F1 Season Preview
After several months of off-season activities and preparations, the 2023 Formula 1 season is set to begin Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Featuring 23 races, this season will be the longest in F1’s history. The new calendar includes the return of the Qatar Grand Prix, and the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, which brings the number of races on American soil up to three.
It will also be the first season since 2006 not to feature Sebastian Vettel, with the four-time champion retiring at last year’s end.
The upcoming season appears to be Max Verstappen’s to lose. The Dutchman defended his controversial 2021 championship with authority, winning 15 races en route to taking the 2022 title by 146 points over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen’s success was shared by his team, Red Bull Racing, which won 17 of 22 races and retained Sergio Pérez to feature an identical lineup. It already showed an impressive pace during this year’s preseason testing in Bahrain, showing there is residual strength.
Still only 25, Verstappen appears poised to give himself and Red Bull an indefinite amount of on-track success and embark on a championship streak comparable to those of Vettel, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Despite the obvious challenge of going against Red Bull, the teams that often join at the front have reasons for optimism.
Scuderia Ferrari appeared to be the closest challenger last year, with its drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz combining for four wins.
Maranello’s most glaring change for this year is at team principal, where longtime Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur takes over for the departed Mattia Binotto.
Still seeking its first constructor’s title since 2007, the Prancing Horse will hope to adapt to its new leader well to have a fighting chance.
Mercedes keeps their lineup of both Hamilton and George Russell. The latter provided the Silver Arrows’ only win last year, presenting a season in stark contrast to the unprecedented success the team had had since 2014.
The 25-year-old Russell is poised to be stronger in 2023, but with Hamilton aging and coming off a winless season, it’s difficult to determine how Mercedes’ pace will compare to its challengers.
Alpine and McLaren, the distant fourth and fifth-place finishers to the top three teams, have new looks of their own this year.
Pierre Gasly joined Alpine in 2023 to pair French compatriot Esteban Ocon. Gone is the longtime great Fernando Alonso, now taking Vettel’s place at Aston Martin.
After winning a race in 2021 with Ocon, Alpine missed the podium entirely last year, giving the two Frenchmen, both former upset winners, an early goal for the upcoming season.
McLaren's duo of the consistent Lando Norris and highly anticipated rookie Oscar Piastri appears one of the strongest. The 2020 F3 and 2021 F2 champion, Piastri figures to give McLaren a stronger chance to return to the top of the grid.
Rookies joining Piastri on the grid include 2019 F2 champion, Nyck de Vries, getting his first F1 chance with AlphaTauri, and Logan Sargeant, representing Williams as the first American F1 driver since 2015.
Another notable storyline comes from the Haas F1 team, where longtime veteran Nico Hülkenberg returns as a full-time entrant this season. The surprising move came at the expense of young Mick Schumacher, who is now Mercedes’ reserve driver.
Although Verstappen and Red Bull are at full throttle, the teams around them will be optimistic their dramatic changes from 2022 will provide chances to fight even harder in 2023.
Logan Groeneveld-Meijer is a junior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.