At the start of the new season, everything seems to indicate that Max Verstappen in his Red Bull can seriously try to become world champion again. Because the first free practice sessions in Bahrain also went crescendo.

Red Bull off to a good start

Allard Kalff, former driver and RTL GP presenter, followed the pre-season closely. It’s clear: “If you look at the test days, Red Bull has the strongest package. I think it’s too early to say they will be supreme for 23 races.”

Last week’s test days therefore went well for Red Bull, and less so for the competitors. “Red Bull Racing is the fastest,” said Kalff. “Behind that you have Ferrari and Mercedes, but maybe Aston Martin is the third team at the moment, just ahead of Mercedes. There is no level behind that.”

That Aston Martin have things well organized at the start of the new season was demonstrated today in free practice sessions, where Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso first set the second fastest time, ahead of Verstappen and was even the fastest in the second practice session. .


Beitske Visser also saw Red Bull stand out on the test days. Visser is a driver in the W series, where she finished second last year. “I’m curious about tomorrow’s qualifying,” said Visser. “Then we’ll really see how each team came out of the winter break. We’ve already seen something with the test, but after those test days you still don’t know exactly who is driving what kind of stuff.”

In any case, Visser and Kalff are hoping for a good battle. “Hopefully it will be exciting,” says Visser. “It’s the best thing to watch, when it’s a good fight on the track. Red Bull seem very strong so far, but we’ll see.”

“From me, Max can win 20 races,” says Kalff, “but hopefully we’ll see battles in every race.”

Nick DeVries

Although most eyes will be on world champion Max Verstappen, there will also be plenty of attention this season for newcomer Nyck de Vries. The 28-year-old Frisian made his premier class debut last season as a substitute, and immediately scored high as he finished ninth in the Italian Grand Prix.

This season, De Vries is the regular rider for Alpha Tauri. Although the chances of him being able to compete at the top of the leaderboard are slim, expectations are high. “In principle, Nyck de Vries’ car should be good enough to score points,” said Allard Kalff. And you can only achieve that with a place in the top 10.

Beitske Visser knows Nyck de Vries from his home town of Uitwellingerga (pop. 425) and is looking forward to his performance this season. “We come from the same village, we have known each other since childhood,” she says. “I know he works hard for it. And he’s shown how good he is throughout his career. He has to trust himself, then everything will be fine.”

Above all, Allard Kalff hopes that De Vries will not forget to enjoy this season: “I expect neither more nor less from Nyck de Vries that he gets the best out of himself, his car and the team. , and have fun. see the result at the end of the year.”

New faces, old acquaintances

As well as De Vries, there are two new faces this season in Formula 1. Australian Oscar Piastri will drive for McLaren in 2023. He replaces Daniel Ricciardo, who won’t be on the grid this year.

Logan Sargeant makes his Formula 1 debut for the Williams team. The American drives no less than three times in his native country this season. In addition to the United States Grand Prix at the Austin circuit, races in Miami and Las Vegas are also on the calendar this year.

After two years as a reserve driver, Nico Hülkenberg returns as a regular driver. He will drive for Haas this season, replacing Mick Schumacher.

Complete calendar

The racing calendar is busier than ever this year, with no less than 23 races. In addition to the Las Vegas race, the Qatar Grand Prix has also been added to the schedule. The Losail International Circuit has already been contested in 2021, and this year the circus will return.

Of course, F1 will visit Zandvoort again this year, on the last weekend of August. The Dutch Grand Prix will take place on Sunday 27 August.

Mechanics and engineers are also away from home for long periods

According to Kalff, 23 races in one season is actually too much. “It’s very difficult, not only for the drivers, but also for the teams around them. You can always say that the drivers earn a salary of a million dollars, but all the mechanics and engineers are also absent from home. them for 23 weeks this year.”

Visser doesn’t think the full schedule can play a role in the championship over the course of the season. “Of course, it weighs down. You have less rest in between, and the journey takes a toll.” Still, she thinks the riders are ready for the busy season: “I think all the riders have been training hard over the winter and are in good physical shape. That shouldn’t be a problem.”

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