Tyres are GONE’
George Russell wants to pit NOW as he insists his tyres are ‘gone’. But he’s forced to stay out to fight off Fernando Alonso!

BRILLIANT driving from both – Alonso overtakes then fights off Russell expertly. Great work from the pair. Shows it IS possible to battle someone for a spot without necessarily smashing your car into them.

Someone inform Mr Verstappen…

Stewards have noted Esteban Ocon might not have been in the right place on the grid at the start of the race. Potential penalty incoming.

Problems for Max?
Ooh, interesting! Verstappen tells his team: ‘I’m getting a bit of rear locking up on the downshift’. They tell him: ‘Strat 8’. All this coded language is exciting.

Dear oh dear – McLaren’s Lando Norris is forced to pit with an engine problem and drops to dead last.

Into the pits!
Alpine’s Gasly – the first race for him outside the Red Bull family – is the first in the race to pit.

Will that lead to a raft of pitstops from mid-field competitors?

‘Is Lewis managing?’
George Russell asks: ‘Is Lewis managing? Because I feel like I have more pace.’

Merc bosses reply: ‘(He’s) struggling, struggling.’

Is Russell getting impatient behind the seven-time champion?

Btw, places 11-20 are: Albon, Norris, Sargeant, Tsunoda, Hulkenberg, Piastri, Zhou, Gasly, de Vries, Magnussen

Mercs are doing OK

Verstappen now five seconds clear, 0.6seconds a lap quicker if he guns it, which he doesn’t need to.

Russell is hitting fastest laps though, catching up with team-mate Hamilton immediately in front…

Checo Perez in third is chasing down Leclerc in second – but Red Bull bosses say ‘chill, Sergio, tyre degradation means you’ll get him eventually’.

I’m paraphrasing slightly.

Into the tyre management phase

Sky Sports commentators reckon we’re now in the ‘tyre saving’ part of the race – where drivers hold off a little on the full pace possible to preserve their tyres.

Verstappen is more than four seconds clear, and is lapping nearly a second-a-lap quicker than his pursuers.

Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, then the two Mercedes in Hamilton and Russell, Aston Martins Alonso and Stroll, Bottas and Ocon make up the top 10.

‘I’ve been hit… they cannot do that’
That’s from Alonso’s radio. He doesn’t realise ‘they’ was his team-mate Stroll!

Verstappen is pulling away further, out of DRS range. Race sewn up already? We all hope not.

Hamilton up to fifth!
Incredible that Alonso doesn’t have a right rear puncture after colliding with new team-mate Lance Stroll.

The biggest winners from the start are Lewis Hamilton, up to fifth from seventh, and former Merc team-mate Valtteri Bottas, up to eighth from 12th.

Verstappen gets a good start, keeping the lead after the first corner, but Charles Leclerc has overtaken Sergio Perez into second!

Two Aston Martins have touched further back, with Fernando Alonso losing a bit of bodywork. But it’s a green flag, track clear, and carry on for the Spaniard.

Verstappen is already pulling away!

The 2023 campaign is underway!

Every car has red stripe tyres on – the softs – apart from Kevin Magnussen, who’s on the hards.

Soft tyres are the fastest but quickest to degrade (run down). Hards are the longest lasting but the slowest.

Nearly there…
Sundown and floodlights on in Bahrain. The famous F1 title sequence is on and we are moments away from the new season…

Jezza Clarkson on the grid!
He hasn’t got long to scurry off…

Lights out is next!

Haas team morale
Teaming up for American constructor Haas are veterans Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

The pair have a bit of history, K-Mag telling Nico to ‘s**k my b***s’ in a famous video.

Awkward in the team paddock?

What’s it like being an F1 driver?
Find out with Sportsmail’s report below.

By the way, the Bahraini national anthem has just finished and there was a flyover.


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