The wait is finally over – the 2023 Formula 1 season starts this weekend and it promises to be an exciting season for many, many reasons.
For Americans, there are plenty of things to look forward to, with three races on American soil, an American driver for the first time in eight years and Haas – the only American team – looking to improve on the 2022 result.
Max Verstappen is the overwhelming favorite to come out on top both this weekend in Bahrain and in the overall Drivers’ Championship, but watch out for Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin and – of course – the two Ferraris.
The season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain with qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
Here, DailyMail. com summarizes everything you need to know, including the start time, TV channel, all the big news and what to look out for…
The Formula 1 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain – and Fernando Alonso is looking fast!
When does qualification start and how does it work?
Well, you don’t have to wait long. If you’re on the east coast, the session starts at 10am, and if you’re on the west coast, turn off your lights alarm at 7am.
We practiced for a few days, but this is where the exciting action really starts. The qualifying format has changed and changed slightly over the years, but the current iteration looks like this.
All 20 drivers will be sent off for Q1 and they will have 18 minutes to try and set the fastest time. At the end of the session, the slowest five drivers are eliminated and start 16th on the grid.
In Q2, the remaining 15 drivers start from scratch again and have 15 minutes to go back out and see who is the fastest. Again, the slowest five are taken out of the session and occupy 11th-15th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Things get really exciting in Q3, with the last 10 out for a good 12 minutes as they determine who will take pole position for Sunday’s race. At the end of the session, the starting line-up is determined for the big one.
Max Verstappen (right) and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez are two to watch
And when is Sunday’s race?
Actually exactly the same time as Saturday’s qualifying – 10am on the east coast and 7am on the west coast. The race is in Bahrain, so local time the start is at 6pm starting just as the sun is setting over Losail.
Each race on the F1 calendar varies in length, but Sunday’s showdown in Bahrain is 57 laps around the 5.412km circuit. In miles that is 3.36.
The drivers will line up on Saturday in the order they qualified, and it’s a straight shootout, 57 laps to determine the winner.
At the end, the top 10 will be awarded points on the season’s overall standings, with the winner receiving 25 points, all the way down to one point for the 10th-placed driver.
How do I watch the action on TV?
Very easy! ESPN just signed a new TV deal to continue showing Formula 1 in the United States, so all content is live and direct to your TVs.
Coverage of Saturday’s qualifying session starts at 9.55am on ESPN2 and then at 11.45am, die-hard F1 fans among you can tune in to ESPN3 for Ted Kravitz’s infamous ‘Qualifying Notebook’ where he looks back at all the action.
On Sunday, the pre-race show begins at 8:30 a.m. EST on ESPN and ESPN+, with race coverage starting five minutes before lights out at 9:55 a.m. on the same channels.
There’s a ‘Checkered Flag’ show after the race that will air east on ESPN3 at noon, followed by another Ted’s Race Notebook.
ESPN will broadcast the race live in the US, using Sky Sports UK’s television coverage
What US representation is there in Bahrain?
Enough… and we haven’t been able to say that often about Americans in Formula 1. Logan Sargeant is ready for his first race at Williams, making him the first American driver in the sport since 2015, and hopefully the first to race in a entire season since Scott Speed in 2006.
There is also an American team in Haas, led by team boss Gunther Steiner. If you’ve watched Netflix’s “Drive to Survive,” you know exactly who he is.
If you’re more of a McLaren guy, their team boss is Los Angeles native Zak Brown, with the larger-than-life CEO a big presence for the papaya team.
At the top of the sport, the owners – Liberty Media – are an American company, so there really is plenty of American representation in the sport these days.
DailyMail.com’s guide to the grid
What should I pay attention to?
As we enter the first race of the season, there is no shortage of newslines from front to back on the grid. Let’s go through them quickly…
Max Verstappen won the title last year and it would be a huge shock if he wasn’t dominant again as his Red Bull dominated last week’s testing.
Many positive things are being said about Aston Martin, who have two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Canadian Lance Stroll in their car.
Stroll was in the news in recent weeks after falling off his bike during pre-season and has since had surgery on his broken right wrist. If he makes it to the grid, he will drive with pins in his arm.
Logan Sargeant is the first American to drive in Formula 1 since Alexander Rossi in 2015
As mentioned, Sargeant is making his debut for Williams, but there are also some other rookies on the grid, with McLaren’s Australian Oscar Piastri making his first start, and AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries – a Dutchman – also making his first start.
We can’t mention Ferrari and Mercedes either, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz back for another bite at the icing in the famous red cars.
They came close (well, closer!) in 2022 and hope to close the gap to Red Bull and Verstappen a little more.
At Mercedes, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton endured a more difficult 2022 season alongside fellow Briton George Russell, and they are widely tipped to finish third or fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. They will – of course – hope that the prediction is totally wrong.