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There is a Formula 1 race this weekend. Let that sink in. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? It also means it’s time to make some predictions.
So, here is one bold prediction for every team on the Formula 1 grid in 2023. Let’s go through them in reverse championship order from last season. That way it’ll seem like we’re walking from the end of the pit lane to the beginning.
Then we’ll grab a bite at Red Bull’s motorhome because they seem like they’d have some great food.
Anyway, that means we’ll get started with…
Williams: P8 In The Standings
Williams had one of the most head-turning testing weekends (in a good way) of any team on the grid. Yeah, we’ve got to throw the requisite “It’s only testing, but…” before what I’m going to say, but I don’t think they’ll finish last this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying for a second that this is the year WIlliams returns to the midfield en route to the sharp end of the field and their rightful place as championship contenders. I’m not saying that at all, but I do think they’ll make a significant step in the right direction.
I think this is easily their best driver lineup since Russell/Kubica in 2019, and frankly probably before that.
Dropping Nicholas Latifi should go a long way in giving Williams the chance to score with both cars. Yes, Logan Sargeant is a rookie, but he looked great in testing and has a great teammate in Alex Albon.
Good car + Strong Strong Driver Lineup = A step forward.
Someone has to finish last, but I don’t think it’ll be Williams again this year.
AlphaTauri: De Vries will beat Tsunoda Head To Head
AlphaTauri has one of the most intriguing lineups on the grid in Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries.
Tsunoda is the one with the most F1 experience under his belt, and while he’s capable of strong showings, his rookie season in 2021 was marred by frequent mistakes which manifested themselves in countless crashes. As for 2022, well, that was ruined by a lousy car.
Pierre Gasly, left AlphaTauri and is off to fight with Esteban Ocon (in every sense of the word, more on that in a second) so the team looked outside the Red Bull stable and brought in de Vries.
De Vries may only have one F1 race under his belt — a stellar point-scoring one-off for Williams at last year’s Italian Grand Prix — but he brings a wealth of experience. The 28-year-old had a strong junior career including an F2 championship in 2019. He moved on to Formula E and won a World Championship for Mercedes there in 2021.
After serving as Mercedes reserve driver in F1, de Vries has more than demonstrated he deserves a ride.
While Gasly was no slouch, and Tsunoda could hang with him, the expectations are now on Tsunoda to lead the team seeing as he’s entering his third season with AlphaTauri.
I’m a big Yuki fan, but I’m not convinced he’ll be able to beat de Vries head-to-head. The Dutchmen is a rookie in name only, and I expect him to hit the ground running as fast as his AT04 will take him. That may not be all that fast, but I expect to see de Vries finish ahead of Tsunoda in the Drivers’ Championship.
Haas: Podium For Hulkenberg
Is this it? Is this the year and the year Nico Hulkenberg finally lands himself a spot on the podium?
No. These are supposed to be bold predictions. I’m saying it now: Nico Hulkenberg will finally, after 181+ starts, land a podium.
No one has competed in more Formula 1 Grand Prix without a podium appearance than Hulk.
Now, I think that Haas is going to have a good car this year and will be fully entrenched in the midfield. So how does that translate into a podium, when even a strong midfield team is usually fortunate to steal a podium?
Let me ask you: how did Hulkenberg’s teammate — who once told him to “suck my balls” — Kevin Magnussen land a shock pole in Brazil last season? Well, he laid down a blistering lap with a good car when the team needed it, but he also needed luck.
I could see Haas getting a bounce like that with Hulkenberg this season. A strategy gamble that pays off. A race of attrition that takes out cars ahead of them. Even another fortunate rain shower could be enough for Hulkenberg to get that podium monkey off his back.
Aston Martin: Fernando Alonso Will Get Annoyed With His Team, Teammate, or Owner Before The Summer Break
When it was announced that Fernando Alonso would take Sebastian Vettel’s place at Aston Martin, my first reaction, like most people, was shock.
My second reaction, was “Wait, how is this going to work?”
Fernando takes over a team when he joins. As he should. He’s one of the best drivers in Formula 1 history and has a pair of championships to prove it.
Still, he has no problems when it comes to criticizing his teammates and the team itself. Doesn’t anyone else think things could get weird if he butts heads with new teammate Lance Stroll, considering Lance’s old man owns the team?
Uh… I do.
Alonso was asked about this before the season and didn’t seem concerned. He said that he had known Lawrence Stroll for years. That might be true, but being on the man’s payroll and driving his car will add a new dimension for that relationship.
Lance and Fernando already had a run-in after the announcement that he’d join the team.
Can’t wait to work with you next year, pal.
Things seem to be going very well at the moment, but it’s a long way until the summer break. There’s plenty of time for things to go sideways.
Alfa Romeo: Midfield Leaders
Alfa Romeo had a heck of a car last year… when it worked.
They look to have a good car again this year and might even be the best of the rest… if the car works.
Reliability plagued Alfa Romeo last year. They had more DNFs than any other team on the grid, and while not all of them were mechanical, enough of them were to make it a weak spot for the Swiss-based team.
Their gearbox was a big problem. It didn’t just take an unexpected crap, on more than one occasion it hampered starts for both of the team’s drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guranyu. They left a lot of points on the table last year simply because they didn’t finish, or shot themselves in the foot just getting off the grid.
So, if they can at least keep that car moving — which does seem to have some pace in it — they could absolutely top the midfield.
How are things going so far in 2023?
In fairness, the team got that car moving for the afternoon session then finished the day P3 on the timesheet and logged the third most laps. While that may have been a fluke issue, onboard footage sure made it seem like a gearbox issue yet again.
Hopefully (for the sake of this prediction not making me look like a total ass in 8 months) they get it under control.
One last thing: this is the team’s final year as Alfa Romeo. They’ll have a different name between now and 2026 when they transition into the Audi works team.
McLaren: A Tumble Out Of The Midfield
Things aren’t looking great for McLaren going into this season.
The team wrestled with its car for most of last year. It was unwieldy at the best of times and may have even cost Daniel Ricciardo a spot on this year’s grid.
Moving into testing, the legendary team — celebrating its 60th anniversary — will enter 2023 having run fewer laps during testing than any other team.
There’s no denying that Oscar Piastri is an incredible talent who was worth stealing from under Alpine’s nose. However, if this year’s car is as hard to drive as last year’s car was for Ricciardo and returning driver Lando Norris then the young Australian is getting thrown into the deep end of the pool.
And not Red Bull’s pool at Monaco that his predecessor made famous.
What could also be a big problem for McLaren are the gains being made by the teams behind them. McLaren finished P5 last season, while Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin finished P6 and P7 respectively. Both of those outfits looked solid in testing. Add to that some improvements for teams like Willams and Haas, and you’re left with McLaren as one of the only teams that seem to have stagnated, or worse, regressed, from last season.
It’s unfortunate, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see McLaren out of the midfield like they were a few years ago.
They’ll need to qualify better to snag points when they can. Ricciardo and Norris combined to miss Q3 21 out of 44 times. Then, when they break into the points, they’ll need to hold steady until the checkered flag.
Alpine: Gasly And Ocon’s Notorious Beef Will Have One Flair Up, Probably More
If you like Drive To Survive-style drama, Alpine is the team you should pay attention to.
For some reason, Alpine/Renault flies under the radar as one of the most dysfunctional teams on the grid. Yeah, we like to talk about Ferrari screwing up on the strategy side and possible teammate squabbling at Red Bull like there was late last season. Yet, I don’t think any team has had the level of consistent drama that Alpine/Renault/Lotus/Renault/Benneton/Tolman — fine “Team Endstone” — has had over the years.
For real. How far do you want to go back? Stealing Michael Schumacher from Jordan? Crashgate? The beef with Red Bull over engines in the mid-to-late 2010s?
For the sake of argument, let’s start with their time as Alpine, which started when Fernando Alonso returned to the team in 2021. We had Alonso taking part in the “young driver test,” there was the Oscar Piastri fiasco, and then there was the messy end to Alonso’s tenure with the team.
All of that in two years. So who did they bring in to partner with Esteban Ocon? Pierre Gasly; a guy everyone knows he hates!
Think of their relationship like Yellowstone National Park. Yeah, it looks nice on the surface, but shockingly close to the surface is a bubbling caldera of molten vitriol that could blow at any second.
What could light the fuse that sets off this all-French-language explosion of animosity and rage? I think it could be a bad car. It remains to be seen how competitive the Alpine A523 is, but it didn’t exactly impress during testing. They were the slowest of any team over the three-day test.
Were they holding back? We’ll know soon enough, but if things aren’t going well on track, expect to see some fireworks off of it.
Mercedes: P3 Again… But A More Distant P3
Since the regulations were retooled for the 2022 season, there have been two teams that seemed to have gotten it right: Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes on the other hand, who had dominated the entire turbo-hybrid era up until last season, struggled in a big way. Lewis Hamilton went without a win, and George Russell only nabbed his first career Grand Prix victory after the team worked their asses off salvaging every last drop of performance out of the flawed W13.
Things were looking up toward the end of the year, which had me thinking we were in for a possible three-way title fight.
After testing… I feel differently.
You know the words — it’s only testing — but Mercedes seemed to be in a similar spot to where they were pre-Silverstone last year. That was the race where they introduced an upgrade package that got things turned in the right direction.
Mercedes usually plays it coy during testing, but that was when they were top dogs, they really don’t seem to think they have it this year. Plus, Red Bull and Ferrari seem to have made gains, which will mean a bigger gap to the two front-runners.
It looks like Mercedes’ biggest competition could be coming from behind them. Alfa Romeo had a solid test, while Aston Martin really got people talking after an exciting weekend. In all likelihood, those teams will be battling each other, but they could be nipping at Mercedes’ heels.
I think Mercedes will remain P3 this season, and they may even scrounge up a win or two. That said, they’ll be well outside the title race before we even get to the summer break.
Ferrari: Leclerc Wins At Monaco
The biggest change at Ferrari comes on the pit wall, with Fred Vasseur taking over for Mattia Binotto. Does that mean stability and consistency on both the technical side and the competitive side of things?
We’ll see, but if it does, it’ll help Charles Leclerc lock up the biggest win of his career,
It’s high time the series’ lone Monagasque driver finally takes a win in the principality. We all know he can do it.
Monaco can be won or lost on Saturday, and Leclerc qualified on pole for the Monaco Grand Prix in 2021. However, he crashed during Q3 and ruined his car to the point that he couldn’t start the race.
In 2022, Leclerc qualified on pole and started the race, but dropped to P4 thanks to a communication blunder on the part of his team.
The man is going to take a victory in his home race. If ever there was a race built for Ferrari’s habit of showing up with a car that can throw down lightning-quick qualifying laps but lacks race pace, it’s Monaco.
This is the year, Leclerc and Ferrari finally put the pieces together and give the home crowd something to cheer about.
Red Bull: Sergui Perez Wins In Mexico
It’s almost tough to make a bold prediction for Red Bull because they’re going to be so good. I could go the other way and say they’re going to tumble down the order, but that would require me to ignore every shred of evidence to the contrary.
So, that’s why I’m saying this season Sergio Perez will finally win his home Grand Prix.
He has had a good chance to do that every year since he hopped in a Red Bull. In fact, his biggest competition has been the guy in the other Red Bull, 2-time World Champion Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull RB19 is going to be a monster at most tracks, but ever since Red Bull started using Honda power units in 2019, they’ve excelled at high-altitude circuits, specifically at the Red Bull Ring and in Mexico City. That’s believed to be because Honda’s jet engine folks helped design the blades in the turbo, and they’re used to making things that have to be able to work at high altitudes where the air is thin.
That trend continued under the Red Bull Power Train banner (I know, they’re zombie Hondas until Ford joins the party in ‘26).
Red Bull looks practically unbeatable, and it won’t help put the opposition’s mind at ease when Max Verstappen talks about his new car like this.
It’s that much better than the all-conquering RB18? Egad, man.
A Couple Of Final Predictions…
So, long story longer, I’ve got time for one more prediction and that is who will win the championships.
First, here’s my prediction for the Constructors’ Championship:
- Red Bull
- Alfa Romeo
- Aston Martin
Drink it in. Get mad about it if you must. Now, for the Drivers’ Championship top 5:
- Max Verstappen
- Charles Leclerc
- George Russell
- Sergio Perez
- Carlos Sainz
We’ll take another look at all of this when the season wraps up at the end of November, Then we’ll see how right (or perhaps more accurately, how wrong) I turned out to be.
Plan your race day breakfasts, everyone (I just found a kickass bagel place that could be my new go-to). We’re in for one hell of a season.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle
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