Red Bull Is Streets Ahead—But Behind It’s Close
Last year it was Max Verstappen who triumphed, and judging by the 2023 form guide it would be quite a shock if it wasn’t the reigning champion or teammate Sergio Perez atop the podium.
While Red Bull hasn’t had it all its own way in qualifying, in race trim it has, as the team has won all four of the opening grands prix–and three of them have been 1-2 finishes. The margin to the next-best team in those three races has been over 20 seconds. It has led 200 of this year’s 217 racing laps. It is unlikely that this season is going to be a nail-biter up front.
Directly behind Red Bull the contest has been intriguing.
Aston Martin has twice prevailed, Mercedes once, and Ferrari once, with the battle between the three iconic manufacturers set to roll on.
Red Bull has scampered into the distance on 180 points but Aston Martin is on 87, Mercedes 76, and Ferrari 62. Each car has had its strengths and weaknesses, with the positions decided by slender margins.
“In Bahrain [Ferrari] had very strong qualifying, then we had better (tire) degradation [in the race],” said Alonso. “In Jeddah Charles [Leclerc] was in the first row of the grid but had the penalty, in Australia Mercedes they were fast—and also Ferrari—and then in Jeddah Charles was quite fast.
“It has been always very, very tight—within one or two tenths from each other—and maybe [Ferrari] arrives a bit better on Saturdays, we arrive a bit better Sunday.
“If we didn’t have the Red Bulls that much ahead, I think it’s a very interesting fight with three or four teams in one or two tenths.”
Mercedes’ George Russell is another driver enamored by the close fight between the trio of teams.
“The competition at the moment between us, Aston Martin, and Ferrari—every race we go to it’s really close between us in qualifying, the pace is close in the race,” said Russell.
“It would probably be one of the most exciting seasons we’ve seen in a long time so it’s a shame they’re [Red Bull] out in front! Maybe forget about those two and watch the race for P3!”
Aston Martin holds second in the standings, with Alonso best-of-the-rest in the points, with three podiums from four events. Mercedes and Ferrari are planning to begin heavily updating their respective packages from the next round in Emilia Romagna, but that doesn’t unduly concern Alonso.
“We have scheduled some upgrades that you will see from time to time in the year, but I don't know, for us it’s just a gift, where we are,” said Alonso. “We didn’t expect to be in this position. So we just race every Sunday calmly, without pressure, and if we can still outscore them on Sunday, that’s good news. If we can’t, because we cannot follow their progress that they are making, we will prepare for 2024 for the best way possible.
“We are growing as a team. We are in a position that we didn’t expect with a very fast car. And we are trying to make the team strong in all the other areas where we are still not maybe at the at the highest level."
Elsewhere on Thursday, the new Team Village received a positive reception, with team hospitality units now placed on the field in the center of the Hard Rock Stadium, creating a focal point for the paddock.
The full resurfacing of the track got the thumbs-up, while eyes will be on the weather radar amid current forecasts that rain could intervene on Sunday.