In Q1 for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the entire field was covered by just 1.2s, with the teams outside last year’s top five all making vast improvements compared to their 2022 form.
Verstappen thinks the more competitive field is because several teams have either taken design cues from Red Bull’s leading 2022 package or from Ferrari’s concept, which also proved competitive for large spells of last season.
Aston Martin’s third place in Bahrain with Fernando Alonso – in a AMR23 that went down the same avenue as Red Bull’s 2022 design – prompted comments from team advisor Helmut Marko that it was nice to see “three Red Bulls on the podium”.
“It’s not really a surprise,” Verstappen said about 2023’s closed-up grid. “If you look at most of the cars, they all copied each other, so everyone is getting smarter over the years anyway with the same regulations.
“And if you see that one car, particularly, is doing quite well over a year, you’ll try to copy some things and that’s why naturally everyone is getting closer and in general understanding the car bit better.”
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin Racing AMR23
Photo by: Erik Junius
F1’s more restrictive rules package and the first effects of the budget cap have also been credited for closing up the grid. When asked if his Bahrain podium was the ultimate proof that the new regulations are having their intended effect, Alonso said most of the credit should go to his Aston Martin team instead.
“I don’t think so, no,” he replied. “I think you need to have the vision and the ambition of Lawrence Stroll, or our leadership and our management.
“Because the opportunities are there for everybody but it seems that only one team is willing to do whatever it takes to win. And I’m proud to be part of this organisation.”
Verstappen agreed with the Spaniard, and said: “It doesn’t matter if it was the previous generation [of rules] or this one.
“If you have the right people in charge and they really want to win and they hire the right people, anything is possible.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Photo by: Erik Junius
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc welcomed the more competitive nature of the grid, because it means there is less room for mistakes in qualifying.
“It seems that we are all closer, which I think is great,” he said. “It’s more exciting in qualifying sessions like Q1 and Q2, which for the top teams, whenever we had that big margin, we could do a little bit of…
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