Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, Sunday, 05.03.2023
The long wait is finally over. Formula 1 starts its 74th season this weekend in Bahrain. The balance of power has shifted
At least according to the bookmakers, who see Max Verstappen as the hottest contender for the title in Formula 1 World Championship betting, with odds of around 1.61.
The value is also not very high when it comes to Grand Prix victories. Based on the 15 races won last year, the bookies offer odds of around 1.50 for 10 or more race wins by Verstappen.
The competition, on the other hand, is relatively cautious when it comes to season predictions. But the tests did offer a few surprises. That’s why I’m predicting different teams in the fight for the midfield places this season than last year.
Nevertheless, the title will once again be decided among the big three.
In my Bahrain GP prediction, you can read why I still expect Verstappen to take a commanding victory in the opening race in my preview.
This year, too, Red Bull seems to be the measure of all things with the new old world champion Max Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez.
At the latest after the tests last weekend, everyone involved was certain – Red Bull is by far the big favourite for the title.
George Russell, who is given little chance of winning the Bahrain GP alongside Hamilton with odds in double figures, sees Red Bull “in a league of their own” this weekend.
According to Leclerc, Ferrari have been able to eliminate a major deficit. However, for more top speed on the straights, the SF-23 will lose speed in the corners.
In addition, tyre wear will be a defining issue for the Italians again this season. This was already evident during the test days, where Ferrari, in contrast to the Red Bulls, was at a disadvantage in terms of tyre management.
However, fast tyre wear also means that Leclerc and co. can get their Pirellis up to temperature quickly, which in turn could give them the advantage on a lap.
Mercedes sees itself just as little in the role of favourite for the new season. The team was able to solve the bouncing problem, but the test drives do not inspire much optimism in Hamilton and Russell.
Even before the start of the season, the gap to Red Bull is still far too large to make any serious claims to the title.
However, Mercedes surprised on Thursday before the first race weekend with a change of tactical nature.
With a new low down force wing and new baffles on the sides, the Silver Arrows hope to improve aerodynamics.
But similar to many other teams, the prognosis for the Mercedes drivers is rather cautious. We will only know where we stand after the weekend.
But it is a fact that Mercedes will fall behind Ferrari and Red Bull again this season if they don’t get their problems under control.
Last season, the Mercedes came closer to the podium more often through failures of the two top teams than through their own performance.
However, it can be assumed that both Silver Arrows will finish in the points and is also rewarded with moderate odds of around 1.50 at Betano Sportwetten.
Aston Martin will also be competing for points in the World Championship. Even if the big surprise of the test drives was not necessarily the top placings.
Rather, it was the consistency and speed, especially in the long runs, which were not to be expected after last season.
The disappointment of the test days, on the other hand, was the McLarens. According to Lando Norris, the development goals were not achieved.
Nevertheless, the Briton is positive that the traditional racing team does not have to struggle with the last places. A fight for fourth place in the constructors’ championship can also be ruled out, at least for the time being.
The last 5 races at the Bahrain International Circuit:
It is also highly likely that Lewis Hamilton will win the race. The seven-time world champion holds the record with five wins at the Bahrain International Circuit, but my guess is that he won’t be competing for the first places.
This is quite different from Verstappen, who has never won a race in Bahrain and will be battling it out with the Ferraris for victory.
The Scuderia, on the other hand, has good memories of this circuit, at least from last year.
Leclerc and Sainz started the season with a double victory. For a similar starting position, they would need a top performance in qualifying on Saturday.
Conclusion: I’m relatively sure in the first race of the season that Verstappen will take the win. The car looks the most balanced and has the best pace.
Mercedes will have to see how well the new wing works and Ferrari will have to see how much the set-up changes affect their speed on the long runs and on the straights.
The big unknown will remain Aston Martin. The team around former champion Fernando Alonso showed very solid performances and will definitely fight for the top positions.
Ultimately, however, I believe that Verstappen will take pole this weekend, especially in QF, even though it was often the other way round last season and Ferrari were often in a better position.
My tip: Pole Verstappen