As The Race reflects on the 2023 motorsport season - one that featured a record-equalling Formula 1 schedule, no fewer than 39 MotoGP races, and no shortage of on- and off-track drama in IndyCar and Formula E - we’ve asked our writers to recount their standout motorsport memory or feeling from the past 12 months.
Our final entry comes from Scott Mitchell-Malm, who takes us back to February and the realisation that a hint of potential from a Formula 1 underdog was the real deal.
Even for an F1 season dominated to an unprecedented degree, 2023 had more than a few highlights. As I rolled back through my own memory of the year, it was surprisingly difficult to find something that stood out above the others - until I got all the way back to Bahrain.
The image comes to mind so clearly, even now. It's early evening in Bahrain, trackside at my favourite testing vantage point - the outside of Turn 10, looking across as the cars flash into view through the quick Turn 9 left-hander and drivers desperately try to scrub off enough speed to slow down and get the front in for the second left leading onto the back straight.
After underwhelming initial glimpses of red and black, metallic green shimmers into focus. It's entirely unremarkable, in the best possible sense.
There are no obvious vices apart from when Fernando Alonso gets a little too carried away exploring the limits and locks up. His new toy, the Aston Martin AMR23, is settled under braking but responds well to Alonso's inputs. Slow down, in, turn, accelerate - off he goes. Time and time again.
This trackside trip, and a couple more before the end of the test, is when it dawned on me: beyond the laptimes, beyond the paddock gossip, beyond the quiet confidence from members of the team, the Aston Martin looked the real deal. I had the evidence before my eyes. And I thought 'this could be brilliant'.
It wasn't sustainable, but for a good third of the season (and a couple of times afterwards) Aston Martin was a remarkable story. And it all started in Bahrain.
OUR 2023 MEMORIES SO FAR
- Jack Benyon: A poignant Nashville IndyCar trip
- Ben Anderson: The other F1 returnee who enjoyed his 2023 comeback
- Sam Smith: When Formula E's big on- and off-track stories intersected
- Mark Hughes: A statement drive that drew a line under years and years wasted
- Matt Beer: MotoGP 2023 melted my frozen heart
- Valentin Khorounzhiy: When IndyCar's dominant champion fully leaned into his maverick side
- Jack Cozens: Inside F1 2023's most hectic news day
- Edd Straw: The oddest moment of F1's strangest weekend
Everything across the rest of testing and the grand prix weekend itself, from that moment onwards, just reinforced that feeling I had watching the car on-track for the first time.
Qualifying was surprisingly underwhelming, but the expectation for Sunday remained grand. When Alonso pulled a sweet switchback move on Lewis Hamilton on his way to an immediate podium finish, it felt like the perfect flourish - especially as he did it at Turn 10 of all places.