Verstappen happy to break Bahrain hoodoo as Perez promises close title race for Red Bull
Max Verstappen was delighted to break his Bahrain Grand Prix hoodoo, but Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez is promising a tight Formula One title race in 2023.
The reigning world champion picked up his first career victory at the Bahrain International Circuit to kick off the new season where he left off last term.
Verstappen led a one-two ahead of teammate Perez, while Fernando Alonso came third on his Aston Martin debut.
Having failed to win on any of his previous visits to Bahrain with the team, the Dutchman acknowledged he was gratified to finally claim a win at the circuit.
"I was very happy to finally win here in Bahrain," he said in his post-race interview. "It was a very good first stint. From there, it was about looking after the tyres.
"[There are] just little things we want to fine-tune. I think we have a good race package. I think it will depend race-to-race, [but] we can definitely fight with this."
Perez, who was aided in securing second by the late retirement of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to an engine issue, feels he can press his team-mate this year though.
After finishing third in the standings last term, the Mexican is looking to ensure he can stay on the heels of the Dutchman as the latter eyes a third consecutive crown.
"We worked really hard over the winter, so it is nice to see all the boys enjoying the first race," he added. "It was important today to get both cars to the end.
"Finishing second was the maximum I could do today [with my start]. It is a long season. I think I am getting closer every single session and I will give my best."
Alonso, who departed Alpine for Aston Martin during the off-season, nabbed his first podium finish since he came third at the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix.
For the Spaniard, the oldest driver in the field at 41, it marked a vindication of his decision to make the move as he continues to defy expectations.
"[It is] amazing for the team, [it] was [a] great weekend," he added. "Finishing on the podium in the first race of the year, it is just amazing.
"What Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second-best car on race one, it's unreal."