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Formula One 2023: Predictions

Aditya Chaudhuri Aditya Chaudhuri

The 2023 Formula One season is almost upon us.

Before the action gets underway, here are some of my predictions for the upcoming season.

Verstappen to become three-time World Champion

This one is probably inevitable. The signs have been ominous for a couple of years now. Add to that the winter testing data, it doesn’t take a very smart man to realise that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will be the one to beat.

After a nail-biting 2021 season that saw Verstappen pip Lewis Hamilton for his maiden Formula One championship, there was no touching the Dutchman in 2022. Charles Leclerc was a contender, but that probably ended inside six to seven races. Verstappen was in a league of his own last year, and there wasn’t anyone near him; it is unlikely there will be anyone this season either.

Of course, in Formula One, a lot depends on the car, but when you see Sergio Pérez in the Red Bull car and compare him with the Dutchman, it is very clear that the two-time World Champion operates on another level.

But, to be honest, Verstappen has always been on another level, right from his entry into the sport in 2014. It was an unprecedented move for a 17-year old to get a Super License, and yet, not only did he get one, he made the entire world take notice of his talent. He was promoted to Red Bull in only his second season and won on his debut in Spain in 2016, holding his own against the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton and his own then-teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. 

Verstappen set the benchmark on the opening day of winter testing. Not only was Red Bull’s pace scary, the Austrian team had a clean winter testing outing, coming across no technical or mechanical failures. Moreover, Verstappen has been oozing confidence, seemingly not carrying any pressure of chasing that third World Title. 

The signs are very clear, and it is probably only a matter of time before Verstappen wraps up his third World Title and becomes the second Red Bull driver—after Sebastian Vettel—to do so. 

Piastri to shine after messy Alpine affair

Oscar Piastri’s move to British team McLaren was one of the messiest contract disputes in recent motorsport history. Piastri, who was a member of the Alpine academy, was initially announced as Fernando Alonso’s replacement, only for the Australian to come out and publicly announce that he hadn’t signed any contract with Alpine. What followed was a lengthy and messy dispute between Alpine and Piastri, which the latter eventually won, following which he joined McLaren to replace his outgoing compatriot, Daniel Ricciardo.

Aside from all the noise off the track, the general craze about Piastri in the paddock is justified. Over the last four years, the youngster has won every single series he has competed in. In 2019, he won the Formula Renault Eurocup. In 2020, he won the Formula 3 championship, going on to with the Formula 2 championship in 2021. What makes these achievements even more remarkable is the fact that Piastri won all these series in his maiden year of competing in them. 

The attention and the hype around Piastri is justified. He is one of the most promising rookies coming into the sport since Max Verstappen. While there has been a lot of pressure from the media (and Alpine as well, with the team having been taking potshots at the youngster for not sticking with them), Piastri himself has shrugged aside all the outside noise and is concentrating wholly on track.

While winter testing shows McLaren have some work to do, the Australian is unquestionably one of the most talented drivers to have made it to the grid in recent times. One can count on Piastri to have a stellar debut season in Formula One. 

Aston Martin best amongst the rest

Ahead of the 2022 season, which had regulation changes implemented, Aston Martin were one of the dark horses to surprise everyone given their trajectory over the previous few years. The team endured a disappointing season in 2022, however, finishing sixth in the Constructors’ Standings. 

The new season, though, brings a lot of reasons for Aston Martin to be optimistic. Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who had joined them in 2021, retired at the end of last season and was replaced by another experienced World Champion in Fernando Alonso. The team’s early response from Alonso and testing in Bahrain showed that they have made an upward movement from last season in the winter break.

Businessman Lawrence Stroll has invested heavily in the Aston Martin project, and the Silverstone-based outfit are one that could be a surprise package in 2023. With one of the best driver’s on the grid in their arsenal in Alonso and strong showing in winter testing, Aston Martin have all the tools required for a strong season. Expect them to be the best among the rest after the top three (Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes) on the grid. It is also very likely that we see Alonso back on the top step of the podium after a decade-long wait. 

Hamilton to endure another winless season

After a heartbreaking 2021 title fight that saw him lose out on a record eighth World Title at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton encountered a winless season for the first time in his career in 2022. 

After 15 seasons in the sport, where he won at least one race every season, Hamilton could only manage a second-place finish at best last year. Mercedes were hit hard by the regulation changes, which affected them severely at the start of the season. Although they got on top of some of their issues by the second half of the season, the German team could only manage a solitary win in the entire campaign, which went to George Russell at the Brazilian Grand Prix. 

Russell, who was in his debut season for Mercedes in 2022, comfortably got the better of his experienced teammate, though it is to be noted that Hamilton was running a lot of experimental setups and strategies for the team compared to Russell. That said, when push came to shove, Russell managed to take a win. Ironically, it was Hamilton whom he held off in Brazil to take the win.

Hamilton finished a low sixth in the Championship Standings last year — the lowest finish of his career — and his tone heading into the new season speaks a lot about where the team currently are. Mercedes are a bit coy about their chances, and while they have been in a similar mood before in previous seasons only to then dominate throughout the year, last season showed that they have taken a couple of steps back.

Red Bull and Ferrari are clearly a step ahead of Mercedes regardless of where the German team start from this year. To top it all off, the team were even plagued with issues during the winter testing, further adding to their woes. 

Expect Mercedes to be fighting for podiums and even wins towards the middle and final third of the season. But, should they come out with a strong, challenging car, don’t expect a young and hungry Russell to sit back. Upbeat after beating Hamilton, he will most likely outscore his partner again, and while Hamilton may have a stronger season compared to 2022, it is unlikely he’ll add to his 103 Grand Prix wins.

For the majority of his decade-long career with Mercedes, Hamilton has had the fastest car on the grid, but whenever there has been a worthy challenger, or the machinery under him hasn’t been the best on the grid, he has failed to rise to the occasion, just like he did last year; 2023 will be no different.

And it’s not just Mercedes who are expected to start slowly; both Ferrari and Red Bull are just too far ahead of them. We will most definitely see flashes of Hamilton’s brilliance in the season, but don’t expect a top-step-of-the-podium finish from him. 

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Aditya Chaudhuri

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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