Verstappen cruises to F1 Bahrain Grand Prix win
Red Bull's Max Verstappen started the 2023 Formula 1 season as he had finished 2022, scoring an ominously easy win in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
Having dominated the 2022 season, Red Bull's pre-season testing form had suggested that they would remain the team to beat in 2023, and that assertion was borne out when Verstappen and Sergio Perez locked out the front row in Saturday's qualifying session.
Leading the field away from pole position, Verstappen was never threatened as he eased to his first-ever victory at the Bahrain International Circuit.
"It was a very good first stint where I made my gap and from there it was just looking after the tyres," said Verstappen.
"You never really know what is going to happen later on in the race so we wanted to have the right tyres in good condition as well. Very happy to also finally win here in Bahrain.
"I think we have a good race package. We can definitely fight with this, and also a big thank you to the team again for what they have done over the winter to have a quick race car again."
Behind Verstappen, Perez made it a Red Bull 1-2. The Mexican had lost second place to Charles Leclerc at the start but took the position back by passing the Ferrari on Lap 26.
The final podium place went to a resurgent Fernando Alonso on his first outing for Aston Martin, after surviving contact on Lap 1 from teammate Lance Stroll. The 41-year-old rolled back the years with ambitious overtakes on Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz to underline the big step forward that Aston Martin appears to have made in 2023.
Behind the top three, Sainz took fourth, but Ferrari must be concerned at how far off Red Bull's pace they already appear to be. The Scuderia's woes were exacerbated by Leclerc's failure to finish after the Monegasque pulled off with a power unit issue while running third on Lap 41.
Lewis Hamilton took fifth for Mercedes, whose W14 also does not currently look capable of challenging Red Bull's dominance. Indeed, team boss Toto Wolff took the unusual step of publicly acknowledging on Saturday that the W14 will not be truly competitive in its current form, adding that the team may elect to change the car's entire concept.
Lance Stroll took sixth for Aston Martin despite struggling with injuries to his wrists and toe after a pre-season cycling accident, with George Russell seventh for Mercedes.
Valtteri Bottas finished eighth for Alfa Romeo, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who came through from last on the grid to score points in his first race for Alpine, and Alex Albon, who rounded out the top ten for Williams.
But it was a disastrous race for McLaren. The Woking squad had had a tough pre-season in which they had admitted their developmental shortcomings, and rookie Oscar Piastri suffered the indignity of being the season's first retirement, pulling out on Lap 16 with an electrical issue.
Piastri's teammate Lando Norris finished 17th and last, after having to make several pits stops to manage an issue with his MCL60's engine's pneumatic system.
In addition to Piastri and Leclerc, the only other driver to fail to finish was Esteban Ocon, who retired after having served three separate in-race penalties for various misdemeanors.
The second round of the 2023 Formula 1 season is the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on March 19.