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It’s never too early to start daydreaming about what we might see this coming Formula 1 campaign.
It’s 2023, and Formula 1 is set for a 23-race season, including the debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen chases a world-championship three-peat.
Autoweek looks at 23 key questions for Formula 1 in ’23.
Max Verstappen won more races in 2022 than some world champions have in entire careers.
A largely super-chilled Verstappen steamrollered the opposition to win his second world title as Red Bull opened a performance margin at most grands prix. Red Bull’s RB18 was a solid platform that evolved toward Verstappen’s natural style, meaning it would be a shock if the RB19 was anything but fast.
Only four drivers in history have won three titles in a row—Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, and Lewis Hamilton—meaning Verstappen is seeking to join distinguished company if he can pull off a three-peat.
There will be a new face at the helm of Ferrari this year after it recruited Frederic Vasseur as team principal.
Vasseur was hired off the back of his work in junior motorsport and six years at Alfa Romeo, but fronting Ferrari’s Formula 1 team is a different challenge entirely. The big question is, what will Vasseur change?
With more of an outsider’s perspective, he will view Maranello with an unclouded set of eyes and won’t be afraid to make tough decisions. Ferrari’s 2022 wasn’t terrible; after all, it had a fast car, and the anticipated fixes to engine reliability (having pushed for performance for 2022) is low-hanging fruit in terms of improved lap times. But can Vasseur succeed where his predecessors did not?
The Silver Arrows of Mercedes tumbled from gold to bronze in 2022.
The bouncing-and-bucking W13 was revealed to have deeper-rooted aero deficiencies, but there were green shoots. Upgrades worked, bringing Mercedes closer to contention, and it managed to win a race. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff estimated the team’s early problems left it up to 10 months behind the development curve, meaning the big question is which direction it takes with its W14.
Mercedes is extremely effective as a race team, has strong reliability, and its driver lineup is superb, but can the W14 shake free of the W13’s deficiencies from the outset?
This will be year three of Formula 1’s budget cap, now reduced to a base of $135 million before myriad exclusions and clauses are applied. It will be year two of the regulatory cycle.
The have-nots are gaining on the haves in terms of infrastructure, but for some teams excuses will be running thinner than before.
Formula 1’s “big three” grabbed all the victories in 2022, while only McLaren’s Lando Norris (pictured, left) was the only driver outside of Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes to score so much as a single podium position.
That needs to change in 2023.
Two kids who grew up together battling on a kart track just outside of Rouen, France, will line up next to each other in the Alpine garage this year.
Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly are the same age, have one F1 win apiece, and have both bounced back from various setbacks during their careers. They are not the best of friends but have been swift to emphasize that pundits have blown their rivalry out of proportion, and they know positive collaboration is a must.
Ocon’s three seasons with Alpine should bring him an initial advantage, but the dynamic between F1’s fast Frenchmen will be a fascinating subplot throughout 2023.
When Alpine wanted to loan youngster Oscar Piastri out to Williams for two years, his management took umbrage and sought employment elsewhere. He landed at McLaren.
The back-to-back F3 and F2 champion now has his shot at a midfield team, one which has medium-term title ambitions; he will compete alongside Lando Norris, whose excellent performances contributed to Daniel Ricciardo’s downfall.
Piastri can take inspiration from Norris, who debuted with McLaren before establishing his credentials, but there will be pressure on the 21-year-old Australian to prove why the team was so keen to secure his signature.
Fernando Alonso will be 42 this year and is now the most experienced Formula 1 driver in history, but there is no sign that his fierce rage to succeed has dimmed.
Whatever “El Plan” was is now over, and Alonso has made his way to Aston Martin for his next multiyear project. Aston Martin has endured a lean few years, but Lawrence Stroll has grand ambitions for a team now entering the next stage of its five-year plan.
The focus remains on 2024 and beyond, when the soon-to-be-finished new factory will have a tangible impact, but Alonso will still give ten-tenths every lap in 2023 and will expect Aston Martin to equal his commitment.
Sauber—still competing as Alfa Romeo for now—will already have 2026 firmly in mind. That’s when it will become Audi’s strategic partner in Formula 1.
It still has three seasons to navigate before that point, and after his exit from McLaren it is Andreas Seidl in charge at Sauber Motorsport. There is little doubt that Seidl’s hiring has been undertaken with the Audi tie-up in mind, and his early start means planning can begin for the long term.
First up is the question of who CEO Seidl will recruit as Alfa Romeo’s new team principal, with the two roles having been split following Frederic Vasseur’s exit.
Haas achieved its main objective in 2022, which was to reestablish itself in the midfield after its 2019-20 demise and predetermined 2021 write-off.
Its next ambition is to stabilize its displays after a rollercoaster season that included a couple of shock results and a handful of dismal outings, as the VF-22’s performance fluctuated.
Joining 2022’s comeback kid, Kevin Magnussen, will be Nico Hulkenberg, a veteran of Formula 1’s midfield who hasn’t raced full time since 2019. The team should have enough, particularly with the arrival of title partner MoneyGram, to aim for points at every race.
AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost believes young drivers need three years before a full judgment can be delivered—and 2023 will be season three for Yuki Tsunoda, so it’s crunch time. The amiable Japanese driver is popular but needs to step up this year, particularly amid the arrival of Nyck de Vries in place of Pierre Gasly.
De Vries (pictured) has a breadth of motorsport experience, but Formula 1 is different gravy—as a non-Red Bull athlete, his signing was unexpected and one of Helmut Marko’s gambles. If it doesn’t pay off, then he and Tsunoda need only look at the number of Red Bull juniors in Formula 2 (and Super Formula’s Liam Lawson) who could be Marko’s next gamble if they shine in 2023.
Expectations should not be raised too loftily for America’s first Formula 1 driver since 2015.
Logan Sargeant had a solid, if not outstanding, sole year in Formula 2 in 2022, and Williams promoted him for 2023 partly based off the thinking he may as well continue his learning in the top division. As such, 2023 is likely to feature a fair few trips to the school of hard knocks, particularly given Williams’ recent history.
If Williams remains in its current position, then a handful of Q2 appearances, and perhaps a smattering of lowly points finishes, would represent a prosperous rookie campaign for Sargeant.
Someone has to finish last in a 10-team championship. but in recent years Williams has made a nasty habit of occupying the slot, taking it four times in five seasons.
Owner Dorilton Capital duly parted company with CEO Jost Capito and technical director FX Demaison. The quirky Capito had been tasked with revitalizing Williams and met with some resistance along the way, while resources were switched to 2023 when it was realized Williams had no hope of avoiding the wooden spoon.
At the time of this writing, Williams remains without a team boss and technical leader—two gaping holes at the top of the management structure. It is difficult to envisage anything other than another challenging season.
Miami joined Formula 1’s calendar in 2022 amid a plethora of pizzazz and a VIP list that outdid the championship’s traditional top-tier events. Miami now faces the difficult second act.
Can it replicate the success of its 2022 event?
The novelty will have worn off while the negative aspects overlooked amid the usual first-year teething troubles will be more scrutinized if they are repeated. Nevertheless, there are strong foundations on which to build, and the promoters at Hard Rock Stadium are well-versed in evolving major events.
Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps is among Formula 1’s most venerated venues, but its future is shrouded in uncertainty.
At its 2022 event a contract extension was announced, but only for a single year, with the grand prix now placed in the pre-summer rather than post-summer round. Formula 1 remains keen to secure a race on every habitable continent, and talks have taken place with officials in South Africa over a renaissance for Kyalami.
That wasn’t possible for 2023, effectively giving Belgium a short-term reprieve, but F1 will no doubt try again for 2024. That could spell bad news for Spa-Francorchamps.
Not in 2023—but whether it reappears on the calendar in 2024, by which time five years will have passed since the championship graced China’s soil.
Formula 1 scheduled a grand prix in China for April 2023, but it was cancelled amid the country’s Covid Zero policy, a strategy which has since been swiftly relaxed, with dire consequences for the country.
By 2024 the situation is likely to have improved, and authoritarian regimes are big fans of state promotion through sport, while Formula 1 itself still has a three-year deal to run a Chinese Grand Prix. Teams had previously regarded China as a blossoming market to explore, and it will be intriguing to see whether the country is still an attractive proposition.
Formula 1 is heading to Las Vegas this year. You may have heard. It is Liberty Media’s crowning glory, the event it has craved for years, with Formula 1 set to actually turn the Strip into a racetrack.
At night. The Saturday 10 p.m. PT start time (1 a.m. ET) is unusual, and some ticket packages are hysterically expensive and for those with more money than sense, but there is no doubt Formula 1 is trying to reach new heights.
There may be parallels to Miami: As a race it could be so-so, given it is a street track, but as an event it is Formula 1’s version of the Super Bowl, and the VIP list is likely to be more of a book.
Qatar has just finished hosting the weirdest soccer World Cup in history, constructed at high financial and human cost, with Lionel Messi and Argentina victorious in the most epic of finals.
Its attention now turns toward Formula 1. Qatar has a long-term contract, joining Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi as host countries in the region, and no expense will be spared. This won’t be Qatar’s first Formula 1 dance, as it hosted a 2021 round on short notice as Australia’s replacement, but 2023 truly marks the start of the country’s association with the championship.
Tentative plans for a Doha street race went quiet, and instead Qatar is upgrading the permanent Lusail facility to accommodate Formula 1 long term. Drivers enjoyed the fast and technical track—and its selection as a Sprint venue adds another element to the night race.
Will it provide the sparkle?
It has been almost a year since Michael Andretti, through father Mario, revealed plans to enter a team into Formula 1 in 2024. That timeframe has now been shifted to 2026, but it is significant Andretti has formed a partnership with General Motors in order to bring its Cadillac brand to Formula 1.
Construction on Andretti’s large facility in Indiana is underway; it will house the family’s expanding motorsport portfolio, of which Formula 1 will be the centerpiece. The FIA has welcomed the Andretti-Cadillac proposal, but Formula 1 remains lukewarm to the project amid the desire to retain the 10-team model.
Audi’s entry in 2026 was a big coup for Formula 1, but it was only half of the story it initially anticipated.
Audi sister brand Porsche held lengthy discussions with Red Bull, but they collapsed amid control issues. Porsche says it remains interested but with whom and how are two questions the German giant has yet to answer as time ticks on. Honda, which famously left Formula 1 but never actually truly departed, continues to leave the door open for 2026.
Formula 1’s recent growth, and continued emergence in the U.S., means it would be little surprise if other manufacturers—or wealthy consortiums—expressed interest too.
Daniel Ricciardo has rejoined Red Bull in a third-driver capacity, while Mick Schumacher is Mercedes’ reserve, and both have said they regard Formula 1 as unfinished business.
Then there are the likes of last year’s Formula 2 top two—Felipe Drugovich and Théo Pourchaire—who have backup roles at Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo, respectively.
Behind them are a new crop of youngsters in the cauldron of Formula 2 striving to stand out to Formula 1’s decision-makers. There are insufficient seats for all of them—as is the way on a grid of only 20 cars—but will silly season unfold in a such a manner as to present any of them with an opportunity?
Sprint is entering its third year, and F1 continues to hone the concept.
For 2023, Sprint’s presence has been doubled as a feature at six grands prix, including the U.S. round in Austin. There was talk that Sprint could be split into a standalone race, separate from the grand prix, but the format remains as it was in 2022.
It is undoubtedly here to stay, so where will Formula 1 next take Sprint? Does Formula 1 separate it entirely from Sunday’s main affair? Does it stay at six events or continue to grow? And, in an expanding calendar, when will a saturation point be reached in terms of actual racing?
One rule change quietly slipped into the 2023 regulations is subtle yet intriguing.
At two grands prix this year—the locations yet to be announced—the rules for qualifying have been amended. At these pair of rounds (if it is dry) drivers must use only the hard tire compound in Q1, the medium in Q2, and the soft for the Q3 pole shootout.
How each car utilizes its tires in terms of warmup and an optimum operating window can vary, and it is an exact science that teams have to carefully manage, while drivers will have to swiftly adapt to running different compounds on an evolving racetrack.
Could it lead to some front-runners slipping up, or conversely could it hand an opportunity to lesser teams?
Mohammed Ben Sulayem (pictured, left) is in the second year of his first four-year term as the FIA’s president, and he has undoubtedly been a more assertive and prominent presence compared to predecessor Jean Todt.
That has, at times, caused friction with Formula 1 and its CEO, Stefano Domenicali (pictured, right).
Last year, there were a handful of disagreements, including over Sprint (and its associated costs), the jewelry ban, and the way the 2026 engine regulation discussions dragged on.
Where the major representatives position themselves politically through 2023 will be fascinating to watch.