Formula 1 2023 is officially underway, with the pre-season test complete and the beginnings of a pecking order starting to show. As ever, any conclusions drawn from testing are premature and come with a massive asterisk. However, smiles and frustrations may tell a relatively reliable tale, so here's the outlook from three days in Bahrain.
The Big-Three Remain
Anyone hoping for a challenge to the long-established 'big-three' teams of Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari won't be happy. The trio again operated in their little championship away from the midfield rabble.
Last year's champions, Max Verstappen and Red Bull, serenely remain perched atop their ivory tower. No alarm bells rang, and rather worryingly for their competitors, Verstappen hailed his new car as "definitely an improvement to last year." You may recall that last year, the Red Bull RB18 won all but five of the races...
Ferrari is under new stewardship with Frederic Vasseur stepping in for Mattia Binotto and seems to have the same job as his predecessor — close in on the superior Red Bull. The speed trap data suggests Ferrari is more comparable to their Austrian rival in raw power this year, but will that carry over to lap times? Time, literally, will tell.
The all-British Lewis Hamilton and George Russell lineup remain at Mercedes for 2023. The now-black Silver Arrows didn't porpoise this year, which is an improvement on 2022. That's not to say they're back at full strength, though, and the consensus is that they're either at or just below Ferrari's pace at this early stage of the season.