Several teams talk frequently about their plan to win big prizes or titles again in the medium term, but it is easier said than done. Alpine sets the goal at one hundred races and McLaren, who has already spent the engine change wild card, has been mentioning for several seasons the construction of a wind tunnel that will return them to the map. At Aston Martin they have later jumped on the bandwagon of optimists thanks to the impulse of the British firm, the construction of a new factory and renowned signings for the technical team (Dan Fallows, Eric Blandin) or the ‘cockpit’ (Fernando Alonso ). With the numbers in hand after the first race of this season, the Silverstone project is progressing well: no one has improved as much between Abu Dhabi 2022 and Bahrain 2023.
The comparison between the last classification of last year and the first of this year yields several conclusions. In order: Red Bull and Ferrari are separated by a disadvantage very similar to the one that closed 2022 at Yas Marina, so it can be said that both teams have progressed in parallel when facing the slight change in height in the single-seaters. The SF-23 of Leclerc and Sainz is three tenths behind the RB19 of Verstappen and Pérez. How was it.
Just behind, Aston Martin is 0.6 behind Red Bull; when in Q3 in Abu Dhabi, Vettel said goodbye to 1.1 seconds behind the Dutchman. The improvement is 0.509 seconds, a progress that has few precedents in Formula 1 and to which only Williams approaches, but for very different reasons: those from Oxford were last and continue to be last, but they have reduced the gap by almost half a second. Meanwhile, at Aston Martin they have gone from having the sixth car at one lap to enjoying the third with the AMR23. And that is in the race when Alonso’s car, also third in the Bahrain GP, shows all his strengths.
Mercedes holds on, McLaren crashes
Mercedes is still on ‘standby’, they recover half a tenth with a W14 that does not convince Hamilton. There is already talk of a new aerodynamic package that is expected to arrive in Baku and where they will review the concept and sidepods. Haas recovers three tenths that can also be attributed to the new Ferrari engine, more reliable (in theory) and just as powerful. AND Alpine saves another couple of tenths that would stand out more if a direct rival had not suddenly entered the fight for the podiums. Interestingly, Haas had the fifth fastest car to one lap at Sakhir thanks to Hulkenberg’s time trial in Q2. Ocon started ahead, but did not lower the record in Q3.
On the other side, those who lose ground: tenth and a half from Alfa Romeo (very discreet on his Saturday in Bahrain despite Bottas’ 12th) and almost three from Alpha Tauri. But the worrying data is signed by McLaren: they give up more than seven tenths when going from the fourth car in Abu Dhabi (0.9 behind Red Bull) to seventh in Bahrain (1.6 seconds behind the head). This week F1 visits Saudi Arabia and the grand prix will offer more data to complete the analysis on a circuit with a very different configuration of straights and fast corners from Sakhir. But the first competition kilometers of 2023 already have surprises and disappointments for the start of the season.