Twelve months ago we thought we could see another intense title fight between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc but in the following 22 races the Austrian side completely dominated the season by scoring 18 race wins: we are witnessing the dawn of a new era, the second Red Bull era of dominance in the last fifteen years after the four-year period between 2010 and 2013? It would seem so.
The RB19 managed to adapt perfectly designed and meet all the demands of the two circuits. On Sunday, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari only saw the cars from Milton Keynes in the first laps: the hope of seeing a battle that could last the entire Formula 1 world championship like in 2021 seems to have already vanished even after completing just the 10% of the season.
In the first two races, Red Bull proved to have an average lead of 7 tenths over Aston Martin, 8 tenths over Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari on two diametrically opposed tracks: from the aggressive asphalt of Bahrain, a track that requires load and traction, to the extremely smooth asphalt of Jeddah, a street circuit where efficiency is essential to win: in particular last Sunday nobody got close to the English single-seater in any section of the track.
Data analysis: Ferrari does not improve in Jeddah while Aston Martin have gained 9 tenths on Red Bull in 4 months
In the last four races of last year, Red Bull had shown an advantage of 2 tenths over Mercedes, 4 tenths over Scuderia Ferrari (0.3 seconds if we exclude the problematic Mexican weekend for the Italian team). The data analysis after the first two races in Jeddah and Sakhir reveals an RB19 car as much as 8 tenths ahead of both teams that were supposed to be rivals for the 2023 Formula 1 title, especially Ferrari. And it’s not only the lightweight chassis: the new car designed by Adrian Newey has improved in all aspects despite the similarity to the RB18 and in the race it proves to be the best both in cornering and straightline speed, as explained by F1 expert Andrea Vergani for formu1a.uno.
The even more worrying news for the fans of the Maranello team was that the SF-23 lapped 7 tenths slower than the F1-75, which can partially be explained by a slightly changed track that seems to be worth close to that gap. In short, Ferrari lost a year of development with the 2023 F1 car, given the fact that the F1-75 and the SF-23 would have fought for victory last year, while now the Italian side had to settle for sixth place in 2023. Despite the targeted set-up for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the gap to Red Bull is over a second, while last year Charles Leclerc finished less than a second behind the world champion.
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Mercedes had come very close to the end of 2022 hoping to have corrected the weaknesses of Mike Elliot’s concept: in the last four races the W13 was close to the RB18 and the engineers deluded themselves that the concept could be competitive enough for 2023. This year the Brackley team are back to where they were 12 months ago.
In addition to the deception, Mercedes is even behind a customer team since “half of the AMR23 is the same as our car”, as admitted by Toto Wolff himself, but the British team is two tenths ahead of Mercedes after the first two races. The work done by Aston Martin is incredible: in the first four races of 2022, the AMR22 had been 2 seconds slower than the RB18, with the gap decreasing by half a second in the last few races, thus reaching 1.6 seconds behind the Anglo-Austrian team’s reference time. In the first two races of this year, the AMR23 demonstrated a step forward of 9 tenths in the winter, therefore 2.1 seconds faster than the start of last year, confirming the winter ‘rumors’ that many found it hard to believe.
‘Midfield’ analysis: Alpine in front of everyone, Haas and Williams with positives and negatives. Alfa Romeo far behind in Jeddah
As we suggested before the Saudi weekend, Alpine had not shown its full potential in Sahkir, due to a series of unfortunate episodes: Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finished the race separated by less than two seconds on track, 10 seconds ahead of Kevin Magnussen. The Alpine cars decreased the gap compared to Red Bull by just a tenth (about 1.3 seconds per lap), but above all compared to Ferrari and Mercedes: the A522 was a full second slower than the W13 and the F1-75 at the end world championship, now the gap is half a second. The declared goal was fourth place which, at the moment, seems an impossible challenge given the competitiveness of Aston Martin, but the technical purpose was to get closer to Mercedes, and Ferrari at this point, to then make a further leap in 2024.
Alfa Romeo got off to a good start in Bahrain and then took a step backwards in Saudi Arabia, a story similar to the one seen 12 months ago: at that time it was due to a reliability problem on Bottas’ car, this year due to debris that unbalanced the Finn’s C43, damaging the floor of his car. Guanyu Zhou tried to bring his C43 into the points, but was unlucky with the Safety Car timing and not fast enough. Despite this, Alfa Romeo has recovered 4 tenths from the leading cars compared to the beginning of 2022, one tenth behind Alpine in the first two rounds.