Three months after his season-ending victory in Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen is back in the Gulf this weekend looking for another win to fuel his bid for a third world title.
The 25-year-old Dutchman, who took 15 victories in 22 races last year on his way to becoming a double world champion with Red Bull, has yet to win a start the season or race in Bahrain.
Last year, he retired from second place as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the top spot, fastest and a convincing win, leaving Verstappen to play at the start of the season while did not rule.
It was a reminder that he and Red Bull are keen to get off to an early start to the 2023 season in front of a sell-out crowd at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir where the teams completed three days of testing. last week.
Red Bull shined in the test and Verstappen had the top times on the opening day and Sergio Perez’s team did the same on the final day with the fastest lap overall.
The relieved, but hopeful, champion was humbled and on Wednesday expected to make his speech on the track.
“I sat out after that test so it’s nice to lead the race like this and we go into the weekend in a good position,” he said.
“There is a lot of talk about reading data from tests, but each method is very different in terms of how a car can behave.
“So, I think we, as a team, now have to focus on improving and continuing throughout the year. We had three good days, but now it’s important – in the race.
Verstappen’s overall record in Bahrain includes two second places, in 2020 and 2021, and three retirements so he will be looking for a change of luck on Sunday when Ferrari again, it looks like Red Bull will be the closest.
Leclerc won last year’s memorable one and two in front of Carlos Sainz’s team and they will be hoping for something similar to welcome new team leader Fred Vasseur, who was first at Alfa Romeo, when Mattia Binotto replaced him.
Question marks still hang over Mercedes’ ability after an unscathed test.
Despite overcoming persistent spin problems from their classic car, seven-time champions Lewis Hamilton and George Russell admit they face a tough task. it promotes the speed and performance of the winning game.
“We haven’t had the funnest test yet,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“We had confidence issues and struggled with organization on day two, but we did a lot of training and progressed on the last day.
“Our hopes are that we will play forward.”
For Hamilton, who has entered the final year of his current contract, the prospect of a sixth Bahrain victory seems remote especially after registering his first winless season. work last year.
With the rest of the group, the two-time world champion Fernando Alonso showed strong in the test with his new Aston Martin team, replacing the four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, and could fight for a conclusion.
His partner Lance Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, may replace Brazilian driver Felipe Drugovich, following a cycling accident. in training.
The Australian Oscar Piastri of McLaren will be one of the first two teams together with the American Logan Sargeant of Williams.
Dutchman Nyck de Vries made his Alpha Tauri debut, when he replaced Alex Albon at Williams in one race last season.
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