1) Fernando’s still got it
Fernando Alonso has made some terrible career choices over the last few years, but at last it looks like he’s landed in a car worthy of his talents.
Despite dropping to seventh on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the 41-year-old unleashed the Aston Martin’s new-found pace to picka ,a off George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz on his way to a first podium since the Qatar GP in 2021.
The move on former teammate Hamilton in particular—down the inside of turn 10, an incredibly rare place for an overtake—was a thing of beauty. What a drive!
2) This championship looks over already
While we were all watching Alonso doing his thing, the battle at the front was, um, basically non-existent.
Max Verstappen held the lead from pole and had a 10-second cushion over second place about 14 laps in, after which he seemed to put the RB19 into cruise control and sailed to victory.
The gap to the rest looks bigger than it was before the winter break, and Mercedes’ George Russell has said he thinks Red Bull haS both drivers’ and constructors’ championships “sewn up.” Oh.
Behind Verstappen, teammate Sergio Perez recovered from a tricky start to overhaul Charles Leclerc and make it a Red Bull 1-2, but in the end, it was academic because...
3) Ferrari DNFed at the earliest opportunity
...Ferrari hasn’t fixed its reliability problems. The team had been vocal about mending the issues that caused it to lose several races last season, hoping the improvements would allow it to run its engines in a higher mode for longer to gain significant amounts of lap time.
But once again Charles Leclerc lost power while on course for the final podium place, pulling over to the side of the track on Lap 41.
This was after his energy store was replaced before the race, a part for which the allowance for the season is two. Meaning he’s already in one-more-and-that’s-a-penalty territory.
Red Bull pace aside, it leaves everyone wondering what Ferrari can realistically achieve in 2023. Any optimists out there?
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4) Lance Stroll is hard as nails
Lance Stroll's cycling injuries were ‘minor,’ we were informed. We were informed wrongly. The Canadian actually broke both wrists and a toe for good measure (hence the slippers in the image above), meaning he couldn’t move his hands or walk two weeks ago.
And yet somehow he coaxed himself back into the car, and not only finished the race but did so strongly to take sixth ahead of George Russell.
The only minor flaw in his drive was nearly wiping out Alonso on the opening lap, both Astons somehow escaping without damage. Still, what an effort.
5) Esteban Ocon loves penalties
Well that couldn't have gone much worse, could it? Ocon qualified ninth on Saturday and would’ve hoped for a strong points finish on Sunday, but the Frenchman was out of place in his grid box at the start of the grand prix and his whole weekend comically unraveled from there.
The infringement earned him a five-second penalty, but when he pitted the mechanics didn’t get the memo and touched his car before the time had elapsed. That led to a further 10-second penalty, and when he served that he was caught speeding in the pit lane. Cue another five-second penalty.
That reportedly equals the previous benchmark for driving penalties, which was last matched when Pastor Maldonado was penaliZed three times in one race in 2015. Oh dear.
6) Mercedes has given up already
We’re sure we can remember Lewis Hamilton saying his team would ‘never give up’ at various difficult points over the years, but it sounds very much like the team has conceded the 2023 championship already.
Merc stuck doggedly to its zero sidepod concept over the winter, insisting that it could unlock performance from it despite the rest of the grid falling into line behind Red Bull's (clearly very successful) wide-bodywork-massive-cutout design.
But after testing and the first race Merc says it's still massively lacking downforce, and only a fundamental rethink will see its fortunes improve.
You can see why they’ve reached that conclusion though: Aston Martin has become the second-fastest team in a matter of months with a car that buys Merc’s engines, gearbox, and suspension. And rents out its wind tunnel. Ouch.
7) Nobody expects the Finnish Points Position
One of the many questions that arose from testing was ‘Just how quick is the Alfa Romeo?’ No one really knew if it'd be fighting for podiums or scrapping for the minor places at the rear of the field.
Surprise, surprise, it’s somewhere between those two extremes. And it was a surprise that Valtteri Bottas seemed to emerge in P6 from nowhere, taking his first pit stop early and getting the jump on both Russell and Alonso.
Those cars cleared him eventually, but the Finn drove a faultless race to come home in eighth. To whom it may concern etc.
8) McLaren had a nightmare
Actually forget Ocon, turns out it actually could’ve gone worse. McLaren fully expected to be on the back foot after testing... and it was right.
Qualifying was better than hoped as Lando Norris somehow qualified in 11th, but it was all downhill after that. Oscar Piastri’s debut lasted all of 15 laps when he retired with an electrical issue, and a problem on Lando Norris’ car meant he had to pit repeatedly, consigning him to last place and a lap down on his nearest rival.
Sorry McLaren fans, looks like it’s going to be a long season...
9) Williams was’t actually that bad
While McLaren expected to be slow and were, Williams expected to be slow and weren't.
Alex Albon - who was telling TG about his G-Wagen and GT3 RS only last week - enjoyed a mega start from P15 and clung on for the final point in tenth place, holding off AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda by just over a second.
Meanwhile teammate and debutant Logan Sargeant had a strong start to life in F1, crossing the line in P12 having only missed out on Q2 the day before on a technicality: the American set the same time as Norris in quali, but because the Brit set it first, it was he who progressed from Q1.
10) Gasly recovered from a poor quali
While Ocon spent the race being penalised for just about everything he did, Pierre Gasly recovered from a nightmare qualifying session to finish ninth, having started the race in last place.
In his first grand prix for Alpine, the Frenchman kept a cool head on the first lap and calmly picked his way through the field, making the most of the virtual safety car when Charles Leclerc broke down to take on a fresh set of tyres and go on the attack.
Not bad for a man who was complaining about a lack of testing week...
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.