Formula One's 2023 season began like a continuation of 2022, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull being in a league of one at the top and self-inflicted wounds for Ferrari. Yet there is one notable addition to the frontrunning pack this year thanks to Aston Martin building a mighty F1 car that means there's plenty to be excited about after the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen may have eased into his first win of the year, but Fernando Alonso was the standout driver who took all the headlines. The two-time world champion was back to his best in his first race with the Silverstone-based Aston Martin team. Alonso took the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari and beat them comfortably to score his first Round 1 podium since 2013.
However, it could've been an entirely different story for Alonso after a Lap 1 collision with his new teammate Lance Stroll. Stoll, back from a wrist injury just 12 days earlier, braked too late when battling the Mercedes drivers and smacked into the back of the sister Aston Martin at Turn 4. Fortuitously no damage befell either green machine, but they fell behind Lewis Hamilton and George Russell for the opening laps.
Elsewhere, a relatively standard race start saw Sergio Perez lose out to Ferrari's Charles Leclerc off the line to allow the Monegasque driver to sit behind polesitter Verstappen. Unfortunately for Ferrari, Perez's attempted defence also hampered their second car of Carlos Sainz, who had to settle for a familiar P4 placement behind the lead three.
The opening stint saw little action, and only when the pit stops began on Lap 10 did 2023's first overtakes come. As the lead Mercedes, Hamilton stopped for Pirelli's Hard compound on Lap 13 first, leaving Russell without DRS to keep Alonso at bay. The Spaniard edged alongside the Mercedes at Turn 4, and Alonso got past even with a spirited fightback from Russell.
That overtake was the first of several for Aston Martin's new driver, who next sized up Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas, whose early stop had undercut Alonso and Russell. Once he had despatched the Alfa, Alonso relentlessly began to hunt down Hamilton's P5, although a mid-race tyre management phase hampered progress.