Bahrain Grand Prix driver ratings: Alonso and Gasly shine, Ocon has a nightmare
The first race of the 2023 season is in the books! And here are our Bahrain Grand Prix driver ratings for you to cast your beady eyes over.
Ratings explained: Every driver starts the weekend slap bang in the middle with a 5/10 rating and we operate on a sliding scale from there. We take the entire weekend into account, not just the race itself.
However, the scores will be weighted more towards a driver’s race performance, but qualifying performances (good or bad) are also factored into our ratings and, in extreme circumstances, practice will also play a minor part in the overall score.
Now that’s set in stone, let’s get to it, shall we? Starting with our first race winner of the season Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen 10
A faultless performance from Q1 to the chequered flag. It is telling that the image of the number 1 emblazoned Red Bull car was one that was rarely seen during the race.
Any hopes of a battle for first were quickly extinguished when Verstappen got off the line well, leaving the fighting for those behind him and never looked back. Not much more can be said other than a perfect performance from the firm title favourite.
Sergio Perez 8.5
Made a dreadful start which allowed not only Charles Leclerc to close in but also give Carlos Sainz a sniff. Perez would eventually succumb to the pressure of Leclerc but praise should go to him and the Red Bull strategists.
Opting to pit for a fresh set of softs at a time when the rest of grid went for the more durable hards, Perez was able to eat up the seconds separating him and Leclerc and overtook him with ease into Turn 1. On today’s evidence, it is Perez alone who has a chance to beat Verstappen but even that seems unlikely.
Fernando Alonso 10
El Plan executed to perfection. Pre-race, the talk was if the testing hype surrounding Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin would come to fruition and following a P5 in qualification, the Spaniard found himself slipping down the grid as the two Mercedes’ snapped at his heels, not helped by his team-mate’s attempted divebomb in the early stages.
Alonso navigated the tricky start before the race pace of the AMR23 began to show. Russell passed, Hamilton next before Sainz was dispatched with ease. Yes, his first podium since 2021 comes with the note that it was due to Leclerc’s retirement but nothing can be taken away from a statement performance from F1’s most experienced veteran. Life in the old dog yet.
Carlos Sainz 6
Carlos Sainz has often talked of his belief in his ability to challenge the best but his performance today would suggest he is some way off. He quickly lost ground not just on the dominant Red Bulls but also on his team-mate, soon finding himself in P4 purgatory.
His day would get worse when the sight of Alonso bearing down on him appeared in his wing mirrors and try as he might, the skill and speed of his compatriot was too much to keep him at bay. Praise should be given to Sainz for managing to keep Hamilton behind but it was a poor day overall for both him and Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton 7.5
After a slow start in which his team-mate George Russell asked if there was a problem, Hamilton recovered to a P5 finish but it was not a performance that inspired too much confidence for Mercedes. Having had difficulties with the car all weekend, Hamilton found himself lacking the pace to catch up to the frontrunners and while he did move past Alonso early on, he would eventually lose that place once more.
P5, given Leclerc’s retirement, was the best Mercedes could have hoped for with rumours of a B-spec car on its way.
Lance Stroll 8.5
Lance Stroll has gained a couple of metal pins since he last took to the track. Recovering in record time from a pre-season bike injury that not only broke his wrist but also saw him sit out the entirety of testing, which makes his performance all the more impressive.
A P6, splitting the Mercedes, showed that it was not just Alonso who could extract speed out of the quick AMR23 and the fact that Stroll did it when he was at less than 100% is all the more commendable. There were a few faults in his performance though, notably two lock-ups at Turn 10 which prevented him from attacking Hamilton in the latter stages and almost dive-bombing his team-mate out of the race but eight points represents his best return for an opening race.
George Russell 7
In a reverse of the start of the 2022 season, Russell was the Mercedes driver who found it harder to extract the maximum out of the W14. The young Brit started well, moving past Alonso and clearly quicker than his team-mate Hamilton but as the race wore on, Russell’s pace faded away.
Alonso proved himself better at nursing the soft tyres, leaving Russell vulnerable to the overtake, and Mercedes’ decision to leave him out a few laps longer than the majority of the grid proved to be detrimental.
Valtteri Bottas 8
A quietly confident performance from Bottas in an Alfa Romeo car that proved it is not willing to settle for the lower midfield. An early pitstop allowed him to sneak up the grid until he found himself in P6 and while he was unable to hold onto that high spot, he had done enough to give himself a platform to build on and encouragement for the season ahead.
Perhaps a little fortunate that the race ended when it did as he had Gasly on the softs chasing behind him.
Pierre Gasly 9
A shoo-in for the Driver of the Day award had Fernando Alonso not taken the podium. Starting from P20, few would have given Pierre Gasly a chance of reaching the points-paying positions but a mixture of excellent driving and smart strategy choices ensured just that.
Opting to go for the undercut on every occasion, Gasly shot up the grid and the team were again bold when the Leclerc-caused VSC came out, choosing to switch to the softs at a time when every driver ahead of him preferred to stay out and keep track position. The benefits were clear from the off. Albon was caught and dispatched as Gasly set the fastest lap. Had there been a few more laps than Bottas too would have surely found himself staring at the rear wing of the Alpine.
Alex Albon 8.5
A performance perhaps many didn’t see coming. With Williams finding themselves at the foot of many prediction tables, Alex Albon showed that those estimations may not entirely be accurate. Granted Albon did the same last year but in Bahrain it was both of the Williams who looked strong.
He and team-mate Logan Sargeant boldly chose to go for the soft tyres on their first pit and began to move their way up the grid. Truth be told, Albon was perhaps a bit fortunate to keep the final points scoring position as Leclerc’s retirement pushed him up into P9 before the quicker Gasly forced him down a spot. Albon and Williams won’t care though.
Yuki Tsunoda 7.5
Like the Williams around him, few would have predicted to see the AlphaTauri car of Tsunoda this high up the grid but it was a strong if not overly remarkable performance from the now senior driver in the team.
Late on in the race, he produced an excellent double overtake past Zhou Guanyu and team-mate Nyck de Vries but was unable to close the gap to Albon ahead for the final points-paying spot.
Logan Sargeant 8
If you would have asked the majority of F1 fans and pundits which of the three 2023 rookies would finish highest in Bahrain, few would have predicted Sargeant.
Entering into the sport with a junior career not as glittering as Piastri’s and with less experience than De Vries, Sargeant proved those doubters wrong in his debut race. Praise must go to not only Sargeant but the Williams strategist, opting to put the American and Albon on softs when the rest of the grid went for hards and Sargeant should be commended for being able to make them last as long.
Yes, it’s not a points finish but P12 is nothing to sniff at.
Kevin Magnussen 7
Magnussen recovered from a poor qualifying session to rise up the grid to P13 without ever looking like he would go on and push the top 10. Perhaps Haas could have been a bit bolder with his pit strategy as that certainly proved effective for another driver who started at the back, Gasly. But Magnussen is not to blame for that. Something to build on for the Dane without matching his heroics of the opening race of last year.
Nyck de Vries 6.5
A good if not remarkable performance from De Vries as he began his full-time F1 career. It may not have been the level of his Monza super-sub debut last year but there was enough there to be satisfied with.
Having started P19, he did well to slowly move up the grid but he was left vulnerable on the hards late on when those around the grid swapped for the quicker softs.
He would finish the day in P14 and while plenty of the drivers expected to finish above him either did not finish or were named Lando Norris, it is still a good platform to build on for the 28-year-old.
Nico Hülkenberg 5.5
Hülkenberg may have been away from the sport for a few years but surely he is still aware that cars must stay inside of the track?
Having started in the top 10, the returning Hulk plummeted down the grid, appearing to suffer some damage after driving over some debris early on.
His front wing end plate was the main cause of concern, wobbling enough for Haas to perhaps fear that the black and orange flag that they became so accustomed to last year may be shown, causing them to box Hulkenberg for a replacement. But his race was further impacted late on when he received a flurry of penalties for exceeding track limits. Hülkenberg had five of his 56 laps deleted and was handed a total of 15 seconds added to his finishing time.
Zhou Guanyu 6.5
Sacrificed late on to ensure Alpine and Gasly did not earn the extra point for fastest lap but there were times when Zhou looked as if he could join team-mate Bottas in challenging for points.
Running in 12th but unlikely to catch Tsunoda and Albon ahead, Alfa opted to put Zhou for a set of fresh softs which allowed him to secure the fastest lap, minus the extra point, in the very last lap of the race so while he did end the grand prix in P16, that was not entirely representative of his running.
Lando Norris 6.5
It is hard to judge Norris’ performance considering his race quickly turned from a competitive event to a glorified testing runout. A pneumatic problem required Norris to pit six times across the 57-lap race and quickly eliminated any chance of competitive running.
The highlight of his race came in a battle with Esteban Ocon not only to see who was having the worst afternoon but also for P19. Post-race, Norris was at least upbeat, suggesting the MCL60 did have pace but time will tell if that claim proves to be accurate.
Did not finish
Esteban Ocon 4.5
Started in the worst possible way by overstepping the mark on the starting grid, handing him a five-second penalty. And while the subsequent team failure to observe that penalty was not Ocon’s fault, speeding in the pit lane certainly was meaning he ended the day with 20 seconds’ worth of penalties. The Frenchman made it to the 41st lap before the team retired the car.
Charles Leclerc 8
What more can you say about Charles Leclerc’s troubles? Another race where he is high up in the points and another race where he ends up on the scooter of shame that takes him back to the garage.
He began the race excellently, making the best start of the frontrunners and forcing Sergio Perez into an uncomfortable spot and eventually overtaking him but as the race wore on, he became a victim of not only the Red Bull car but also the Red Bull strategy.
Red Bull put Perez on the softs and Leclerc was unable to defend on hards. Then disaster struck as it so often has for Leclerc in the past two seasons. An engine failure produced the similar sight of a distraught Leclerc left stranded on the side of the road.
Oscar Piastri 5
Completed just 13 laps in his F1 debut before a problem with the steering wheel saw him return to the pits. It was only once there that the engine gave out and consigned Piastri to the first DNF of the season and of his career.