Jenson Button has claimed Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s domination of the Bahrain Grand Prix hasn’t made the 2023 Formula 1 title fight a foregone conclusion.
Verstappen, chasing a third successive championship this year, began his title defence by cruising to victory in the season-opening race.
Sergio Perez in the sister RB19 recovered from losing a place at the start to solidify a convincing 1-2 finish for the reigning Constructors’ champions.
With Verstappen crossing the line 36s clear of the nearest non-Red Bull car, Mercedes driver George Russell suggested the Austrian outfit has the capacity to win every single race in 2023.
However, Button, who will debut in the NASCAR Cup series this year, believes the unique nature of the Bahrain circuit means it would be premature to proclaim Verstappen and Red Bull have both F1 titles already sewn up.
“I know that a lot of drivers have said, well, it’s going to be an easy championship for Red Bull and Max,” he highlighted. But how can you say that? We’ve only tested at one track; we’ve only raced at one track.
“And we all know that Bahrain is very unique in the way that the cars work there. It’s a heavy braking, traction circuit, it’s not so much about high-speed.
“So we can’t say that. I think we’ll understand a bit more after Saudi, which is more of a fast-flowing track. And also when we get the European races.
“So no, it’s not a walk in the park for Red Bull and Max. It’s a great start to the season, and very different to what they had last year. But I still think we’re going to have some very, very close fights.
“And I don’t think it’s going to be a straightforward win for Red Bull and Max. But I loved the first race.
I thought it was action-packed and that’s what I look for. I look for great racing, and great fights.”
One of the battles Button referenced was a closely fought tussle between Alonso and one of the Spaniard’s long-time adversaries, Lewis Hamilton.
Despite the Brit’s determination, Alonso eventually scythed his way past the Mercedes with a cunning move on the inside at the downhill left-hander of Turn 10.
Although there was to be no fight for the win, Button was enthused by the quality of the racing spectacle produced for the rest of the places below Red Bull.
“It looked like a relatively easy race, especially for Max,” the 2009 F1 World Champion recalled. “But I have to say, forgetting who won the race, it was a great race. It was too easy for Max, yes, it was. But the race itself was great.
“I loved the action, there was so much action. To see two multiple world champions going at it, Lewis and Fernando, it was pretty special.”