To no surprise, Red Bull locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying ahead of the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix tomorrow. Red Bull kept a low profile during pre-season testing and an even lower profile during Friday and Saturday practice. Then, during qualifying 2 Red Bull showed what they had been hiding with Max Verstappen setting the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Verstappen rubber-stamped the evolutionary superiority of the Red Bull by driving his RB19 to pole position. Sergio Perez was a whisker away in second and while Ferrari was competitive the team opted to settle for third preferring to start Sunday’s race on a fresh set of tyres.
Carlos Sainz locked out the second row for Ferrari and Fernando Alonso starts 5th in a much improved Aston Martin, but he still finds himself 6-tenths off the pace set by Max Verstappen. The Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton start 6th and 7th respectively followed by Lance Stroll in 8th, and Esteban Ocon in 9th. Nico Hulkenberg marked his return to F1 by showing competitive pace in the Hass with a surprise 10th.
Lando Norris leads the midfield pack in 11th, not where he and McLaren expected to start the season, teammate and rookie Oscar Piastri didn’t fare too well with an 18th grid place slot. So, now all the pre-season speculation is over, we have definitive evidence of which team is the fastest, and really it’s a continuation from last season. Red Bull remains the fastest team with Ferrari not too far behind. Aston Martin, in Alonso’s hands, is much improved but not the silver bullet expected to shoot down the Red Bull.
Tomorrow’s race will be a showdown between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, for the first half at least, before Verstappen takes control in the second half and pilots his Red Bull to a commanding victory. Ferrari still has tyre management issues. Pre-season testing and the opening Bahrain GP practice sessions informs that Ferrari has yet to resolve its trye issues over long duration runs.
2023 Bahrain Grand Prix: Qualifying
1 Max VERSTAPPEN | Red Bull Racing 1:29.708
2 Sergio PEREZ | Red Bull Racing +0.138
3 Charles LECLERC | Ferrari +0.292
4 Carlos SAINZ | Ferrari +0.446
5 Fernando ALONSO | Aston Martin +0.628
6 George RUSSELL | Mercedes +0.632
7 Lewis HAMILTON | Mercedes +0.676
8 Lance STROLL | Aston Martin +1.128
9 Esteban OCON | Alpine +1.276
10 Nico HULKENBERG | Haas F1 Team no time
11 Lando NORRIS | McLaren 1:31.38
12 Valtteri BOTTAS | Alfa Romeo 1:31.443
13 Guanyu ZHOU | Alfa Romeo 1:31.473
14 Yuki TSUNODA | AlphaTauri 1:32.510
15 Alexander ALBON | Williams no time
16 Logan SARGEANT | Williams 1:31.652
17 Pierre GASLY | Alpine 1:31.818
18 Kevin MAGNUSSEN | Haas F1 Team 1:31.892
19 Oscar PIASTRI | McLaren 1:32.101
20 Nyck DE VRIES | AlphaTauri 1:32.121