Bahrain Grand Prix
Wikimedia Commons/ Ryan Bayona

Verstappen off to a triumphant start

Meet the 2023 Formula 1 grid, comprised of 20 drivers racing for their respective teams, countries, and most importantly, themselves. Racing for Red Bull are the current reigning champion Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Pérez, who dominated the season last year, but can they do it again? Racing for Ferrari are Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, P2 and P4 respectively in last year’s season – will they place higher this year?

Then we have the British duo, Sir Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world champion, and George Russell, racing for Mercedes. Racing for McLaren we have Lando Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri from Australia, two young lads hoping to put McLaren at the top of the midfield. The French pair, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon are racing for the French team Alpine – the tension is there! Then we have two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and partner Lance Stroll, racing for Aston Martin.

Alex Albon and rookie Logan Sargeant make up the Williams team, while Yuki Tsunoda and rookie, Nick de Vries make up the Alpha Tauri team. Nico Hulkenberg comes back to race for the Haas team, alongside Kevin Magnussen who gained a pole position last year. Finally, the Alfa Romeo duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.

Lando Norris also seemed to struggle, having to stop several times, only finishing P17, not the proudest night for the McLaren team

Bahrain was the scene for the start of the 2023 championship.

Qualifying saw Max Verstappen take pole position and Pérez in P2, making it a Red Bull one-two, with Leclerc in third. This came after Leclerc caused a red flag during the first round of qualifying after a piece of his front wing fell off. Lance Stroll also struggled during the first round of qualifying – perhaps due to his wrist, which he broke during a mountain biking incident – however, he managed to secure P6. The three rookies of the new season, Logan Sargeant, Oscar Piastri, and Nick de Vries, qualified P16, P18, and P19 respectively.

The race tyres were the C1, C2, and C3, with the C1 being the “favourite” tyre for the evening; there is also a new tyre this year – the C0 – which will be the hardest tyre. As the lights went out, Pérez got away slowly, which allowed Leclerc to overtake him and gain a position.

Furthermore, Ocon was the first driver of the season to be under investigation after an inaccurate grid start, for which he gained a five-second penalty. However, for serving that penalty wrong in the pit lane, he was given a 10-second penalty, but later had to serve another five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane while serving the previous penalty – not the evening that the Frenchman would have liked. He later retired in lap 43.

Lando Norris also seemed to struggle, having to stop several times, only finishing P17, not the proudest night for the McLaren team.

The third car to retire was Leclerc in lap 41 after engine failure. The Monégasque was forced to stop, and all hopes of a finish – let alone a podium finish – disappeared. He said: “It is a shame. I hope we can look into it and understand what went wrong.”

While Ferrari fans may be disappointed with Bahrain, we must not forget the alleged Bahrain curse

While it was a disappointing evening for some, one driver who exceeded expectations was Fernando Alonso, who achieved his 99th podium finish and placed third behind Verstappen and Pérez. Alonso had to battle past Hamilton and then later fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz. He managed to overtake Sainz with the help of DRS (Drag Reduction System). He said “this is a lovely car to drive”; as yesterday marked 22 years since Alonso made his Formula 1 debut.

While Ferrari fans may be disappointed with Bahrain, we must not forget the alleged Bahrain curse. The superstition follows that whoever wins the first race of the F1 season will not become World Drivers’ Champion, and this has been seen in the past few years through Leclerc and Verstappen (2022), Hamilton and Verstappen (2021), Bottas and Hamilton (2020 and 2019), and Vettel and Hamilton (2018 and 2017), and the winner of each opening race finishing second overall.

Furthermore, in the very same race last year, Verstappen also retired from the race (much like Charles Leclerc this year). Will history repeat itself and allow the Monegasque to become an F1 champion? Only time will tell.

Will Verstappen be able to break the curse, or will it end in disappointment for him, and joy for Leclerc (or another driver)? Will Alonso make a comeback and place on the podium at the end of the season? What will become of the new rookies? Follow along as we travel across the globe for the next eight months to see what will become of the drivers and their teams, and find out whether your season will end in happiness or heartbreak.


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