Formula 1 could be heading into the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix with a mixed-up pecking order – and you can watch all the action live on Sky Sports F1 as a 2023 campaign full of twists and turns begins.
Three months after drivers last went wheel to wheel to close the 2022 season, F1 is back and Sky Sports F1 is your home for all 23 races, starting with the opener from Friday’s practice through to Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Qualifying (Saturday) and the race (Sunday) are both live at 3pm, with extensive build-up from our team of experts in Bahrain.
The Bahrain GP: Key F1 times on Sky Sports F1
|11am: Practice One (session starts 11.30am)||11.15am: Practice One (session starts 11.30am)||1.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Bahrain GP Build-up|
|2.45pm: Practice One (session starts 3pm)||2.10pm: Qualifying Build-up||3pm: BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX|
|5pm: The F1 Show||3pm: QUALIFYING||5pm: Bahrain GP reaction|
At the same Sakhir circuit where pre-season kickstarted F1 2023 last week, there is paddock consensus over who arrives as the team and driver to beat: Red Bull, and Max Verstappen.
Fresh off a title-winning campaign that saw them claim 17 of 22 races, Red Bull appear to have taken another step forward with their 2023 car while Verstappen, who sealed a record-breaking 15 victories last year, was uncharacteristically bullish as he goes chasing a third straight drivers’ title.
“Our goal is to win this weekend and then win the championship,” said Verstappen. “We’ve improved.”
From the three days of testing, Ferrari seemed to be the only team who could challenge Red Bull’s raw pace, although the Scuderia have an all-new car concept and that will inevitably come with initial teething problems.
“I feel we’ve got some work to do,” Charles Leclerc, who finished a distant second behind Verstappen last season, said. “Red Bull seems to be very strong.”
Behind them, the picture seems less clear, with plenty of changes.
Mercedes, with whom Lewis Hamilton hopes to claim a record eighth championship this year, have not made the progress expected of them after a well below-par 2022, while Aston Martin have been the pre-season darlings and could be right in the mix with the usual top three.
Mercedes and McLaren in trouble? The pecking order predictions
Ahead of the opener, our Sky Sports F1 pundits out in Bahrain offered their own takes on the pecking order…
Sky Sports F1’s pecking orders for opening race
|Ted Kravitz||David Croft||Anthony Davidson|
|1) Red Bull||1) Red Bull||1) Red Bull|
|2) Ferrari||2) Ferrari||2) Ferrari|
|3) Aston Martin||=3) Mercedes||3) Mercedes|
|4) Mercedes||=3) Aston Martin||4) Aston Martin|
|5) Alpine||5) Haas||5) Alpine|
|6) Haas||6) Alpine||6) Haas|
|7) Alfa Romeo||7) McLaren||7) AlphaTauri|
|8) McLaren||8) AlphaTauri||8) McLaren|
|9) AlphaTauri||9) Alfa Romeo||9) Alfa Romeo|
|10) Williams||10) Williams||10) Williams|
Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz offers his pecking-order reasonings
“In 10th, I think it’s Williams. I think it’s a car that doesn’t have the problems of last year but it still lacks some aero sophistication that we see on other cars around the place. Alex Albon will do his usual amazing things, Logan Sargeant looks like a proper Formula 1 driver, but I still think they’re lagging behind.
There’s a group of Haas, McLaren and Alfa Romeo who are ahead of AlphaTauri we think. AlphaTauri say we don’t think we’ve got a particularly fast car, but they’re certainly reliable and they’ve certainly got a couple of quick drivers. On their day, they could post a fast time. I do think AlphaTauri are ahead of Williams, maybe by a decent amount and not too far from those in front of them.
“Next, it all depends on how badly you think McLaren are doing. They’ve gone a different direction, the car is not quick but McLaren say it will be quick later on. At the moment, there is a danger that McLaren could be the eighth fastest team. It’s really a danger.
“Haas think they might be quicker than McLaren, as do Alfa Romeo. So McLaren really have a target on their back, teams are taking advantage while they’re having problems.
“McLaren might have missed some targets, but it doesn’t mean they can’t hit their targets once they understand their car a little better and bring some upgrades, which will unlock the potential. Lando Norris is saying there is good stuff coming but at the moment I think McLaren are definitely on the back foot and they will go away from here, together with Mercedes, thinking they must do better.
“I think Haas are just ahead of Alfa Romeo. They’ve got two good drivers in there, it’s a solid car, and I think that’s a package that seems to be more sorted in its own head than Alfa Romeo. It’s a very big change, Alfa Romeo have made.
“Then we have the enigma of Alpine. On their day, they can be solidly fifth but they can slip down easily to sixth or seventh. What they do have are two very closely matched drivers. They’ve never been separated by more than half a second. As long as that works constructively, I think they’ll be solidly fifth at the moment.
“I’m going to be slightly reticent and say that Aston Martin are third and Mercedes are fourth at the moment. I’ve got Aston Martin ahead and potentially even a little bit closer to Ferrari. That’s to do with Fernando Alonso’s race run.
“In Saturday’s Bahrain GP [long runs] such as it was, it would have been Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso on the podium ahead of the Ferraris and the Mercedes. Aston Martin had Red Bull worried from Day One, Adrian Newey (Red Bull’s chief technical officer) mentioned them in the teams he’s concerned about, the car is essentially good, it has some nice ideas.
“We need to see a big step from Mercedes over the next few days for them to be solidly third. When Lewis Hamilton came out and said that the porpoising was largely gone but some of the ‘balance limitations’ of last year’s car are still present, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, hang on, this is the Mercedes that is supposed to be ok! But they’re still suffering from the problems they had last year.
“Ferrari are next. Charles Leclerc will be thinking, ‘Red Bull have got a lightweight chassis, I might not have my qualifying advantage, where’s my race advantage going to come?’ That’s where Ferrari suffered at testing, the tyre degradation was not good.
“Ferrari have a lot of work to do in qualifying, and the race. At the moment, both of those have been somewhat dominated by Red Bull.
“I think the only reason Red Bull weren’t dominating qualifying in the way Ferrari did early on last year is because the car last year was overweight. That’s not an issue they have this year.”
Sky Sports F1’s live Bahrain GP schedule
12.30pm: Drivers’ Press Conference
7.50am: F3 Practice
9am: F2 Practice
11am: Bahrain GP Practice One (session starts 11.30am)
1pm: F3 Qualifying
2.45pm: Bahrain GP Practice Two (session starts 3pm)
4.25pm: F2 Qualifying
5pm: The F1 Show: Bahrain
9.10am: F3 Sprint Race
11.15am: Bahrain GP Practice Three (session starts 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint Race
2.10pm: Bahrain GP Qualifying Build-up
3pm: BAHRAIN GP QUALIFYING
4.30pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
8.45am: F3 Feature Race
10.15am: F2 Feature Race
1.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Bahrain GP Build-up
3pm: THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
5pm: Chequered flag: Bahrain GP Reaction
Formula 1 is back! Watch the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. The track action starts on Friday while Sunday’s race begins at 3pm. Get Sky Sports