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Scott Mitchell: Fem bra körningar bakom Verstappen

Scott Mitchell tittar närmare på söndagens Grand Prix-race i Bahrain och listar här fem körningar som, förutom Max Verstappens, är värda att lyfta fram lite extra.

Scott Mitchell-Malm

Max Verstappen’s dominant start to the 2023 season was a textbook lights-to-flag victory.
It was a well-deserved win for the world champion and his Red Bull Racing team, which looks in ominous form.
Sergio Perez looks a lot closer to Verstappen than last year, Charles Leclerc’s best efforts went unrewarded when his Ferrari broke down, while the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell battled gamely with a car that has already been written off by their team.
These were the main sub-plots at the front of the grid. But some drives stood out more than most. And as you read this, spare a thought for Yuki Tsunoda – he deserves an honourable mention for a weekend spent overachieving in an AlphaTauri that looked really, really difficult to drive at its worst.

Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll

OK, this is cheating, as it’s a two-in-one entry. But let’s start with the podium hero Fernando Alonso.
He was looking quite edgy and aggressive throughout the race. I don't know if it was over-excitement or if he just wanted to get on with it because he could feel how fast a race car he had and therefore wanted to make as much progress as he could as quickly as he could.
Alonso seemed a tiny bit impatient at times, but not in a problematic way. He drove very well and made some excellent passes, especially the one on Lewis Hamilton in Turn 10.
He achieved the absolute maximum that was possible for Aston Martin. Considering the contact at Turn 4, the big hit from Stroll, on the opening lap, his race could have ended after just a few seconds but ended up being one of the drives that day.
Stroll’s own weekend should not go unnoticed though just because of Alonso’s podium herocis.
This is the most impressed I think I've ever been with Stroll in Formula 1. There was a quiet, determined feel to his weekend, totally at odds with the pain he must have been in with his injured wrists and toe.
But he didn't make any excuses. He got down to business well, he set a good lap in qualifying, and he raced really well.
All in all, an extremely strong weekend’s work for someone clearly not fully fit.

Alex Albon

I was amazed at how strong the Williams looked in qualifying and the race. Even Williams saw itself as the 10th team after practice and yet it came alive when it counted.
Were it not for a broken front wing, Albon felt he would have had a chance of being in Q3, but Q2 was still a massive result.
He raced well, the car had great long run pace and is very fast in a straight line - less downforce than rivals means less drag, perhaps not quite as aggressive an offset as last year, but still enough to make it a very potent race car.
Albon is just a very intelligent driver. And to pull a top 10 finish out of what ostensibly is still one of the slower cars, if not the slowest car, is just a superb job.

Pierre Gasly

Any charge from the back of the grid into points is fun to follow but it can be very easy to get caught up in and overrate.
It was impressive that Gasly made that much progress but he should have done. He was well out of position with a very good car.
The reason I’m spotlighting his drive is the discipline that he showed. I asked him after the race if he'd gone through the full emotional range this weekend and he joked: ”It’s not like me to get emotional.”
Gasly said it's not fun otherwise but sometimes his emotions do get the better of him. He was clearly upset after qualifying, getting knocked out of Q1, and seemed a bit lost.
But he regrouped really well on Sunday with a very disciplined drive. He didn't get caught up in anything silly in the pack, which he’s been guilty of before, and he made good use of his car’s pace and the free air the team’s strategy afforded him.

Valtteri Bottas

Sometimes Bottas is not the strongest on opening laps but credit where it’s due, this one made Bottas’s race.
He got a good launch, he positioned his car sensibly on the run to Turn 1, he was good on the brakes and then lined the car up nicely through the Turn 2 kink as well. It combined to propel him into a strong points position and he never looked like yielding it.
Alfa Romeo looked like a marginal top 10 car all through testing and the weekend, but Bottas just seemed to lack a little bit of pace. He did a decent job to piece a lap together to beat Zhou Guanyu, though, and his race drive was very professional.
Consider the heroics that Bottas and Alfa Romeo achieved at the start of last season, and he's come out of the blocks here with a pretty similar result in a much more competitive midfield than before.