Everyone bar hard-shod Kevin Magnussen (P15) began the race on soft tyres, and Verstappen had a solid getaway, but teammate Perez fell back and lost second place to Leclerc – while Carlos Sainz couldn’t quite pry P3 off the Red Bull. The reigning champion stretched his legs in the lead and eventually won by over 10 seconds. Perez completed the one-two with both Red Bull drivers on similar soft-soft-hard strategies.
Aston Martin’s hopes of crashing the podium fight seemed to have come crashing down on Lap 1 when Lance Stroll lunged on teammate Alonso into Turn 4 and hit the rear-right of his car, allowing both Mercedes ahead.
Ferrari’s hopes of the podium did, however, come crashing down on Lap 41 when Leclerc retired with an engine issue. That was just after Alonso made a brilliant move to take P5 off Lewis Hamilton down the inside of Turn 10. Alonso went on the warpath, and on Lap 45, he passed Sainz after a stunning battle through Sector 2 to seal his first podium since Qatar 2021.
Therefore, Sainz settled for fourth, fending off a brief attack from Hamilton, who ended up fifth on the board. As for Stroll, he was perhaps relieved not to get a penalty for hitting his teammate on Lap 1 and perhaps more relieved to see Alonso finish on the podium. The Canadian made an admirable recovery from his wrist injury, however, and finished sixth between the Mercedes – as George Russell was undercut by the Aston Martin in the second pit stop and finished seventh.
Valtteri Bottas capitalised on poor starts for his rivals and finished a solid eighth for Alfa Romeo, while Pierre Gasly recovered from P20 for Alpine, pitting three times, to finish ninth. Alex Albon finished 10th for Williams after a great start, while Yuki Tsunoda narrowly missed the final point in his AlphaTauri.
Rookie Logan Sargeant battled with Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu to take 12th on debut. At the same time, Zhou pitted on the penultimate lap of the race to promote Kevin Magnussen – whose hard-hard-soft gambit didn’t yield points – to P13.
Nyck de Vries took P14 on his AlphaTauri debut, leaving Nico Hulkenberg 15th with a five-second penalty. Zhou was classified 16th for Alfa Romeo, and Lando Norris endured a tough race, a slow pit stop seeing him barrel down the order. A last-lap pit stop for softs saw the McLaren driver round out the standings.
Esteban Ocon had a calamitous start to the season for Alpine, copping a five-second penalty for lining up on his grid slot incorrectly, a further 10-second penalty for serving that penalty incorrectly, and another five seconds for speeding in the pit lane. Alpine decided to retire him late on.
Leclerc was incredulous when he retired on Lap 41, and Oscar Piastri’s debut ended after just 13 laps when he pulled into the McLaren pits with an electrical issue.
Meanwhile, Alonso was jubilant to take his first podium in over a year.
And it was a perfect start to 2023 for Red Bull – but things can change. Just last year, both Red Bulls retired from the season’s opening race of the season…