The 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix took place on Sunday, March 5. Reigning (and back-to-back) Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen took first place by a comfortable margin, leading Sergio Pérez of Mexico by just under 12 seconds at the finish line.
Although Verstappen was born in Belgium, he competed under the Dutch flag. His parents, Jos and Sophie, were successful racers in their own right: his father competed in F1, while his mother was a champion at lower levels of the sport. His parents separated when he was young, and Verstappen lived with his father, who hails from the Netherlands. As such, he considers himself culturally Dutch.
The Middle Eastern circuit will continue in a couple of weeks. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is next held at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. It’s a night race, set to start at 8 pm local time on Sunday, March 19: 1 pm for viewers on the United States East Coast.
Verstappen won the race last year and is the overwhelming favourite to do it again, listed at or around -200 to win the 2023 race.
Odds can vary dramatically from sportsbook to sportsbook, especially in the rest of the field, so make sure to shop around at some of the best betting apps and find which lines could give you the biggest payoff.
A Look at Verstappen’s Greatness
The Red Bull driver is just 25 and well on his way to securing a place among racing’s all-time greats. Drivers don’t perform in a vacuum, of course: there wouldn’t be a Constructor’s Champion named each year if manufacturing didn’t play a massive role in creating a winner. Similarly, while drivers compete individually, racing is still a team sport. No racer would get far without their pit crew, making each champion the product of the sum of their parts.
Verstappen’s Red Bull crew deserves their laurels as a crucial part of his takeover of the sport. After their dominant showing at the Bahrain Grand Prix (Pèrez drives for Red Bull, too), British Mercedes driver George Russell suggested that the brand could run the table and win every F1 race this year, a feat never accomplished. Typically hope springs eternal as the season starts, as teams have the better part of a year to make up lost ground. It’s surprising that this isn’t the case, and it’s a testament to Red Bull’s dominance.
A Look at the Rest of the Field
The Bahrain Grand Prix wasn’t without controversy. Charles Leclerc of Monaco did not finish the race after engine trouble took his car out of the running after lap 39 on the 57-lap course.
Leclerc, who drives for Ferrari, came in second place on the Formula One leaderboard in 2022 and looked ready for another strong finish on Sunday: he was in third place before the engine trouble, likely prepared for another podium finish. Following the disappointing finish (or lack thereof), Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur said the team would conduct a thorough investigation to determine what caused the failure. Vasseur indicated that the issue was with one of the engine’s accessories rather than the engine itself. For instance, the team replaced the Energy Store and Control Electronics on the vehicle before the race, but he didn’t say whether those components had anything to do with the malfunction.
It’s been a difficult 15 years for one of the automotive world’s premier brands: despite leading the sport with 16 Constructor’s Championships as an engine manufacturer, they haven’t won the award since 2008, just four years after groups like Red Bull (who along with Mercedes have dominated F1 since 2010) got their start as a works team.
Leclerc will have an early pitfall to recover from if he wants to overtake Verstappen.
Leclerc’s struggles weren’t the only manufacturing issue that plagued Ferrari in Bahrain. Carlos Sainz Jr. saw his tires degrade toward the end of the race, slowing him down on the way to a fourth-place finish. He finished less than ten seconds behind Fernando Alonso, so the issue could’ve prevented Ferrari from making the podium.
Ferrari hired Vasseur after ousting head man Maria Binnoto, who held the position from 2019 to 2022. Binnoto said the team threw him under the bus as the reason for their struggles, something they ostensibly looked to Vasseur to fix: he didn’t shy from outlining the efforts his new team faces, but he’ll have a lot of work to do to restore the brand to its former glory.
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