On Sunday, Max Verstappen took victory in the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix at the ninth time of asking while Red Bull picked up a one-two thanks to Sergio Perez – and the reigning champion was clearly elated at his winning start.
Verstappen led from lights out, swapping his starting set of softs for another set on Lap 14 before switching to hards on Lap 36, to win the Bahrain Grand Prix by 11 seconds over team mate Perez. The two-time champion never looked threatened for the lead, and now has 25 points to his tally as he seeks a third title.
“This is exactly what we were dreaming of and what we wanted to achieve, so yeah, great day for the whole team,” said Verstappen. “It has been a great start for us, for the whole team, so this is not something we are used to. We are very happy at the moment, but we always keep working.
“I think for me, the first stint was the most important, where I could pull a gap. Once we had the gap it was just about making sure we could do our stint plan. And that worked out well.
2023 Bahrain Grand Prix: Verstappen crosses the line to seal dominant victory in season opener
“I think also, the car was working on every [tyre] compound we put on the car, so it looked a bit of course lonely out there, but there was still a lot of things to look at, or fine-tune, but overall I’m very happy to win here.”
Verstappen had more reasons to smile given Red Bull suffered a double-DNF in last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari took a one-two to begin the season with a perfect start – and this year it was Charles Leclerc who dropped out of the running from P3 as Red Bull claimed maximum points (bar the fastest lap).
“Last year was very disappointing of course… and I do think our mentality has also changed a bit compared to a few years ago, in terms of how we are operating and how we are developing a car,” said Verstappen as he looked back to last year’s season opener.
“It’s great to finally have a car which is able to win from the start – and it also helps that the car is not so overweight, it’s perfectly fine now. This is a great start, but we also know that throughout the season you have to keep developing. Of course, we are on that, but we hope that’s hoping to be more than the other teams because you have to keep that advantage going.”
Saudi Arabia hosts the second round of the season on March 17-19 – and Verstappen said he expected the other teams to be closer to Red Bull at Jeddah.
“Well, Saudi is a different track to this one. You have a lot more straights, fast corners, and a lot less deg. So I think here we were particularly good on deg – so I do expect on race pace that everyone is closer in Jeddah,” he commented.