The 2023 Bahrain Formula 1 GP looked as if was just going to be a continuation of last year. Red Bull's 2022 world champion Max Verstappen started in pole position as always and never looked back, cruising to an easy win. It looked almost exactly like every race from 2022 and every non-Red Bull fan had every excuse to fall asleep. However, Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso decided to wake everyone up by absolutely steeling the show in the second half of the race to secure a podium finish.
For almost the entire first half of the race, it seemed like a one, two, three finish—of Max Verstappen, Red Bull's Sergio Perez, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc—was inevitable. Too many times last year, we were previewed the end result before the halfway mark, making the rest of each race a snooze-fest. But Alonso, driving Aston Martin's new and improved car, wasn't ready to let that happen.
In lap 37, with twenty laps to go, Alonso started making moves. From sixth place, he began to challenge seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for fifth place. One lap, and a few brilliant moves later, Alonso was ahead of Hamilton. That only left Ferrari's Carlos Sainz (fourth), Leclerc (third), Perez (second), and Verstappen (first) ahead of him.
Brilliant, veteran driving kept Alonso on Sainz's tail when he caught a lucky break. As it did so often last year, Leclerc's car failed him as his engine cut out completely, putting him out of the race in lap 41. That put Sainz in third and Alonso right behind him, within striking distance of a podium finish.
Once that happened, it was like blood was in the water and Alonso began to attack Sainz. Eventually, his expert driving was able to outmaneuver Sainz for third place, which made the crowd go wild. A shot of the Aston Martin garage showed a pit crew celebrating as if they'd just won the whole season. Last year, Aston Martin was nothing more than a middling team, racing for mid-pack points at best. But after Alonso passed Sainz, not only was a podium finish within in reach but also something much more than that—hope. Hope for a better season, one in which Aston Martin could challenge the top three teams. But we as fans also gained some hope that this new season might not be filled with the same monotony of last year.
Alonso continued to extend his lead on Sainz for the remainder of the race, seemingly doing so with ease. At one point, he was heard over the radio asking how his teammate Lance Stroll—who was racing shortly after having wrist surgery—was doing. Alonso was also clearly feeling good about his new ride, telling his crew "This is a lovely car to drive."
The 2023 Bahrain F1 GP ended with a predictable 1-2 finish of Verstappen and Perez. Team Red Bull dominated as they always do. However, Fernando Alonso's third place finish is hopefully a sign of things to come. If Aston Martin can become a genuine challenger, pressuring Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes, we're going to be in for a great season.
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