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Preview | Can Verstappen add the Bahrain GP to his list?

Preview | Can Verstappen add the Bahrain GP to his list?

1 March - 07:00 Last update: 09:09

After more than three months of winter break, Formula 1 arrived in Bahrain at the end of February. The winter test was a preview for the start of the 2023 F1 season, which will also kick off at the Bahrain International Circuit. Max Verstappen appears to be the towering favourite ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, but will he be able to live up to his Red Bull Racing credentials or could someone surprise?

History of Bahrain GP

Formula 1 has been coming to Bahrain since 2004, hosting the first Middle Eastern Grand Prix that year. The race was initially held during the day, but has become an evening race since 2014. In 2014, an evening race was organised for the anniversary edition, but it was such a success that daytime racing was never repeated in Bahrain.

In 2020, the country was called upon twice to host a race. Apart from the Bahrain GP, there was also the Sakhir Grand Prix, for which a different circuit layout was used. For this, the shorter, lightning-fast outside track was used, providing lap times of under a minute.

Winners in Bahrain

Verstappen may have 15 races to his name in 2022, but the Bahrain GP was not one of them. The reigning World Champion has never won the race and will be only too happy to change that. Together with Red Bull Racing, Verstappen hopes to kick off the season with a win and thus make a stronger start than the year before.

Lewis Hamilton still has the highest number of wins to his name in Bahrain. The Mercedes driver won five times at the Bahrain International Circuit, followed by Sebastian Vettel with four and Fernando Alonso with three wins. The latest race winner is Charles Leclerc, who made a strong impression in the opening race of the season in 2022.

Bahrain International Circuit

Except for the Sakhir GP, every race in Bahrain so far has been held at the Bahrain International Circuit, designed by Hermann Tilke. Construction of the circuit began in 2002 and construction was completed in 2004, after which the track was put into use for the first time. The Bahrain International Circuit has everything an F1 circuit needs. There are long straights for overtaking, hard braking zones to outbrake a competitor, as well as fast and slow corner sections.

2022 Grand Prix

The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix immediately sent a strong message for the rest of the season. Verstappen and Leclerc fought an intense duel, but for Red Bull the race ended in drama. Both Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez crashed out in the closing stages of the race with the same technical problem, after which Ferrari cruised to a double victory with Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Formula 1 in 2023

While it is always difficult to make a prediction based on the winter test, it did show that Red Bull Racing looked very consistent. The Austrian racing stable looked fast, consistent and reliable. At the same time, probably no one has shown the back of their tongue yet. The test also went smoothly for Ferrari, less so for Mercedes.

However, it is never wise to single out Mercedes. The test may not have gone smoothly for the German racing team, but such a poor season as the team experienced in 2022 is unlikely. Toto Wolff fears that Red Bull's pace is currently unbeatable and it is quite possible that Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will have to look back at Aston Martin, which seems to have made great strides.

Weather forecast

As for the weather forecast, we should not expect anything crazy from the Bahrain Grand Prix. What the teams do have to take into account is the rising temperature during the weekend. According to the maximum temperature will be 24 degrees on Friday, where it will be 26 degrees on Saturday and up to 27 degrees on Sunday. It is also possible that the wind will pick up.

Forecast for the first race

The reigning constructors' champion Red Bull Racing looked rock solid during the winter test, which went virtually trouble-free for the team. The opening race is widely expected to be a battle between Red Bull and Ferrari like last year, although this time it is the Austrian team that seems to have an edge.

Whereas Ferrari excelled in qualifying last year, the Italian racing team has focused on race pace for 2023. Leclerc predicted that, as a result, the SF-23 would probably be faster on the straights, but instead struggle a bit more in the corners. In contrast, qualifying pace was actually a focus for Red Bull.

In addition, it will be seen to what extent Mercedes has some catching up to do. Toto Wolff's team did not make a rock-solid impression during the winter test, in which it struggled to find the right balance and Hamilton in particular seemed to struggle with the W14. Moreover, the second day of testing came to an early end for Russell, who had to stop his car with a hydraulic problem.

However, Mercedes has indicated that the start-up problems should be relatively easy to solve. It is therefore a matter of waiting to see whether the team manages to connect with the top during the first GP weekend, or whether it will have to compete with Aston Martin, which made a very strong impression during the winter test. For McLaren, things look less rosy for the time being: not only did Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri run into technical problems, the team also fell behind in terms of speed.

Where to watch the Bahrain GP?

Like last year, all F1 weekends this year can be seen on Sky Sports the UK. Besides that, Formula 1 in 2023 can also be followed again on F1TV for most countries around the world.

GPblog will be present at the Bahrain International Circuit, so you won't have to miss anything from all the action on and around the track here either. Each session can be followed via a liveblog, which will appear on the website one hour before the session starts. As usual, the website will also feature the reactions of all drivers, the results of the sessions and much more.

Timetable | Bahrain Grand Prix 2023 [UK times]


First free practice: 11:30-12:30

Second free practice: 15:00-16:00


Third free practice: 11:30-12:30

Qualifying: 15:00-16:00


Race: 15:00-17:00

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