With preseason testing well underway and the Bahrain Grand Prix just nine days away, Formula One is back in full swing. Day two of testing is in the books, with the third and final session concluding on Saturday February 25.

The testing sessions have brought twenty of the fastest men on the planet together as they finalize their preparations for the upcoming campaign. Following a hectic offseason filled with changes on the grid, we’ve been able to get our first look at the new cars and their drivers before they head out onto the track for competition in the 2023 Formula One season.

PreSeason Testing

The first two days of preseason testing have been filled with action, as well as a few surprises. With each time constructing a new car for the 2023 season, we’ve been able to get a first look at each constructors’ product and a better picture of how each team will fare in the upcoming season.

Although there’ve been a number of surprises in the past two days, there’s one thing that’s been no surprise, Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver has returned to the track following back-to-back World Driver Championships, and has already displayed his brilliant form.

The Dutch driver finished the first day of testing with the fastest lap time, with a time of 1:32.873, as well as completing 157 laps, the most of any driver in either of the testing days. Red Bull must have seen all they needed to out of Verstappen because he only completed 47 laps on the second day of testing, the 2nd least of any driver, but was still able to post the 2nd fastest lap time, with a time of 1:31.650.

A notable absence during the first day of testing was Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, as the Mexican Red Bull driver confirmed that their car was having issues, specifically with aerosensors and the balance of the car. However, he returned to the track on day two, posting a disappointing 1:33.751 fastest lap, which put him in 14th place for the session.

Another notable absence was Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll, whose car was taken over by reserve driver Felipe Drugovich for the first day of testing. Aston Martin have revealed that Stroll is currently recovering from undisclosed injuries, and his status to return for the opening race is still up in the air. Preseason testing hasn’t been all bad for Aston Martin, though, as their new driver Fernando Alonso has posted a top three lap time in both days of testing. Following a disappointing 7th place finish in the 2022 constructors’ standings, the two-time World Champion hopes to lead his new team to a brighter future.

Moving towards some of the constructors’ championship contenders, Ferrari and Mercedes have both completed two full days of testing with their returning drivers. Ferrari started off strong on day one, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc earning the 3rd and 4th fastest respective lap. However, the Italian team faltered a bit in day two, as Sainz and Leclerc finished a respective 6th and 8th.

In the season following the end of their historic eight-year Constructors’ Championship run, Mercedes were unable to begin 2023 on a high note. Drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell opened the first day of testing with respectable 6th and 9th place finishes, but were rather disappointing in day two, as the two men finished 15th and 13th, respectively. This was not the bounceback that Mercedes fans were hoping to see, and with just over a week until the first race, they’ll surely hope to make improvements fast.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of testing has been from Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu. The 2nd year Chinese driver opened with a respectable 1:33.723 lap time, which earned him the 8th fastest lap of the first day of testing. However, the surprise came on day two, as Guanyu lit up the track posting the fastest lap of either day, with a time of 1:31.610. The Chinese driver has opened the 2023 season on a good note and could be the driver to watch heading into the campaign.

Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix

The 2023 Formula season begins on Friday March 3, with the first practice session for the opening race of the campaign. The Bahrain Grand Prix, taking place in Sakhir, Qatar, will consist of three hour-long practice sessions, with two taking place on Friday March 3 and the other on Saturday March 4, a qualifying session on Saturday March 4, and the eventual Grand Prix, which will wrap up the weekend action on Sunday March 5.

The Bahrain Grand Prix will consist of 57 laps and will take place on the 5.412 kilometer Bahrain International Circuit. This year serves as Formula One’s 19th edition of the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the inaugural race and first Formula One race in the Middle East taking place in 2004.

Heading into the opening race of the 2023 Formula One season, there’s still one question that remains, who will win? The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix winner Charles Leclerc is one of three active drivers who have won this race in Sakhir. Fernando Alonso has achieved the top spot three times, while Lewis Hamilton leads the way with five victories.

Although history is worth noting, who are the favorites to win the 2023 edition of the Bahrain Grand Prix? The current six favorites all reside on the top three finishing constructors from 2023, in Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes. Max Verstappen(+120) is my pick to win the Grand Prix, as he currently sits as the sole favorite. Following the Dutch driver in odds is Charles Leclerc(+160), Lewis Hamilton(+500), Carlos Sainz(+900), and George Russell(+900). This race certainly promises to bring action-packed excitement, but following his dominant 15-win 2022 campaign, I find it difficult to take any other driver than Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver will look to mount his three-peat hopes with a win in Sakhir.