After a long winter break Formula One is back and in many ways, the 2023 season started just like 2022 left off with Red Bull in control and Ferrari and Mercedes struggling to compensate for each team's issues.
However, there were just as many welcome surprises with the competition looking as tight as ever and lower midfield teams now looking like serious points contenders.
1 - Red Bull Racing
There's only so much praise that can be lavished upon Red Bull but there is no denying the team had an unbelievably good weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez looked like they were in cruise control throughout the practice sessions, with both drivers putting up top three times in each session.
Come qualifying, there wasn't a single doubt that Adrian Newey had designed yet another masterpiece, with Verstappen and Perez qualifying in first and second respectively.
Things went from great to outstanding on race day with Verstappen pulling away early, leading all but three laps of the race, all of which Perez led. The only black mark on the team's record for the entire weekend came on the starting line with Perez caught out on the line and forced to battle the Ferraris.
However, a successful overcut pitting for soft tyres, Perez was able to jump back in front and stayed in second for the remainder of the race.
2 - Aston Martin
It's the team that everyone is talking about and for all the right reasons. Aston Martin has opened the 2023 Formula One World Championship with an unbelievable start. With questions about Lance Stroll's fitness to drive, after recent wrist injuries, the pressure was on Fernando Alonso and boy did he set the bar high for the team's season.
Setting the best time in two of the three practice sessions, Aston Martin tried to temper expectations ahead of qualifying, confirming that they landed right where they wanted with Alonso qualifying in fifth and Stroll in eighth.
The weekend only got better on race day with the only major error coming in the opening lap when the two cars almost collided however, Alonso managed to keep his head about him and chase down Hamilton and Sainz, ultimately earning his 99th podium with a third-place finish.
Meanwhile, Stroll driving with a broken wrist and toe, managed to split the Mercedes showcasing that the Canadian may be capable of more later in the season once his injuries have healed.
3 - Mercedes
The last of the teams to finish with both drivers in the points, Mercedes seems to be just off the mark, out-paced and out-classed by Aston Martin and Red Bull, and still well behind Ferrari despite the team already having reliability issues.
Lewis Hamilton was on top within the team all weekend, with George Russell only coming off the better in qualifying, however, that didn't last long on Sunday with the seven-time World Champion in front after the opening corners.
The Bahrain Grand Prix did give Hamilton and Russell both the opportunity to showcase their skill and race sense, managing issues with the car and tyre degradation well, with Hamilton coming close to challenging Sainz for fourth while Russell was forced to settle for seventh behind Stroll.
4 - Alfa Romeo
Flying under the radar for most of the weekend, the Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu showed plenty of fire. Without the pace of the top teams, it was Bottas' experience that stood out qualifying in 12th, with Zhou right behind him in 13th.
Off the start, Bottas managed to sneak his way into eighth before the end of the first lap, while Zhou dropped four places into 17th. That was where the pair would remain for most of the race, both advancing in ranking due to the retirements of other cars, with Bottas holding off Gasly and the other drivers looking to sneak into the points.
In the dying moments of the race, Zhou took a risk pitting for soft tyres to chase the fastest lap, clocking in at 1:33.996, denying Gasly the fastest lap time and keeping Alfa Romeo ahead in the standings.
5 - Williams
Alex Albon said it best himself, Williams is looking like it is the second-most-improved team on the grid in 2023. That isn't to say the car is going to be competing with the top-order teams throughout the season however it may not be the expected 10th in the constructors' standings anymore.
Albon looked impressive in qualifying and even better in the race battling with Tsunoda and Gasly throughout the race, bursting into the points despite issues with the downforce of the car making it a less-than-comfortable race.
The best of the rookie drivers in Bahrain, Logan Sargeant just fell short at every turn, missing out on Q2 due to setting the exact same lap time as Norris, with the other driver winning the tiebreak by setting the time first. Additionally, the American was just shy of the points, finishing in P12 unable to get an extra lap in and take the challenge to Tsunoda and his teammate after he was unable to unlap himself from Verstappen.
6 - Ferrari
Ferrari has begun the 2023 season looking brilliant in patches and absolutely awful in others. Accused of sandbagging the whole way through winter testing and in the free practice sessions in Bahrain, the first signs of pace came in qualifying and they were still not quite there.
With the focus on the team's strategy calls, Ferrari seemed to make the right calls for most of the weekend, forgoing an extra qualifying run for Charles Leclerc, the Monagesque driver was able to start the race on fresh tyres and get the jump on Perez in the opening stint.
However, the Red Bull was still well out in front and Ferrari's reliability issues reared their head with Leclerc losing the engine on the 39th lap losing what was expected to be a guaranteed podium.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz was forced to pull out of his battle with Alonso, citing concerns he would not be able to finish the race if he continued the duel and settled for fourth.
7 - Alpine
The two Alpines could not have had more different experiences at the opening Grand Prix of the 2023 season, with Pierre Gasly far off the mark in qualifying, starting 20th on the grid while Esteban Ocon made it through to Q3 to start in ninth.
On Sunday it was a completely different story with Gasly looking comfortable in race conditions, taking a risk with his pitstops, performing an undercut on those ahead on his first two stops and maximising an opportunity on the virtual safety car to put on a fresh set of tyres until the end of the race to finish inside the points in ninth.
Ocon on the other hand had problems from the outset, picking up a five-second penalty for not lining up on the grid correctly, the Frenchman was handed penalty after penalty for continually failing to serve each penalty correctly.
In total Ocon received 20 seconds worth of penalties and was ultimately forced to retire the car on the 41st lap due to a mechanical issue.
8 - Alpha Tauri
Alpha Tauri didn't have a particularly good start to the Bahrain Grand Prix well off the pace in the free practice sessions, expectations were on the floor for the Red Bull sister team. 2However, it was Yuki Tsunoda who managed to escape the first round of qualifying cut-off but was not able to replicate the same pace in Q2.
On race day Tsunoda continued to outshine his teammate Nyck de Vries who was caught around the two Haas cars and couldn't find the opening for an overtake.
Just missing out on the points behind Albon in the Williams, 2023 marks the first time Tsunoda has finished outside of the points in his opening race of the season.
9 - Haas
If there was a team that struggled to find any consistency in Bahrain it was Haas, bouncing up and down in the standings throughout the free practice sessions, Niko Hulkenberg stunned by making it into Q3 after putting together an excellent lap.
However, when it came to race pace both Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were way off the pace, acting as the back marker for a large part of the race.
It was Magnussen that was the better of the two finishing in 13th while Hulkenberg crossed the line in 15th, both cars a lap down from the front of the pack.
10 - McLaren
In what can only be called a disaster class McLaren's opening weekend couldn't have looked much worse, struggling in single-lap pace throughout the free practice sessions and barely getting a car out of Q1, anyone that thought it could only get better from there was dead wrong.
McLaren's race didn't get off to a poor start however as the pitstop window opened the trouble started, Oscar Piastri called out over the team radio that he was having trouble with the gearbox and the team decided to switch steering wheels however, his debut race came to an end on the 13th lap due to the electrical issue.
Lando Norris' race wasn't much better, while the 23-year-old managed to make it to the chequered flag but the car struggled to the line, with Norris pitting six times throughout the race, finishing two laps down, in 17th.
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