Formula 1 drivers were pleased to see the gap between all 10 teams shrink in the first qualifying session for the new season.
Just 1.18 seconds covered the 20 cars over a 90-second lap of the Bahrain International Circuit in the first stage of qualifying yesterday. The same gap was 2.3 seconds last year, though it was inflated by Nicholas Latifi lapping six-tenths of a second slower than any other driver.
Nonetheless, drivers from F1’s top three teams were pleased to see the rest of the field close up in qualifying. Sergio Perez said it means even drivers from the front-running teams have to be on top of their game to avoid dropping out in Q1 or Q2.
“Certainly the competition is a lot closer now,” said the Red Bull driver. “You can see it straight from Q1 you cannot do a mistake even if you are in a top car.
“So that’s nice in a way and it will only get closer as the season progresses. So we welcome the competition.”
However Charles Leclerc isn’t convinced the close range of times seen in qualifying will necessarily lead to a closer race. “I will probably wait and see also the race pace,” said the Ferrari driver.
“But in quali for sure it seems that we are all closer, which I think is great. It’s more exciting.
“In qualifying sessions like Q1 and Q2 which for us, I mean for the top teams, whenever we had that big margin, we could do a little bit whatever we want, it now seems to be a bit more on the limit. So it’s nice.”
Max Verstappen believes the field has converged because teams have increasingly followed each others’ designs.
“It’s not really a surprise,” he said. “If you look at most of the cars, they all copy each other. Everyone is getting smarter over the years, anyway, with the same regulations. If you see that one car particularly is doing quite well over a year you’ll try to copy some things.
“That’s why I think, of course, naturally everyone is getting closer and in general, of course understanding the car a bit better.”
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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
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