Bahrain Grand Prix predictions: Ricciardo just warming up, Piastri persistent, but it's Mad Max's world
Just days away from the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of the year, I’ve had many conversations or even an arguments with other F1…
It was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when. Max Verstappen is the 2023 Formula One World Champion, and in winning his third consecutive title has joined the all-time greats of the sport.
But that wasn’t the only talking point from the Qatar Grand Prix over the weekend. There was a new winner. There were teammates crashing into each other. There was vomiting. There was a lot happening.
So with that in mind, let’s get to the latest edition of F1 talking points.
Ayrton Senna. Nelson Piquet. Niki Lauda. Jackie Stewart. Jack Brabham. And now, Max Verstappen.
Ladies and gentleman, presenting your three-time World Champion F1 club.
It was never in doubt that he would join it this year but for Verstappen, it’s icing on the cake on what has become a near perfect season for him. And what esteemed company he sits in.
Of course, for a variety of reasons, those five drivers never added to their tally of championships, and Verstappen most certainly will. He is only one away from joining Alain Prost & Sebastian Vettel as a four-time Champion, two away from joining Juan Manuel Fangio as a five-time champion, and of course four away from joining both Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton as a seven-time champion. Then more history could await him with even more.
Verstappen says he doesn’t care about records. He says he will quit when he’s done to pursue other goals. And if that’s the case, that’s fine. He will still go down in history among legends and as one of the greatest this sport has ever seen.
It’s always great to be able to witness history and greatness, and that’s something we are seeing right now with the Dutchman.
It’s always a case of young and upcoming drivers are ‘coming’, well in the case of Oscar Piastri, he has already arrived.
Given the hype on the Melbourne driver’s shoulders at the beginning of the year, many would call this expected. But given how he and the team started this year, it looked a long way away.
However now is the time in which Piastri is showing just why he was such a hot commodity last year, and why McLaren did everything they could to get him on board.
A Sprint Pole, Sprint win and second place in the main race all add to the already growing resume he is building in only his first year in F1. Which, in itself is incredible, as his presence and maturity really makes it feel like he is a seasoned veteran, not someone who only started in the sport 17 rounds ago.
While a proper win this year may not come his way, the seeds are there to show that it’s only a matter of time before Oscar Piastri joins Sir Jack Brabham, Alan Jones, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo as Formula 1 race winners.
Drivers vomiting in their cars, nearly passing out and having to retire due to severe dehydration. The 2023 Qatar Grand Prix will easily go down as the hardest race in the history of the sport.
We’ve seen tough conditions before. Malaysia was famous for its stifling humidity (something which this author experienced watching the race on several occasions) which often caused drivers to lose several kilograms during a race. Singapore too is also a tough one, as have past races in places such as Las Vegas and Dallas.
But Qatar this year was something else.
It was visible to see through several drivers immediately having to lay down after the race, their absolutely drenched faces in post-race interviews or through all the comments made after the race.
Given the 2022 Men’s World Cup was moved to December to the ‘coolest’ part of the year in Qatar for this exact reason, it’s baffling to thing that F1 somehow managed to allow this race to go ahead, particularly when next year the race will move to December to try and curb the issues around the heat.
Somehow F1 dodged a bullet with this race when it came to the safety of the drivers, and hopefully it’ll be a bullet that will never have to be dodged again.
The incident between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the opening lap definitely gave some strong vibes of the infamous incident between then Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.
Then, both Mercedes cars were battling for the lead of the race on the opening lap and both came together, with many to this day debating at who was to blame for the incident.
But in an incredible turn of events, there was no real infighting. No real negativity. No real levels of blame.
In fact it was all fairly straightforward, with Hamilton putting his hand up to accept blame, and even openly going to Russell to shake hands and hug it out.
What a difference seven years makes.
Perhaps it goes into the common perception that today’s F1 is a friendly, open world where all the drivers get along and accept blame far more quickly than ever before. Perhaps this is the world in which we have to get used to, in which rivalries aren’t as heated as they once were, particularly when it comes to teammates. Perhaps it’s just F1 in 2023.
Is that a good thing? Maybe. But one thing is for sure, there isn’t exactly the heat and spice that there once was in opposing Mercedes garages.
There is no doubting that Lance Stroll isn’t having the best second half of the season.
His recent string of Q1 exits, his failure to remain close to Fernando Alonso, and the overall lack of pace that Aston Martin has struggled with recently all add collective fuel to the fire of his struggles.
But once again, it always seems to be overly exaggerated tenfold when it comes to the criticism labelled against him.
An extra frustrating weekend for him in Qatar saw him visibly vent that anger and frustration after his Q1 exit, throwing his gloves in frustration as he exited the car and seemingly shoving his trainer out of the way as we went into the garage. Added to this was his very short and angry interview afterwards, all of which were received incredibly negatively by all and any F1 fan who will use any excuse to vent on the Canadian.
As always, if this was any other driver on the grid, nobody would say a thing. Alonso as an example has spent years being abrasive, angry and visibly showing all of that to the world whenever things are going against him, but he is celebrated. Max Verstappen too consistently showcases an emotional reaction when it comes to frustration on or off the track, but he is another who seems to escape the open criticism that Stroll receives.
Yes, I have been a public fanboi for Stroll over the years, but somebody has to be. He is in a slump right now and is struggling. And that is clearly weighing heavily on his shoulders and is showing that quite publicly, a fact that most people complain modern F1 drivers don’t do anymore.
In a day and age where acceptance is key and praised, how about we accept he is going through some struggles and support him to get better, rather than dumping on a driver who is in a bit of a form slump?
It’s time to get into the power rankings once more as we seemingly have the orange dominance in the sport in both the driver and constructor side of things.
Quick disclaimer as always. With any power rankings, these are subjective and based purely on opinion mixed with results. Are these 100 per cent accurate? Inside my mind, yes! Outside of it, no. But it’s a nice way to spark some discussion, showcase some form and allow a conversation that brings F1 fans closer together – and maybe also further apart at the same time.
Fun, right? Always! Here’s the top five ranked teams.
5. Alpine (-)
More points for the French team keeps them above Aston Martin on this list, as well as them being more consistent.
4. Mercedes (-)
Could’ve been much better had both cars finished the race, but still bringing home some solid points to hold off Ferrari for second in the Championship.
3. Ferrari (-1)
A missed opportunity to gain on Mercedes with Carlos Sainz not starting the race, but still consistent enough in both the sprint and main race.
2. McLaren (+1)
If only they had of had this form all season. Right now McLaren will easily pass Aston Martin for fourth in the Championship, but what else could they achieve? They’ve got five rounds to see.
1. Red Bull (-)
The first time they haven’t won both the sprint and main race in a sprint race weekend in 2023. But somehow the still leave happy.
Team rankings done, which means it’s time for the drivers. Just how will Oscar Piastri’s great weekend reflect his position on this list? It’s time to find out.
To make it extra interesting on the drivers front, rather than rank all 20 drivers on the grid, I have made it more streamlined and easier by simply bringing the top 5 drivers.
5. Charles Leclerc (-)
Was there and thereabouts and showed the pace of the Ferrari in Qatar. It was still some points for him and the team, which is all they could really ask for on the weekend.
4. George Russell (+3)
A good weekend for George. Could’ve won on Saturday had his tyres like him, and drove a good recovery on the Sunday after being hit by his teammate to finish fourth in the race.
3. Lando Norris (-1)
A double podium weekend for Lando, who continues to shine in this part of the season. Just has to do something about getting beaten by Australian drivers when it comes to winning races.
2. Oscar Piastri (+2)
A Sprint win and a second place. A brilliant weekend for the Australian. That debut main race win is only a matter of time.
1. Max Verstappen (-)
Would’ve won the sprint race had there been a couple more laps, Verstappen still leaves Qatar with another win and this time around, another World Championship. Another dominant performance by the Dutchman.
What do you think of these rankings? Do you agree with the positions? Let me know what you think in the comments.