Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in Sahir, home of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the opening race of this year's Formula One World Series, March 2, 2023.
Sáchir (Bahrain) – The Grand Prix of Bahrain will start the Formula 1 World Championship on Sunday. The favorite is the Dutchman Max Verstappen from Red Bull, who will attack for the third title in a row. His main challengers should be the drivers of Ferrari and Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton able to claim a record eighth triumph and surpass Michael Schumacher. The season will offer a record 23 races, the novelty will be a night event in Las Vegas. The final Abu Dhabi GP will take place on November 26.
Verstappen, 25, will look to build on last season's record winning 15 out of 22 races to secure the title with four races to go. Red Bull also had the most successful tests of all before the season. The native of Hasselt will try to win the opening race of the season for the first time in his career. Last year he had to retire due to technical problems with three rounds to go. In total, he has failed to finish in Bahrain in three of the last six Grands Prix.
“Max has gradually grown over the past few years and is now at a stage in his career where he has a lot of self-confidence. He is experienced and knows how to switch on at the right moment. Physically, he is in great shape and is already looking forward to the start of the season,” Reuters quoted team boss Christian Horner. Verstappen's colleague will again be Sergio Pérez, who finished third in the championship last year.
Ferrari will try to improve on second place in the Constructors' Cup. After the last season, boss Mattia Binotto left the Italian team, and Frédéric Vasseur, who led Alfa Romeo at that time, became his successor. The famous team from Maranello has been waiting for the title among drivers for 16 years, the last time Kimi Räikkönen succeeded in 2007. In Bahrain, Ferrari will defend last year's double, where Charles Leclerc won before Carlos Sainz.
Mercedes also wants to challenge Red Bull. The former hegemon, who won the titles between drivers and teams between 2014 and 2020, paid the price last year for a change in the technical rules, and after a weak start only got going at the end. Although he managed to solve the problems with the bouncing car, he was still losing to Red Bull in tests. “It's hard to read how they're doing. Maybe they're hiding something. We'll see each other in the race,” Horner said.
The 38-year-old Hamilton went through a season without a single victory for the first time last year. With 310 starts, he is the second most experienced driver in the field after Fernando Alonso (355). “We still have to work on something. It's still not perfect and we're still not able to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari,” Hamilton pointed out.
After four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel retired and Mick Schumacher became a Mercedes test driver after the end at Haas, there was only one German representative left in the field – Nico Hülkenberg at Haas. Forty-one-year-old Fernando Alonso, who transferred from Alpine to Aston Martin, will start the jubilee twentieth season in F1. His teammate Lance Stroll, who recently injured his wrist after falling off the bike, will not be missing in Bahrain. Aston Martin presented itself with fast times during the tests. On the other hand, the fifth McLaren lagged behind last year.
The new faces will be Australian Oscar Piastri, who replaced Daniel Ricciardo in McLaren and Logan Sargeant in Williams. Sargeant is the first American to start an F1 season since Scott Speed in 2007. Dutchman Nyck de Vries in AlphaTauri will also have a premier year, but he made his debut last year at the Italian GP.
The new Las Vegas Grand Prix will take place on November 18 as the penultimate race of the season. The GP of Qatar, which took place for the first time two years ago, is returning to the program. One of the six sprints in the season will be held in Losail, the others will be in Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Texas and Brazil.
The program of the opening Grand Prix of Bahrain will start on Friday with two practice sessions. After Saturday's third, there is a qualification from 16:00 CET. The race will take place at the same time a day later.