton again left it late but managed to get within 2 tenths of the quickest time set by Verstappen with a time of 1.11.908
Out at the end of Q2 were Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll, Albon, Nyck De Vries and Oscar Piastri.
Q3 began with Verstappen straight out on track to get his lap in early to avoid any red flags ruining his session as they had in recent years. The world champion set an early 1.12 but was beaten almost immediately by Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. All three of them managed to get into the 1:11s.
With six minutes left Lando Norris left the pitman after McLaren had worked some magic to get his car back on track.
Verstappen managed to get a good lap in halfway through the session and went to the top of the timesheets but amazingly was beaten by Ocon in the Alpine.
The last runs began with just 2 minutes left in the session. The driver at the top of the timesheets kept changing but ended once again with Verstappen at the top on a 1.11.365 just 0.084 ahead of Alonso. On the second row are Leclerc and Esteban Ocon, they will be followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Yuki Tsunoda and Norris.
The stewards are currently investigating Stroll for missing the weigh bridge in Q2, while Leclerc may yet be in trouble for holding up Norris in the final session by moving slowly in the tunnel.
The race will be long on Sunday and the threat of rain could mix it up; Verstappen and Alonso into turn one could get tasty.
Featured image curtesy of by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen took victory at the Miami Grand Prix despite starting down in ninth.
Verstappen made his way up to second after a series of overtakes in the opening 17 laps of the race, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc did battle with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
One of the Dutchman’s moves was a neat double overtake on Leclerc and Magnussen as they diced into Turn One. The world champion was on a charge.
A mega stint on hard tyres saw him re-join right behind polesitter and team-mate Sergio Perez, before passing the Mexican for the win in the closing stages.
Fernando Alonso comfortably held on to take third, while George Russell passed Carlos Sainz for fourth. The Spaniard picked up a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, but stayed ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton, who recovered from 13th to sixth.
Charles Leclerc stayed seventh ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, whose team-mate Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Magnussen rounded out the points after a fourth-placed start.
Yuki Tsunoda took 11th, and he was followed by Lance Stroll – the Canadian failing to make the points after a difficult qualifying on Saturday.
Alex Albon came home 14th, with Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu following the Williams across the line.
A horrible day for McLaren saw Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finish 17th and 19th respectively, either side of Nyck De Vries. Logan Sargeant, at his home race, endured a miserable day as he finished 20th and last having taken front wing damage on the opening lap.
First things first, sport is meant to be entertaining. The unpredictability, the drama, and the displays of skill and athleticism are all reasons why we watch it.
Sometimes Formula One falls short on the first two, hence the introduction of the budget cap, sprint races and many other rule changes brought in over the years in an attempt to ‘spice up the racing’. How ironic it is that on the weekend where Michael Masi returned to the F1 paddock for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2021, the talk is once again about how the rules have been applied in ways they weren’t intended – and the debate on how far Formula One should go to supply entertainment reignited once again.
It looked like the race was heading to a very predictable conclusion, with Max Verstappen cruising to victory, as Lewis Hamilton looked to be doing just enough to hold on to second from Fernando Alonso. That predictability was shattered, however, when Kevin Magnussen lost a tyre after hitting the wall. The Dane pulled off-track, but with his left rear stricken on the racing line, people’s thoughts understandably turned to a virtual, or even a full, safety car. This was initially the case before the decision was made to red flag the race, as the amount of debris on the circuit would have led to the race finishing under the safety car.
Many drivers voiced their astoundment at this decision, both during and after the race. There had already been one red flag, after Alex Albon had crashed out, in another situation where it seemed like a safety car would be sufficient. This second stoppage meant there would only be two laps of racing action left, effectively giving fans a super short sprint race. Which turned out to last less than a sector, with three accidents before turn three leading to a final stoppage, and the race finishing under the safety car – exactly the scenario that the race directors were trying to avoid.
The red flag led to what could be known as ‘Schrodinger’s lap 56’. On the one hand, the lap never happened, as the final restart was carried out using the positions from the end of lap 55. On the other hand, both Alpines, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant had been eliminated from the race in the chaos, with Carlos Sainz receiving a 5-second penalty for spinning Alonso, even though the Aston Martin had now technically lost nothing in the spin. In normal situations, a 5-second penalty is annoying, but this penalty effectively equalled a disqualification, dropping Sainz to the back of the field with no chance of recovery.
Of course, safety has to come first in Formula One, and the safest way of clearing up debris after an accident is ensuring that no cars can come near the marshals, hence the need for safety cars and red flags. But the amount of red flags and safety cars in recent seasons has led to rumblings that they are used as a tool to close up the pack and inject excitement into races which seems a foregone conclusion. This alone isn’t a bad thing, as long as it is clear when this is going to happen, so viewers, drivers and teams aren’t left guessing what decision the FIA will make today. Team bosses made comments in a similar vein, with Christian Horner and Toto Wolff being in rare disagreement that they want to see races finish under a green flag, but it should be clear what the procedure is with late-race incidents.
Fans want to be left on the edge of their seats by what they are seeing out on track. If it feels necessary to stop a race to add to that excitement, then perhaps the sport has bigger problems that no amount of flag-waving will solve.
Verstappen wins a chaotic Australian Grand Prix under very confusing circumstances. Hamilton finished P2 in a mixed day for the team while Alonso finished in P3 for the third time this season despite nearly being taken out of the race by Sainz in a dramatic restart towards the end of the race.
Lights out and Verstappen came straight across to cover off the advances of Russell, but his attempt was not successful. The reigning world champion did appear to exercise some caution with a slower exit from turn two. He seemed to be struggling.
Behind them, Leclerc had made a good start but Stroll was coming up close behind him. Leclerc turned into turn three but Stroll had taken the apex of the corner and tapped his rear right-hand side. Leclerc went for a spin and ended up in the gravel, ending his race prematurely.
At the same time, Verstappen leaves enough gap for Hamilton to be alongside him into turn three. It was a brave move from the seven-time world champion but he makes it through the inside of Verstappen. There were a few complaints on the radio but everything was deemed a lap one racing incident.
The safety car was deployed with a Mercedes one-two. On the restart, Russell made sure he pulled a gap to his teammate and the now-frustrated Verstappen. Everyone got a clean lap with Hamilton and Verstappen closing gradually on Russell. The driver from Kingslynn was on the radio asking if he is to defend against his teammate or preserve his tyres but he was answered when they called him into the pits for a new set of hard tyres. Russell came out in P7 on lap 6, but just one lap later it would prove to be the wrong decision.
Albon lit up the rear tyres into turns six and seven and spun straight into the barrier, projecting gravel all over the track. Albon was out and initially, the safety car was deployed. But the FIA needed time to get rid of the gravel on the track and brought out the red flag.
This gave everyone a free choice of tyres before the restart but was unfortunate timing for Russell. They rolled out on the formation lap before lining up on the grid for the restart. Russell was down in P7 with work to do while Hamilton was in P1 with Verstappen alongside.
Most drivers were on hard tyres so at the restart it was obvious they couldn’t get the immediate grip they wanted. Verstappen struggled again with the standing start but Alonso backed out of a move on the outside of turn one due to the lack of temperature in his tyres.
The lead for Hamilton wouldn’t last long though. On lap 12 Verstappen had DRS and a superior pace around the outside of Hamilton to take the lead of the race. Meanwhile, behind them, the other Mercedes made his way up into P4, past Gasly.
Sainz and Perez were also making their way through the pack. Sainz made turn three his new favourite overtaking spot but getting past Norris and then Tsunoda in consecutive laps. Perez used his extra pace to make it up to P13 before the next major incident.
Without warning, on lap 19, flames began to spit out the back of Russell’s car. Mercedes later suggested it was a power unit failure. However, Russell was able to safely stop at the end of the pitlane and get out of the car. This brought out a Virtual Safety Car and closed the pitlane. Therefore there were no changes of tyres for anyone and the race got back underway once the flames had been put out.
Perez continued his good form by making it into the points with a fantastic double move on Piastri and Tsunoda on lap 23. Piastri and Tsunoda had been battling for the majority of the race at this point, so when Piastri finally made the move on the Alpha Tauri on lap 29, the home crowd roared.
By lap 32 the race had settled into business as usual. Verstappen was setting consistent fastest laps, but Perez was able to make the most of DRS zones and get his name on the fastest lap board. Hamilton and Alonso then entered the fastest lap chat as they closed the gap to Verstappen.
At this point, the teams were considering a second stop due to potentially being on the hard tyres for 49 laps by the end of the race. The battle was mostly between Aston Martin and Mercedes trying to work out who would jump first.
However, their questions were answered when, in a strange incident, Magnussen lost his rear right tyre. It appeared that on the exit of turn two, he just went too wide and hit the wall, losing his tyre and bringing out another safety car, and eventually the red flag two laps later.
It was all set up then for a two-lap sprint to the finish with everyone changing to soft tyres. It would be another standing start as stipulated in the rules. As the cars lined up on the grid it looked as though Verstappen was very far forward in his box. He was however his wheels were still on the line and therefore in the box.
Absolute chaos ensued at the restart. Verstappen got away well with Hamilton hanging on the P2. Behind the Sainz had made a good start but he hit the rear of Alonso in front causing the Aston to spin on the exit of turn two.
Behind them, Gasly locked up into turn one and ended up across the grass before getting back on the track. As he arrived on the track he didn’t see the car of his teammate on the outside of turn two. Gasly veered back to the racing line but collided with Ocon pushing both into the wall and out of the race.
Perez also took a trip across the gravel but made it out safely, while at the back Sargent locked up into the back of De Vries. Both got stuck in the gravel and were out of the race. Unsurprisingly the red flag was deployed again but this led to some confusion about restarting for a fourth time.
With everyone back in the pitlane the clock was on lap 58 of 58, meaning only one racing lap left. Any laps behind the safety car count as racing laps so it appeared the race would finish behind the safety car, but the question was what order would the cars be in.
At the British Grand Prix in 2022, the red flag came out before the cars had made it through sector one so they went back to the last known order of the cars, the grid. This was a similar situation. The red flag came out before Verstappen made it to turn five, meaning they didn’t have any timings for drivers after the restart and would have to go back to the order from the grid on lap 57.
Once the crashed cars had been taken out of this grid order, it meant that Alonso was back up in P3 with Sainz in P4, Piastri in the points and Hulkenberg down in P8. This frustrated Haas as Hulkenberg was up in P4 after the carnage at the start. To rub salt in the wound for them, Sainz was given a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Alonso.
After a re-shuffle of the cars in the pitlane, they headed out on the final lap. At the end, the safety car peeled off and Verstappen took the chequered flag with Hamilton in P2 and Alonso in P3. Sainz attempted to create a small gap but with the cars bunched up he dropped to the back of the pack and out of the points.
Only 12 cars finished the race and McLaren managed to capitalise on this with both cars getting points. Piastri was extremely happy to get his first points in F1 in his first home race and he gave plenty for the home fans to cheer about after a long race day.
We now wait until the end of April for the next race, but I imagine this won’t be the last we hear of the restart procedure for that time.
Max Verstappen will once again start from pole position in tomorrow’s Grand Prix but, for the first time in his career, he was the fastest in qualifying in Australia. He will be joined on the front row by Mercedes’ George Russell with World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso on the second row. Once again, the reigning World Champion came out on top after an exciting session. Thanks to cooler temps and weather, every driver stayed out for the full session setting times throughout the session to maintain tyre temperatures.
Q1 began with rain in the air so most drivers opted to go out onto the track straight away. Alex Albon briefly led the time charts but, when on an even quicker lap he put a wheel onto the grass at the second to last corner and lost the red end of his Williams, he managed to recover to the pitlane.
Just after that Sergio Perez locked up and beached his Red Bull in the gravel and mud turn 4. The Mexican was the first driver out of qualifying. The session restarted with 12 minutes remaining.
The session ended with Max Verstappen once again quickest, The five drivers who didn’t make it through to Q2 were Perez in his stranded RedBull, Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, Sergeant in the Williams, the second Alfa of Zhou and then home favourite Oscar Piastri in the McLaren.
Q2 again started with the whole field trying to get some laps in, the tyres were taking longer to warm up here so each driver was choosing to do longer runs and get some temp into the tyres.
Lando Norris took a quick trip through the gravel trap that Perez succumbed to, but the Brit managed to drive through the gravel and back to the pits for some new rubber.
It was another session where everyone seemed to fuel up for the whole session and keep doing laps to keep the tyre temps up and get some consistently quick lap times in. Once again Verstappen led the field by just 0.227 from Alonso in the Aston Martin. Out of Q2 were De Vries, Magnussen, Norris, Tsunoda and Ocon.
The threat of rain was still in the air so everyone came out early for Q3. Verstappen was first across the line setting a time of 1.17.578 but was unusually scruffy from the 2-time World Champion. He was beaten by Hamilton, Alonso, Russell, Sainz and Leclerc but went on a second run and moved ahead of the field again. He then went quicker again on his final run with a time 0.236 quicker than second-placed George Russell.
Third was Lewis Hamilton, alongside him was Alonso in the Aston Martin, then Sainz, Stroll, Leclerc, and Albon with Gasly and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.
A grid is set up nicely for the race on Sunday, with the same conditions forecast the first few laps will be very interesting as people struggle to generate heat on the tyres and get a grip. Will Verstappen again pull away in the Red Bull or can Mercedes fight against them with Fernando Alonso in the mix as well?
We are back down under for round three of the Formula 1 World Championship. This time the story seems slightly more predictable with the Red Bulls dominating the first two races. Australia has a new home driver to follow but his team has been all change in the last few weeks.
A Team Battle at the Front
It seems that Red Bull are in a league of their own when it comes to winning races. They dominated the first two rounds, and if it wasn’t for a driveshaft failure in qualifying in Jeddah, both could have been Verstappen wins.
However, starting from P15 most fans thought he was still on for the win. Perez had an answer for everything the double world champion had to throw at him. It is looking like this championship battle may come down to these teammates.
The question now is if Perez has what it takes to beat Verstappen or will Red Bull continue their form of having an obvious number-one driver. Alternatively, will they get in each other’s way and leave a gap for an on-form Alonso to claim his third title?
McLaren Changes Things Up
Unfortunately, the season has started the way that McLaren would have liked. As a result, the team have decided to make a few infrastructure changes internally. James Key, their executive technical director, exits and in his place will be three new technical heads.
Peter Prodromou, Neil Houldey, and significantly David Sanchez, who has come from Ferrari, will be taking their positions under the team principal Andrea Stella. They will be hoping they can turn the fortunes of the woking-based team around.
For McLaren fans from Australia, they will want their new home favourite to have a strong performance, similar to his qualifying pace in Jeddah. Pisatri replaces Ricciardo as their driver for his first home race in Formula 1, so he wants to put on a good show for the crowd.
Qualifying starts at 6am BST on Saturday and the Race is at 6am on Sunday.
Sergio Perez took yet another street circuit win at Jeddah on Sunday night as Redbull reigned supreme yet again, much like their first outing in Bahrain earlier this season. The Mexican driver faltered at the start and lost the lead to Alonso by turn 1, but the unmatchable pace of the Redbull meant that there was no one stopping him from taking the win tonight, not even his teammate.
It was an eventful beginning to the race as Alonso in the Aston Martin got the better of Perez at turn 1 while there was a lot of action between the Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari cars behind. The joy was short lived for Alonso after Perez passed him again, which was then followed by a 5-second time penalty as the Spaniard was out of position at the start. Things got worse for Alonso after the national anthems of Mexico and Austria on the podium as he was hit with a further 10-second time penalty for serving his 5-second time penalty incorrectly. The post-race penalty for Alonso meant that Geroge Russell and Mercedes had their first podium of the season, which looked like a far off possibility based on the mood around the Mercedes paddock.
Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari had a great start as he was able to gain three places in no time after starting from P12 thanks to a penalty pertaining to the control electronics while Verstappen further behind from P15 had a steady opening to his race. A dummy call from the Ferrari pit-wall meant that Stroll of Aston Martin was the first of the front runners to come in to the pits for a change of tyres and it proved costly for him. Both Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc overcut the Canadian and were well ahead of him after the first round of stops and things got even worse for him as a mechanical issue forced him to retire which brought the safety car out.
It looked like there was no need for a safety car as Stroll seemed to park well of the track but an incorrect GPS indication from Stroll’s car meant that the inevitable has happened. Mercedes and Verstappen were one of the few to take advantage of the safety car and Ferrari were the ones to come out of it with a lot of bad luck. The race was pretty much decided at this point as Max’s pace proved to be too fast for anyone else on the track apart from his teammate, who ultimately won the grandprix.
It was a good result for Alpine as both Ocon and Gasly finished in the points scoring positions at P8 and P9 respectively, with Kevin Magnussen in the Haas scoring the last available point after a feisty battle with Tsunoda towards the end of the race. His teammate Hulkenberg in the other Haas only managed a P12 just outside the points. Alfa Romeo have had a mixed race with Zhou Guanyu finishing in P13 while his teammate Bottas finished P18 and last of the running cars in the race.
McLaren might have thought that their fortunes have changed a little with Piastri starting P8 in the race but an tussle in the opening lap meant that the rookie driver needed a front wing change. It got worse for them when Norris came in the next lap as well with the same issue. This meant that the pair were running at the back of the grid for the large parts of the race and McLaren were forced to issue team orders when Piastri was faster than Norris. He then made it count by making a pass on fellow rookie driver Logan Sargeant in the Williams for P15, while Norris finished P17. Alex Albon in the other Williams had to retire with a break issue, making him the second driver to not be classified in the race. It was a decent outing for Alpha Tauri albeit it was without points as Tsunoda was P11 at the end and his teammate De Vries finished the race at P14.
With yet another Redbull 1-2 unfolding at Jeddah, it is going to take a mighty effort from the remaining frontrunners in Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari to cause any damage to the bulls. It is still early in the season to think that Redbull could end up winning both the championships but the tone that has been set by them in the first two races certainly fits the thinking. The Australian Grandprix arrives in about two weeks time before F1 goes for almost a month’s break in April.
Perez took pole while his teammate suffered a driveshaft issue in Q2 meaning he will start P15. Alonso was unable to capitalise on his speed in practice, managing P3 with Leclerc getting P2 before his penalty is applied. This is how it happened during Qualifying.
Q1 began like normal, with the faster teams choosing to stay back while everyone else took to the track. It wasn’t long before the incidents started to bring out the yellow flags.
De Vries nearly caused the first red flag of Qualifying by locking up and spinning into turn 1. However, he was able to use the run-off and get his car going again.
With 10 minutes to go, Norris made contact with the wall on the way into turn 27. The team worked hard to get his car back out, hoping for a red flag but unfortunately, they couldn’t make it work. Norris will start in P19 and was forced to watch as his teammate went front strength to strength.
Alonso went for a quick spin on his first fast-lap run. He managed to keep the car out of the wall by completing a full 360. He appeared to get on the power early out of turn 10, he overwhelmed the rears and went around.
There were plenty more mistakes in Q1 than in any of the practice sessions. The drivers were complaining about the track, saying it was not where they wanted it but had to stick to the strategy. The grip just wasn’t with them in the session after the Formula 2 race.
After having a lap time deleted for track limits at turn 27, Sargent spun, bringing out only a yellow flag as he got going again. He lit up the rears heading through turns 22 and 23 which he had been having problems with all weekend.
Alpha Tauri tried to recover from De Vries’ incident but they seemed to be having poor luck in Jeddah. Both drivers were out in Q1 with Tsunoda in P16 and De Vries in P18.
Williams joined them with Albon couldn’t make it out of Q1 but qualified P17 while Sargent still had issues getting a lap together and damaged the car on his final run meaning he goes away in P20.
Q2 has most people out on soft tyres, apart from RedBull, who at this point could potentially come out on the wet tyres and still go fastest.
9 minutes left and Verstappen came over the radio with what he thought was an engine issue. He managed to limp home for the team to have a look at the car and potentially solve the problem. However, within seconds of being back in the garage, the double-world champion was out of the car and out of qualifying. RedBull have since reported it as a driveshaft issue. Cue an angry Verstappen making his way through the pack on Sunday.
Meanwhile, his teammate set a lap time good enough for P2, just behind Alonso. Behind them, Sainz had a big moment narrowly missing the wall and being able to carry on. In P11 with only 2 minutes to go, it was very important for the Spaniard to put in a good lap.
Alfa Romeo and Haas went about qualifying very quietly but had strong sessions each. They made up the remainder of the eliminated cars from Q2, joining Verstappen.
Out in Q2, Hulkenburg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, and Verstappen.
Q3 seemed to be wide open now that Verstappen was out. However, we were looking at a potential pole for Alonso for the first time since 2012. Perez was out to stop that and pick up the pieces of his teammate’s problems.
The First runs were done, and Perez was half a second in front of Leclerc in P2 with Russell in P3. Alonso wasn’t far behind but it appeared there was more pace to come out from the only RedBull in the session.
Both Alpines made it into the top 10 for a strong qualifying for both drivers after a not-so-great weekend in Bahrain. Ocon starts in P6 while Gasly starts in P9. Piastri joined them for his first Q3 session and made a good effort against his more experienced rivals, but starts P8 with Leclerc’s penalty.
Hamilton will not be pleased with starting P7. Still unable to adapt to the car properly while Russell starts in P3 after Leclerc’s penalty is applied. This was the story for the Silver Arrows during qualifying who had a generally mixed session. However, in a race that has a 100% chance of a safety car, they will be looking to use their reliability to gain points tomorrow.
Ferrari had a decent qualifying for them, but none of that matters with Leclerc’s penalty. He will start P11 while Sainz will start P4, alongside Russell. If they want to mount a challenge on Verstappen and RedBull this season they will need to take advantage of having the reigning world champion behind them suffering from reliability issues.
Tomorrow will be an extremely interesting race to watch with Verstappen and Leclerc starting out of position and Alonso hunting down the remaining RedBull at the front of the pack. Can Russell take advantage of his good starting position or will Sainz get ahead? Will there be a safety car or red flag which changes the race, probably, but it’s worth watching to find out.
2023 has officially begun with RedBull dominance in the desert. We move to the updated streets of Jeddah for race two. Most F1 fans will be hoping that this isn’t a continuing trend throughout the season, especially Ferrari and McLaren fans. However, Leclerc already has reason to potentially write off 2023 as a championship year. Aston Martin could be the surprise challenger for the season.
Ferrari are on the back foot… already.
If you haven’t heard by now, Charles Leclerc heads into the weekend with a 10-place grid penalty for taking a third Control Electronics power unit, taking him over the allocation for the season. The collective pain of the long-suffering Ferrari fans could be heard across the globe as the penalty was announced.
This comes after he was running in P3 before retiring at the side of the track in Bahrain having replaced his Energy Store and Control Electronics on his engine before the race began.
While we will be hoping that Ferrari’s can sort out their reliability issues quickly this season, fans can take some solace from the curse of the first race winner. Since 2017, the driver who won the opening round has not gone on to win the championship, and last season Verstappen retired from the race before becoming a double world champion. So maybe Ferrari’s fortune will change?
Can Aston Martin be the 2023 underdogs?
In a surprise to everyone who watched last season, Aston Martin have stepped up their game and look like real challengers for the 2022 top three. Alonso finished on the podium and pulled off some great moves, while a recovering Stroll managed to get P6, just behind Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes had originally thought they would be fighting for wins or at least challenging for more podiums against Ferrari and RedBull, but now they are looking at a battle for third in the constructor’s championship with Aston Martin.
As we visit different circuits throughout the year this will show off the different strengths of the teams so it will be interesting to see how the Mercedes factory team measures up to a Mercedes engine customer team during the season.
Saudi Arabia has provided us with an extremely fast circuit since 2021 and that is not about to change. They have, however, taken on some feedback from the drivers and adapted some of the corners to help with the visibility of the racing line.
They have moved the walls at turns 8, 10, 14 and 20, with rumble strips added to the latter two to help the drivers know when they are outside track limits.
They have also tweaked a few of the kerbs to deal with the newer cars while the chicane at turns 22 and 23 has been tightened to reduce speeds.
Qualifying on Saturday starts at 5pm GMT and the Race is at 5pm GMT on Sunday.
The opening race of the 2023 F1 season was dominated by the RedBull team and the defending world champion Max Verstappen. His teammate Sergio Perez and the resurgent Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin followed him home.
From the start Verstappen led away Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, into turn 4 the Aston Martins came together but avoided damage after Stroll out-braked himself and clipped Alonso. This incident let the Mercedes drivers through to settle into P5 and 6.
Once the field had settled down Alonso started to close on Russell in the Mercedes, by lap 13 he had closed it completely and had a great battle with the British driver and eventually came out on top.
Further behind the McLarens weren’t having the greatest start to the season, Piastri retiring on lap 15 and Norris having issues meaning he had to pit numerous times and leaving him at the back of the field.
By lap 20 the first stops were completed and the field settled down. During the stops Ocon served a time penalty for a start-line procedure breach, unfortunately, he then gained another penalty for not serving the penalty correctly.
Verstappen was now leading by over 10 seconds but carrying on with soft tyres whereas every other team had moved to the hard compound.
Perez was now catching Leclerc and by lap 26 he was ahead of the Ferrari and moving to P2. Sainz in the second Ferrari was 4th but had fallen further behind and didn’t seem in the fight all weekend.
Mercedes tried to pit early to try and keep Alonso at bay but once the stops were over Alonso quickly caught Hamilton and after a great 2-lap battle the Spaniard pulled ahead and started to pull away in search of Sainz in the Ferrari.
Ferraris reliability issues then struck again with Leclerc stopping on track causing a brief VSC.
Once that was cleared Alonso set after Sainz and overtook him shortly after to move up to P3 and into the podium positions.
After 57 laps Max Verstappen crossed the line to take win 36 of his career, Perez second ahead of Alonso completing the podium. Behind them came Sainz, Hamilton, an impressive Stroll racing with two fractured wrists and a broken toe finished sixth.
Seventh was Russell in the second Mercedes, then Bottas, Gasly and Albon an impressive tenth in the Williams.
Eleventh was Tsunoda ahead of Sergeant, Magnussen, De Vries and Hulkenberg. The last two finishers were Zhou and Norris.
The only retirees were Ocon, Leclerc and Piastri.
After such a dominant performance RedBull will be confident they can once again dominate the season but with Aston Martin making big gains and Mercedes planning a big upgrade already, we will have to wait and see how the season progresses.
Round 2 is in Saudi Arabia in 2 weeks, Can they start to catch up already, we will have the answers in 14 days’ time.