As a result of almost flawlessly replicating what put Ferrari in title contention at the beginning of last year. Red Bull has secured the front row of the grid for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, the new design from Maranello is as successful on the Sakhir track as the previous RB18 was in the same position. True admiration can only come through imitation.
Max Verstappen set the fastest qualifying time in Formula One history with a lap of 1 minute, 29.708 seconds. A mere 0.138 seconds separated him from teammate Sergio Perez. While a full minute and 30 seconds separated him from 2022 title contender Charles Leclerc, who finished third. Last year, the Ferrari driver won, but Verstappen came in second, barely 0.123 seconds back.
At the dawn of the ground-effects era, the RB18 weighed 10 kg more than it should have. On the contrary, the Ferrari’s light kerb weight and potent engine allowed it to leave the low-speed bends with the best acceleration possible in its class. It’s true that Leclerc is quicker to accelerate out of the tight Turn 1 right-hander during their vital Q3 runs, but the RB19 is now uncatchable under initial power.
Nevertheless, Verstappen’s lead doesn’t last long. Over the final stretch of the back straight before turning into Turn 4. Leclerc reached a high speed of 189 mph in the SF-23 before having to slam on the brakes. Compared to his competitor’s 187mph, that’s a significant improvement. It’s interesting to see that the two vehicles are again behaving in opposing ways as far as they did a year ago when the Red Bull had the straight-line speed advantage at this track.
As Verstappen accelerates more quickly than the competition into Turn 7. A right-hander at medium speed indicates that the RB19 has superior downforce. Leclerc is in the lead in the smoother section between the two extremes. As a result, we have a confirmed lap trend. Out of the circuit’s most iconic corner—the tight, downhill left of Turn 10—Red Bull accelerates faster than Ferrari towards the fifth-gear Turn 12 rise.
From Lap 13, where he took the lead, through the checkered flag, Verstappen was in command. The Ferrari’s reduced drag won’t persist forever. Leclerc gains 2.5 mph on the final downshift. He squeaks by the Red Bull at the peak (a relic from 2022) before the Milton Keynes innovation establishes the bar for speed. There was a tie at the finish line, with both Ferrari and Red Bull reaching 182 miles per hour.