Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
Fear not, Formula 1 fans, for the wait is finally over. The long, cold winter has come and gone and been replaced by the high-octane, adrenaline-filled sport that we love. The teams have all finalised their 2023 challengers, and the drivers are ready to put their foot to the floor in competition for the first time in their new machines. With the standings completely reset, everything is up to play for, and it will be fascinating to watch the drama unfold this weekend under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit.
Speaking about the circuit itself, it was the first Middle Eastern track to host a Formula 1 race back in 2004, and produces great racing year after year. With no less than three DRS zones, the track is not short of overtaking opportunities, yet passes by no means a simple task. Plenty of accidents have come in the past from drivers not giving enough respect to the costly curbs and the jeopardous downhill sections. Even without the glorious aesthetics provided by the magnificent floodlights under the stars, Bahrain produces thrilling season openers without fail, and has been the perfect choice by F1 to start the season with a bang.
Many memorable battles have played out here, including the notable ‘Duel in the Desert’ of 2014, which saw fierce Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg vie for glory under the lights, with the Brit ultimately coming out on top. Moreover, in 2006 we got to witness an epic battle between two world champions: Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, ending in Alonso narrowly pipping his rival to the flag. Finally, 2020 brought two Bahrain Grands Prix, with the second one using a slightly shorter layout, and a stunning race ensued. George Russell was on top in his first chance in a Mercedes car until late drama involving a tyre mix-up, then a puncture saw the disbelieving Sergio Perez take a first career win in the Racing Point. Somehow the podium was left only consisting of drivers from Racing Point and Renault. This drive would land Perez his prized Red Bull seat, convincing the higher-ups that he was the better pick over the struggling Alex Albon.
With testing done and dusted in no time at all, the order of the grid has begun to shape itself, with Red Bull looking strong from the outset, along with Aston Martin, as opposed to the problems seemingly being experienced at McLaren. This weekend will of course be the first time we get to see Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Nyck De Vries race an F1 car as permanent, contracted drivers. Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly has made the move to French outfit Alpine, while Fernando Alonso has switched over to now high-flying Aston Martin, and Nico Hulkenberg has made his return to the sport through Haas. As ever in F1, there are plenty of new faces and all the challenges that come with settling into a new team, so the drivers’ and the teams’ ability to adapt to their surroundings will really separate the men from the boys this season.
As much as all of us would love a good title fight, it is hard to imagine anything other than a Max Verstappen title win again this year, due to Red Bull’s intimidating pace in testing and his supreme ability at this point in his career. Ferrari and Mercedes, and maybe even Aston Martin, will try to give him a run for his money I’m sure, but to no avail. The midfield will likely be hotter than ever though, as teams fight to climb up a tightly packed grid, and desperately try to avoid plummeting down the standings and undoing all their progress, as McLaren seem to have done. Nevertheless, the tension is rising to a climax for the 2023 season to get underway, the teams are ready, and we can’t wait to see lights out in Bahrain.