The 2023 Formula 1 season has kicked off, and with the iconic Monaco Grand Prix now in the rearview mirror, it is a great time to take a look at what has gone down so far this season and what to expect as the season continues. Through six races, there are many storylines to watch. So, let’s not waste any time and dive straight into my F1 quarter season check in.
Red Bull Rocketship
After Max Verstappen and Red Bull finished the 2022 season in dominant fashion, they were the heavy favorites to win both the Drivers’ Championship and the Constructors’ Championship (team championship). Everyone felt that Red Bull would have the best car, but not many would’ve expected them to build a car so dominant that they would win every race with a gap of over 20 seconds to the closest non-Red Bull car. The only exception was Australia, which had a rolling start to restart the race at the end of the last lap.
The car Red Bull has built is the definition of a rocket ship. It is just faster than everyone else’s car, and Red Bull has the best driver in the world to put in that car, with back-to-back Drivers’ Champion Max Verstappen leading the way with a current Drivers’ Championship lead of 39 points. This is after he won in Monaco for the second time in his career, lapping his teammate Sergio Perez twice, since Perez started from last after crashing in qualifying. Red Bull has the best car (built by Adrian Newey, one of the best engineers in F1 history), the best driver, and a team principal in Christian Horner who would like nothing more than to win as much as possible.
A Former Champ Back To His Best
When former two-time champion Fernando Alonso decided to switch from Alpine to Aston Martin for the 2023 season, many were shocked by the decision. For Alonso, who has had many decisions to switch teams backfire on him in the past, this felt like one that could potentially backfire too. However, the switch to Aston Martin has worked out wonderfully for Fernando Alonso, as he is currently third in the Drivers’ standings, and has led Aston Martin to second place in the Constructors’ standings. For Aston Martin, a team that finished the 2022 season in seventh place, being entrenched in the fight as a top four team and currently being in second place is a massive improvement. If it wasn’t for Red Bull being in a different dimension, every headline would be about the Aston Martin turnaround.
The move from Alpine is working out really well for Alonso. The 41-year-old is on pace for his best result in the Drivers’ standings in a long time. The last time Alonso finished in the top three in the Drivers’ standings was all the way back in 2013, when he finished in second behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel, the man he replaced at Aston Martin when Vettel retired after the 2022 season. With Alonso only being 12 points behind Sergio Perez for second place, Alonso could very well once again split the two Red Bull drivers in the standings in a year where the lead Red Bull driver runs away with the championship.
Time For A Change
From 2014 all the way through 2021, Mercedes dominated Formula 1. They won every single Constructors’ Championship, and won every single Drivers’ Championship with the exception of 2021, when Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi for the Drivers’ title in the last race of the season. However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Mercedes as of late. They had some struggles in 2022. And although they did start to turn it around by the end of the year, they have already scrapped their concept of having a no sidepod car in 2023, coming into Monaco with a brand new looking car. They were set to debut the car at Imola, but the race was canceled due to floods in the area.
With a new car design, Mercedes still has plenty to find out about this new car. What will the performance be like? How good is it? And what improvements will be needed? The good news for Mercedes is the that next race is the Spanish Grand Prix, which is a great race if you need to test your car, since it’s where preseason testing takes place. The new car design could potentially help Mercedes get back into the fight for race wins, which would be a welcome sight for Lewis Hamilton, since 2022 was the first season where he failed to win a single race.
Things were looking great at the start of 2022 for Ferrari. They had the best car, were ahead in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships, and everything was going great. That was until Ferrari imploded. Bad strategy decisions, an unreliable car leading to DNFs, and the dominance of Red Bull in the second half led to a massive Ferrari disappointment. So far in 2023, Ferrari hasn’t helped itself at all. Things looked bright with new team principal Fred Vasseur taking over. However, things haven’t necessarily gone to plan for Ferrari.
In the first three races of the season, Charles Leclerc suffered two DNFs. In the Australian Grand Prix, both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished out of the points (Leclerc DNF and Sainz finished 12th, only the top ten finishers get points). Overall, Ferrari has scored 90 points this season, putting them fourth place in the Constructors’ standings through six races. However, when you look a little closer at each race, you realize a small problem. 36 of the 90 points Ferrari has scored this year came in Baku, at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. That means that in the other five race weekends, Ferrari has only scored 54 points. With Aston Martin and Mercedes being ahead of Ferrari by 30 and 29 points respectively, the failure to have both drivers finish in the top six in any race outside of Baku has shown that Ferrari needs to improve if they want to finish second, or even third in the Constructors’ Championship.
F1 Look Ahead
With all this talk about the previous races, it’s time to take a look at what’s ahead for Formula 1. The next six races start with the Spanish Grand Prix, before a fly-away to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix and then returning to Europe for the Austrian, British, Hungarian, and Belgian Grands Prix. After the Belgian Grand Prix is F1’s summer break, which is the next check-in point for the season. However, here’s what you can expect up until then.
Alpine and McLaren both had their best race of the season in Monaco. Alpine had Esteban Ocon finish third and Pierre Gasly finish seventh, while McLaren had both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in the points finishing ninth and tenth respectively. Look for both teams to fight for fifth place in the Constructors’ championship, especially after the down-to-the-wire fight they had for fourth place last year, with Alpine ending up on top.
Another thing to monitor is Nyck De Vries performances with AlphaTauri. The 27-year-old is in his first full season in F1, and the former Formula 2 and Formula E champ has not had the best of times, currently being one of only two drivers who have yet to score a point. With AlphaTauri being Red Bull’s B team, and the history of Red Bull replacing drivers mid season, De Vries will need to start performing well if he wants to keep his seat. There are a number of Red Bull junior drivers who could be in line to replace him at some point.
The last thing to watch is the fight for second place in the Constructors’ Championship. With Aston Martin only one point ahead of Mercedes, the fight between the two should be interesting, especially with Aston Martin being a customer team of Mercedes, meaning they use Mercedes engines. Also, you can’t count out Ferrari. They have had their early season struggles, but they have enough talent with their drivers, and a good enough car to still be in the fight, as there is still a long way to go in the season.
That about wraps up my Formula 1 quarter season check in. The great thing about F1 isn’t always the fight at the front, and this year could prove that. Even with Red Bull seemingly running away with things, the battles for second and fifth should be extremely interesting. Also, don’t discount the battles lower in the standings too, as those can always be interesting due to the fact that one race can change things and the teams earn more money the higher up they finish in the standings. The next few races should be very interesting, and I will be back with another F1 check in after the Belgian Grand Prix to check in as the summer break starts.