2023 F1 Midfield Tales- What's the pecking order?

'F1 Midfield Tales' will be a combination of data and analysis that will aim to dissect the uber-competitive midfield of F1

2023 Bahrain GP


It’s just the first race, should we make any speculations this early on how the season is going to unfold? A wise man would say ‘Don’t make early judgements’ but we Formula 1 fans can’t hold on to our thoughts for long!

Before the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, the focus was how Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes would stand up against each other. As the weekend developed and culminated with a Max Verstappen victory it became clear that Red Bull had a clear advantage on race pace over the rest of the field. The battle between Ferrari and Mercedes seemed to be close with a pretender in Aston Martin, especially in the hands of Fernando Alonso not only threatening the pecking order between them but overhauling both the teams in the long run.

While the top field garnered all the attention the forgotten midfield had a story of its own to tell, and it is an intriguing one. The midfield last year was bunched up together that the lower field ceased to exist and this time it seems to be the same on first look.

Who are the ‘Midfield’?

It is safe to say that Aston Martin has graduated to the top tier of teams, thus the remaining teams are considered as the ‘midfield’. McLaren cannot be taken into contemplation because they had a weekend to forget with the early retirement of Piastri due to a problem in the steering stalk and Norris’s miserable race due to a loss of pneumatic pressure in the engine and gearbox which forced him to stop multiple times to have his pneumatic system primed.


For this analysis, the race lap times are categorised into stints according to the tyre compounds used by the teams and for each comparison made, the fastest driver from each team is selected if both are on the same compound of tyres.

  • Stint 1
All the teams in consideration started the race on softs giving us a direct comparison of their pace but it should be digested with a pinch of salt because of the early change in positions. Noticeable points for this stint are:
    • The initial pace from the Alfa Romeo of Bottas was outstanding.
    • Norris, Albon and Tsunoda were slightly behind.
    • Hulkenberg and Gasly were slower, maybe because of their position, prompting an early pitstop for Gasly.
    • The feared tyre degradation of the Haas is on display with the steep decline in lap times.
  • Stint 2
The second stint on hard tyres which the Williams team opted out of had an  interesting outcome and here are a few points to take away:
    • The potential pace of the Haas in the hands of Magnussen was on display. He was the fastest among that cluster of cars. 
    • Alpha Tauri of Yuki and the Alpine of Gasly show similar paces concerning each other. 
    • Bottas had to encounter some overtaking from the faster cars because him undercutting them by pitting early hence he had a couple of slow laps.
    • Nevertheless, Bottas’s pace was only second to Magnussen's at this stage.

  • Stint 3
In the third stint, when the race had settled down in terms of race positions most of the            drivers were on hard tyres and this portrayed a good picture of the race pace of the                teams, and it is encouraging:

    • Bottas was the quickest in this segment, attributed to a later pitstop.
    • The race pace of the other teams was very closely matched.
    • Based on this segment of the race, on tracks where opportunities for an overtake are low, a stalemate may ensue but on the other hand, on tracks that promote overtaking, race positions might not be the same every lap.
  • Stint 4
At this stage when everything seemed straightforward until the end of the race, an opportunity presented itself to pit again courtesy of a virtual safety car enforced to retrieve the retired Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Apart from the Alfa Romeos and Nyck De Vries the other teams and drivers seized this opportunity to bolt on the softs for a fourth stint and they depict these observations:
    • Gasly at this stage had a blistering pace enabling him to overtake Albon and was at times a second faster than the other cars in the midfield.
    • The rookie Logan Sargeant took advantage and overwhelmed Zhou who had not stopped for the softs.
    • Zhou eventually stopped at a later stage to post the fastest lap of the race.
    • Haas’s Achilles heel of tyre wear hurting their pace.
    • Albon and Tsunoda had a similar pace on these tyres and fuel load.


The signs of the midfield battle being intense are perceptible even though this is based on just the first race. Jeddah will add to our deduction of the pecking order but with the development race, there might be a breakaway team early in the season, with all eyes on Alpine based on where they finished last year.

The optimistic opinion is that it stays tight, and a raging battle ensues between the teams, even if this optimism comes to fruition, will the producers turn their cameras to these battles? It all depends on what happens up front. The wait for Jeddah can’t be any longer.


Popular posts from this blog

2023 F1 Midfield Tales - Williams In trouble after Spain.

F1 Data Prediction - Mercedes should be Red Bull's closest challengers for the Canadian GP

F1 Data Prediction - Can Ferrari spring a surprise in Austria?