The opening race of the 2023 Formula One season will take place on Sunday and it is difficult to look beyond Red Bull and reigning world champion Max Verstappen from dominating proceedings at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen has emerged as the new force in F1 over the last two years, edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to land his first world title in 2021 before following up last season with an emphatic defence that saw him win a record-breaking 15 races during the year.
The Dutchman certainly appears to be the man to beat in Bahrain this weekend, despite not topping the timesheets in either of the opening two practice sessions on Friday. Those honours went to Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who appears to be hitting the ground running with his new team.
Bahrain Grand Prix Betting Tips
- Max Verstappen to win race @ 8/11
- Fernando Alonso podium finish @ 8/11
Max Verstappen to win race @ 8/11
Verstappen and Red Bull enjoyed a procession to both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship titles last year and that was despite the world champion and his team-mate Perez both suffering DNFs at the season-opening race in Bahrain.
The Bahrain International Circuit has not proved a happy hunting ground for Verstappen in general – he has never secured a race victory in Sakhir – but he has twice finished as runner up and all the signs are pointing to him going one better this weekend.
The 25-year-old was third quickest during Practice One on Friday – behind Perez and Alonso – despite suffering with a lack of front-end grip, before coming in just 0.169 seconds slower than the Aston Martin driver in the afternoon session.
With Red Bull’s expected main rivals, Ferrari and Mercedes, both well off the pace during Friday’s action, the door appears to be open for Verstappen to dominate the rest of the weekend, especially when considering the Austrian team’s long-run pace appears to be in a league of its own.
Fernando Alonso podium finish @ 8/11
The performer of the day during the opening two practice sessions was undoubtedly two-time world champion Alonso, who looks set to benefit from making the switch from Alpine to Aston Martin for the 2023 season.
Disrupting the sport’s established top three – Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes – is the aim for Aston Martin this season and Alonso described his performance in P2 as “another step in the right direction”.
Alonso only secured one podium finish across his two seasons with Alpine, but the signs are that both he and the British team could enjoy a special start to the year in Bahrain, with team-mate Lance Stroll coming in sixth quickest during P2.
While holding off the challenge of Red Bull over the remainder of the weekend may prove a bridge too far for Alonso, there is every chance he could be celebrating a podium finish come Sunday, especially if the woes of Ferrari and Mercedes continue.