The words of praise for Fernando Alonso begin to run out after another sample of his mastery behind the wheel to start fifth, just behind Carlos Sainzin the first race of the 2023 Formula 1 World Cup. Bahrain Grand Prix (4:00 p.m.)in which the Red Bulls, and especially the reigning champion Max Verstappen, dominated like last year, at least until qualifying, however promises to be the beginning of a ‘total war’ for the throne of world motorsportstarring four teams and two Spanish pilots.
The first round takes place this Sunday, and the grid could not be hotter. Even if it runs at night in the middle of the desert, the temperature will only increase in the 57 laps how long does the race last Sakhir track (5’412km), and is not for less. It had been years, decades, that there were not up to seven drivers, which is said soon, with fairly realistic options of winning the first Grand Prix of the season.
The Red Bull have ‘hijacked’ the front row of the gridwith Commander-in-Chief Verstappen on pole seconded by a squire, Sergio Pérez, who threatens to rebel from the beginning against the status quo in the Austrian team. His dominance seems unbreakable, especially that of ‘Mad Max’, and there only seems to be one man, as locals and strangers comment in the paddock, who can challenge him and stop him this Sunday.
And not, It is not about Charles Leclerc, not even Carlos Sainz, who start third and fourth. Second line conquered by Ferrari, endorsing that they are the main ‘rival’ of Red Bull, but with problems all weekend… and those that remain to come. The ‘prancing horse’ suffers a abysmal tire degradation regarding the Red Bull, and himself Helmut Marko has ruled them out as a threat to his hypothetical victory. Even so, Sainz was penalized in his two attempts, and Leclerc barely enjoyed one, so they could find some solution in their career strategy to assault the ‘red bulls’, compensating for the great loss in their tires.
At the opposite pole, right behind them, and leaving on the clean part of the track, that man we were talking about appears, or rather a magician behind the wheel. The start has always been one of Fernando Alonso’s strengths (Montmelo, 2013), and he hopes to make an art of that kind that will raise him to a position close to the Red Bull. Aston Martin is in the antipodes of Ferrari in terms of degradation, being the The only car capable of matching and improving the values of Red Bull in that sense. In fact, he has shown in long runs to ‘suffer’ from negative degradation: each lap it turns faster, compensating for the loss of tire with that of gasoline.
In those long runs, the surprising AMR23 traced the times, in the hands of Alonso, of Verstappen himself, who put six tenths in the classification. The race will be another completely different story, and at Red Bull they know it, because in addition to race pace and degradation, Aston Martin has another ace up its sleeve: they are the vehicle with best grid downforceand those who best take advantage of the medium and slow corners.
if they succeed compensate for Red Bull’s top speed and fast corner, the battle is more than served, although no one should of course forget Ferrari, nor Mercedes either. Aston Martin has beaten them at the first exchange, being motorized by the German manufacturer, and they will seek to recover lost ground. Always They are the ones who hide the most, and they are the great unknown of the race on Sunday, especially a Hamilton uncomfortable with his new Mercedes, so much so that he finished behind Russell.
Red Bull and Ferrari have one more set of new soft tires to his credit, and logically overtaking in Sakhir, although it is possible, this year it is not so easy due to the reduction of DRS zones. Even so, and despite this negative differential in top speed, overtaking is another art that Alonso masters to perfection, and he will have his best opportunities coming out of turn 2, and the last corner of the circuitobviously beyond the exit.
The time for speculating, rumouring, testing or seeking to square the circle is over. Has arrived the moment of truth, and regrets, hope or frustration are useless. Now, it only serves to take action, to demonstrate the potential of each one, and that is the reason why Fernando Alonso smiles. Drive again a powerful, fast, easy to drive, competitive car… and with much room for improvement.
Alonso knows that this Sunday, if he manages to pass to the Ferrari (Let’s hope Sainz also joins the battle for victory), the podium and the fight for victory are his, and nothing and no one can deny him this time. But above all, he knows that this is the first battle, and that he can finally go to the war of the 23 races, to the war for victories and podiums, and who knows… the war for the world championship. The traffic light goes out, the engines roar… The 2023 Formula 1 World Cup begins.