Yes, the Bahrain Grand Prix was a reminder of just how strong Max Verstappen and Red Bull are together, so much so that George Russell believes Red Bull should go on to win every race in the F1 2023 season.
That does sound like a rather grim assessment for the section of Formula 1 fans who would like to see a closer fight this time around, with both World Championships having been wrapped up several rounds early last season.
And if watching Sunday’s race gave you a sinking feeling like the most dominant years of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, thinking that the season may already be a foregone conclusion, or whether you’re one of the fervent Orange Army backing the reigning champion all the way, there is still plenty to be excited about for the season ahead.
Here, let us prove it to you.
If you’re a Max Verstappen or Red Bull fan, you’re seemingly in for a simply lovely time
It goes without saying that seeing the RB19 sail through testing and subsequently dominate the Bahrain Grand Prix has already got plenty of people wondering if the World Championship this year could be heading Verstappen’s way once again.
A huge amount of people will be very happy about this of course, with the amount of support he gets worldwide and the sheer volume of orange clothing/flares/Dutch flags in the grandstands in the European races testament to how much the Red Bull driver is lauded. So if you are heard playing Super Max out at full volume at race weekends, the early signs are you could be in for a treat again this season.
Of course, there are still unknowns about whether or not the team will be able to keep up their performances after their record-breaking year in 2022, and whether or not they will feel any effects of their penalty for breaching the 2021 budget cap, but the early indicators show that they will take some beating this season.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who is leading the chasing pack behind Red Bull
The benefit for the other teams which trailed in Red Bull’s wake last season is that they will be allowed more time in their respective wind tunnels this year to help develop their cars, the theory being they could close the gap to the teams in front by having more opportunities to run tests on possible aerodynamic upgrades.
And the cost cap restrictions have seemingly started to work on bringing the rest of the field closer together, as evidenced by the Aston Martin/Ferrari/Mercedes squabble going on behind the Red Bull pair at the front.
Time will tell if Red Bull can be reeled in, but the fight between the teams behind was the main highlight of the Bahrain Grand Prix, which brings us onto the next reason to be gleeful…
Fernando Alonso is finally driving a truly competitive car
Be honest. You enjoyed seeing Alonso back on the podium at the weekend, didn’t you?
Few would begrudge the two-time World Champion finally having a bit of luck when it comes to getting a team move right, with Aston Martin on an upward curve and Alonso clearly having lost none of his speed and racecraft – his moves on Hamilton and Carlos Sainz on Sunday are perfect evidence of that.
Seeing another one of the sport’s biggest stars back competing towards the sharp end of the field is exactly what the F1 2023 season needs, and is proof to Alonso himself that he can still mix it with the best of them. Not that he has ever doubted that for a second, of course.
Don’t forget, silly season is still to come
Oh, what a time it was as the silly season surrounding the Formula 1 driver market unfolded last year.
Alonso quickly pounced on the Aston Martin seat Sebastian Vettel was set to vacate, Oscar Piastri was announced as his Alpine replacement, when he had already in fact signed a contract for McLaren several weeks before, then it all went to the Contract Recognitions Board to be sorted out. What a palaver.
Then there was the uncertainty surrounding out-of-contract drivers at other teams before the final grid was set for the F1 2023 campaign, and while it may not be for a little while yet, we have still got it all to come this time around.
Lewis Hamilton had planned to agree his Mercedes future over winter but, while a first conversation over a new deal has taken place, nothing has yet been committed for the seven-time World Champion beyond the end of the season. The longer this goes on, the more intense the focus is likely to become on his future, so Mercedes will hope to make fast improvements to the W14 to get him back in contention for race victories quickly.
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Most importantly, there’s still a long way to go yet in F1 2023
Just remember Murray Walker’s immortal words: “Anything can happen in Formula 1, and it usually does.”
Whether or not Red Bull feel the full effects of the additional aerodynamic testing restrictions placed upon them after their minor overspend breach of the 2021 budget cap is yet to be seen, or if their rivals are able to bring enough upgrades to topple their clear advantage from Bahrain over the course of the year.
Yes, the odds appear to be heavily in Red Bull and Verstappen’s favour on the basis of their performance in the season opener, but there are still a record 22 more races to come, and it would be jumping the gun somewhat to be writing off the prospects of an entertaining title fight based on one dominant performance at the front.
On top of that, can you remember just how boring life became without Formula 1 over winter? We’re clearly biased in that opinion, but come on now. Great racing is what we’re all here for and, even if it isn’t for first place, the season should give us plenty of wheel-to-wheel action to come.
Onwards and upwards.