The first race of the highly anticipated 2023 Formula 1 season is in the books and it threw up a few surprises with some teams improving on last season, while others have seemingly gone backwards.
Not so much at the front as Max Verstappen led a dominant Red Bull one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but behind there were some changes to the pecking order as teams adjusted to the second year of the much-changed regulations introduced for the 2022 season.
Fernando Alonso confirmed the Aston Martin testing pace was no joke en route to stealing a late podium from Carlos Sainz and Ferrari, while Mercedes chief Toto Wolff described the action in Sakhir as “one of our worst days in racing.”
But was it that bad? And just how much time has been gained or lost by all 10 teams compared to their competition and this same juncture last year? Let’s take a closer look…
There will always be some discrepancies but conditions were roughly the same in 2022 compared to 2023 when drivers battled it out across a single lap at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The grid for Sunday’s race was wildly different, however, so to make the fairest comparison, we’ll be using like-for-like times based on the section of qualifying each team made it through to.
For example, neither Aston Martin driver made it into Q2 in 2022 so it would be unfair to judge that against Alonso‘s Q3 lap this year.
With that in mind, here is how each team ranks in terms of lap time gained in 2023 under qualifying conditions.
How much has each F1 team improved in 2023?
- Aston Martin: -1.619s
- Williams: -1.265s
- Alpine: -1.211s
- Red Bull: -0.973s
- Mercedes: -0.898s
- Haas: -0.652s
- McLaren: -0.627s
- Ferrari: -0.558s
- Alfa Romeo: -0.274s
- AlphaTauri: +0.875s
As can be seen, all but AlphaTauri picked up time and it’ll come as no surprise to see Aston Martin top the pile. In fact, the gap would have been well over two seconds had we used Alonso‘s Q3 lap.
Even Mercedes, who have already seen enough this year to abandon the ‘zero-sidepod’ design concept, picked up the best part of a second.
Interestingly, Ferrari-powered cars all ranked in the bottom half, which could well be a cause for concern at Maranello HQ.
Elsewhere, Williams will be encouraged by what they saw, as will Alpine, although their race turned into a bit of a nightmare, especially for Esteban Ocon.
Although it was fairly processional come Sunday out front for Verstappen, this should give fans hope that, at the very least, we may yet see plenty of titanic tussles on Saturday.