After Red Bull blitzed the 2022 world championship, winning 17 of the 22 rounds, the other nine teams could be forgiven for keeping their fingers crossed over the winter that the champions would be caught by the pack for the start of the new season.
But from the first day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, there was an ominous sense that Red Bull had produced another formidable car for 2023. That was confirmed during the opening round of the season the following weekend, when the team locked out the front row in qualifying with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, then dominated the race, winning by over half a minute over Red Bull’s closest competitor – the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.
Such was the commanding nature of Red Bull’s victory, the dynamic of the entire season appears to have been transformed. As much as the likes of Ferrari’s Frederic Vasseur can stress that the championship is not over after one race, the reality is that Ferrari, Mercedes or even Aston Martin will need to make up ground on the champions quickly if anyone will have a realistic chance of challenging them for the titles this season.
Following Red Bull’s demolition of their rivals on Sunday, George Russell was among those to voice the view that the reigning world champions should win every race this year. No team has ever whitewashed a season before – the closest being McLaren, who won 15/16 races in 1988 (93.75%) – but do Red Bull really have a chance of achieving this unprecedented feat?
As RaceFans highlighted in yesterday’s stats and facts from the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, no team has won the opening race by as great a margin as Red Bull since McLaren lapped the entire grid in the first race of 1998. The question is, will anyone be able to make up that gap over the year to come?
Red Bull clearly enjoy a very strong car, a championship-worthy power unit, a double-world champion team mate leading the team and Perez looking as if he may be closer to his team mate on the basis on the first weekend. And the RB19 hasn’t looked close to suffering any reliability issues so far.
But whether Red Bull can be stopped this year is as much down to their rivals as it is the team themselves. And from what has been shown so far, it’s hard to see anyone making up that margin in a hurry.
Winning the opening race is one thing, winning both titles is another. But it’s a whole other level of difficulty to string together a perfect run of 23 consecutive victories –…
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