Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has drawn a merciless balance after the sobering Formula 1 start of his racing team in Bahrain. “There aren’t any positive things, not a single piece of positive news here, and all in all there’s quite a lot to repair. If you look at the ranking now, Red Bull is on a different planet. Aston Martin is incredibly strong, they’re actually the second fastest on the track. We have an epidemic,” said Wolff after the first Grand Prix of the year.

Lewis Hamilton was fifth almost 51 seconds behind the first winner Max Verstappen in the Red Bull. George Russell was seventh in the second Mercedes, almost 56 seconds behind the two-time world champion.

“Of course you have to try everything now, turn the car completely upside down, analyze mercilessly and then try to hopefully make big strides forward. It was what we saw coming and it was important to have this dramatic wake-up call,” said Wolff.

Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko was surprised at the defeated Mercedes team. “We thought they would come here with a car that will be competitive. We’ll let ourselves be surprised at what Plan B looks like. Whatever you try or redesign now gets lost in the budget for other things,” commented the Austrian, who celebrated a double success for his team. Behind Verstappen, Sergio Perez finished in the second Red Bull.

Former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg sees Red Bull in the middle of an era. “It reminds me a bit of 2014 when Mercedes dominated. Red Bull was in a league of its own, it will be difficult for the competition,” said the 2016 world champion and current Sky expert.

In 2014, Mercedes had won the team classification by almost 300 points ahead of Red Bull and then secured the constructors’ title every year up to and including 2021, sometimes with similar gaps. The fact that the balance of power has shifted has now finally become clear in Bahrain. Behind Red Bull, surprise team Aston Martin and Ferrari, who were slowed down by Charles Leclerc’s failure, Mercedes is only fourth.

Hamilton in particular only played the role of well-wisher. “I would like to congratulate Alonso,” said the seven-time world champion after the race. “He did a crazy job, it was incredible to see.” Previously, Hamilton had had to watch relatively inactively on the track in the duel of the old masters as Alonso passed him in his Aston Martin. 38 of 57 laps were driven there. In the end, Alonso sensationally secured the 99th podium of his career in third place.

It is almost too cheesy that a 41-year-old, who had already declared his retirement from the premier class of motorsport in 2018, is at least causing something like excitement in the Red Bull domain of Formula 1. And that too in a team that Alonso switched to this season (previously Alpine) that was actually branded as completely without a chance, not without being smiled at for it. But not only the car has improved by far compared to the previous season, in which Sebastian Vettel mostly drove the Aston Martin at the back of the field. Even in his old age, Alonso remains an exceptional talent.

His overtaking maneuvers – especially against Hamilton, whom he surprised with an attack in turn 10 – triggered hymns of praise. “I’ve known Fernando for a long time, he’s one of the best drivers of all time,” said team owner Lawrence Stroll. Nico Rosberg shared the praise: “Fernando drives like he’s 25 again.”

And Alonso himself showed after the race that competitive athletes can still be wrong even after more than 20 years in their job. “Having the second best car in the first race is just surreal. Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari were in a league of their own last year and we thought it might take two years to reach that level of performance.” It took exactly one race.

Alonso and Aston Martin can cement their position in just under two weeks. Then the Formula 1 convoy stops in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).