How Fernando Alonso could win the Bahrain GP

Here are all of the key strategy options to consider for the season-opening 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix and how Fernando Alonso could still win on pure pace if things fall his way


Fernando Alonso will start fifth for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, which many fans were slightly disappointed by after they thought there was a chance he could start on the front row of the grid.

Alonso topped FP2 and FP3 in Sakhir so the Aston Martin hype train was seriously chugging along going into qualifying.

Ahead of Alonso is the Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, with Max Verstappen heading a Red Bull front row lockout from Sergio Perez.

On paper, Verstappen should cruise to victory at the season-opening Formula 1 race, but there is still a chance Alonso could give Red Bull problems.

Aston Martin long run pace makes Alonso a big threat

If Ferrari‘s fears about high tyre degradation come true, Alonso will be the biggest threat to Red Bull.

In pre-season testing, he had the fastest full race simulation and on Friday, during the long runs on the soft tyre in FP2, Alonso and Verstappen both averaged a 1:37.2.

Ferrari and Mercedes were a few tenths behind per lap, but they may be closer come Sunday given their improvements since FP2.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull during qualifying ahead of 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Realistically, if Verstappen is leading after Lap 1, he should comfortably win. However, if he’s not, Alonso could do something spectacular.

Just think, if Perez or Leclerc are in first place, then the pace might not be that fierce at the front, so we might have a six or seven-car train during the first stint.

If Alonso remains fifth, or makes one of his demon starts to move up the order, he will be nicely placed and an aggressive strategy could see him jump a car or two.

The undercut in Bahrain is very powerful as we have seen drivers gain 2-3 seconds from one flying outlap compared to their rival on old tyres on an inlap, in recent years.

It will be a two-stop race, so an early pit stop from Alonso onto the soft tyres for the second stint could put him right into play. Again, this all relies on Verstappen or the lead car not being too far up the road.

“The whole weekend has been very good for us so far and we are very happy to be starting inside the top five for the first race tomorrow,” said Alonso.

“Last year the team found itself out of Q1 and now we are lining up fifth on the grid. Everyone in the team has done an amazing job and this is a strong baseline to build upon as we start the season.

“We shall see what tomorrow brings, but we have been competitive in all the sessions and we are starting close to the podium positions. If there is an opportunity there for the taking, then we will look to capitalise on it.”

Bahrain GP strategy choices

The front-runners will almost certainly start on the soft tyres to get a good launch and so they can go on the attack on the opening laps. Remember, the free starting tyre choice rule remains for 2023.

Pirelli have changed the C1 compound over the winter, following complaints that last year’s C1 was not performing well enough. This was shown when the teams largely avoided it.

Fast forward to now, and the C1 has been excellent on all cars with good durability and enough pace to make it a strong race tyre.

Instead, it’s the C2 compound which appears to be the weak link, although Red Bull have two new sets of the medium, so may use it at some point during the race.

Depending on how confident the teams are with their tyre wear we should see one of the following options being used:

  • Soft-Hard-Hard
  • Soft-Soft-Hard
  • Soft-Hard-Soft

In Red Bull‘s case, they may have noticed their car favours the mediums because both Verstappen and Perez have just one new set of hard tyres.

Will Leclerc’s new soft tyres be enough of a benefit?

A talking point from qualifying was Leclerc opting to save a set of soft tyres for the race, with the Monegasque admitting pole position may have been possible, had he completed a second run in Q3.

This was a defensive move from Ferrari as it shows they are aware Leclerc won’t be able to beat the Red Bulls on Sunday anyway, so have conceded some track position, and will be fighting to keep Alonso and the Mercedes behind.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of Red Bull (R) and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari (L) after 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

It will give him a minor advantage but won’t eradicate any tyre degradation problems Ferrari have.

As for Mercedes, they tend to improve on Sundays compared to qualifying so it really could be a five-way fight for third place, if not more, should Red Bull not execute the perfect race strategically.

“I thought today may be worse than it ended up being,” said Hamilton. “We did some great work overnight and the car felt much better in FP3.

“Overall, Qualifying was OK. I thought we might struggle to get into Q3 yesterday, but we didn’t. We were in a fight.

“We don’t know if we have the same race pace that we showed last year but I’m hoping we can be in the fight amongst the group behind Red Bull. It’s really all going to depend on what our long-run pace is like.

“I am genuinely happy for Aston Martin. It’s amazing to see their progress and the steps that they have taken. I am happy for Fernando as he’s been here way longer than me so it’s good to have him back in the mix! I’m sure we will have some good races.”

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
- Advertisment -


Max Verstappen in the Paddock ahead of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Betting Odds for Chinese GP 2024

As the Formula 1 circus rolls into Shanghai for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, betting odds are keenly watched...
Pierre Gasly of Red Bull Racing during practice for 2019 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Chinese GP 2024 Weather: Latest forecast for F1 race in Shanghai

As Formula 1 teams gear up for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, all eyes are on the ever-changing weather...
Zhou Guanyu displays 2024 Chinese GP helmet

All the new F1 driver helmets for 2024 Chinese Grand Prix

Formula 1 finally returns to Shanghai for the first time since 2019 as the Chinese Grand Prix is back...
Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull leads Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and the rest of the field at the start of the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Chinese Grand Prix – Past Winners

The Chinese Grand Prix has showcased a series of spectacular races since its first race in 2004 at the...

Where to Watch F1 2024 Chinese GP on TV and Streaming

The 2024 Chinese Grand Prix is gearing up to be an electrifying event in the Formula 1 calendar, as...
The Chinese GP returned to the calendar in 2024 | Dan Istitene / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Unpredictability and unknowns are the Chinese GP buzzwords

The Chinese Grand Prix is back for 2024 after five years away due the Covid-19 pandemic and it almost...
Race winner Max Verstappen, Second placed Sergio Perez and Third placed Carlos Sainz of Ferrari celebrate with Craig Dear, Principal Aerodynamicist at Red Bull Racing on the podium at 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Carlos Sainz fuels Red Bull talk as Ferrari star reveals ‘best options’

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has dropped a hint over which Formula 1 team he would like to join for...
The Chinese GP is held in Shanghai. F1/X

F1 stars voice safety fears as Chinese GP organisers face scrutiny over painted track

Organisers for the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix are facing questions from F1 teams and drivers over their...
Alexander Albon of Williams during 2023 Canadian Grand Prix | Williams F1 Team

Alex Albon would rather ‘stay at home’ than avoid risks despite Williams chassis fears

The extent of the issues at Williams became apparent when they revealed they do not have the resources to...
Lando Norris navigates The Strip Circuit at the 2023 Las Vegas GP | McLaren F1 Team

Disheartened Lando Norris rules out any chance of an F1 race win soon

After the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, a Formula 1 win for Lando Norris felt like an eventual inevitability, but...
- Advertisment -