After what felt like an extremely long time, Formula 1 is back with a street race in Baku. However, while the winner and fastest team may be predictable, the weekend format has changed. There will be six sprint weekends this season, starting with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but after a vote, the sprint weekend format is drastically different.
For those that didn’t know, there was rumour and discussions amongst the teams regarding the structure of a sprint weekend from the start of the season. A vote was taken and it has been decided that qualifying for Sunday’s race will be on Friday with Saturday becoming ‘Sprint Saturdays’.
A one-hour Sprint Shootout will determine the grid for the Sprint just a few hours later. This makes Saturday a stand-alone day meaning teams don’t have to worry about where they finish affecting them for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
The reason for this is that Pirelli hasn’t been able to make enough tyres for the season so this is the solution Formula 1 has come up with. Another reason will likely be in the name of entertainment for the viewer.
There will be many opinions floating around about the changes, but this will be the format for all six events this year so we will have to wait until the last one to see if this is a format that will work for Formula 1 in the future.
Introducing… Sprint Saturday ✨
🗓️ All-new weekend format 👀 Saturday's Sprint sessions do not affect the Grand Prix ⏱️ Friday's qualifying sets Sunday's grid 🆕 New Sprint Shootout qualifying session
It has been a month since we last saw the teams take to the track in Melbourne for what ended up being a chaotic race with many controversies and lots to talk about. However, we are now back on the streets of Baku but the results could be a familiar story.
Red Bull will likely be very dominant again with their overall raw pace. But in the break, other teams have been able to go away and develop their cars because, unlike in the summer, there has been no mandatory factory shutdown.
With this in mind we could see Alonso push his way past the Mercedes, or will they have done enough to stay ahead? George Russell has said there will be plenty of changes to the car for this race.
For those long-suffering Ferrari fans they will have their fingers crossed the team managed to pull out some development to make their car and strategy more reliable, while McLaren fans will be hoping for more pace. There are many reasons to watch this weekend but the progression of some teams will go unnoticed but is worth keeping an eye on.
First things first, sport is meant to be entertaining. The unpredictability, the drama, and the displays of skill and athleticism are all reasons why we watch it.
Sometimes Formula One falls short on the first two, hence the introduction of the budget cap, sprint races and many other rule changes brought in over the years in an attempt to ‘spice up the racing’. How ironic it is that on the weekend where Michael Masi returned to the F1 paddock for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2021, the talk is once again about how the rules have been applied in ways they weren’t intended – and the debate on how far Formula One should go to supply entertainment reignited once again.
It looked like the race was heading to a very predictable conclusion, with Max Verstappen cruising to victory, as Lewis Hamilton looked to be doing just enough to hold on to second from Fernando Alonso. That predictability was shattered, however, when Kevin Magnussen lost a tyre after hitting the wall. The Dane pulled off-track, but with his left rear stricken on the racing line, people’s thoughts understandably turned to a virtual, or even a full, safety car. This was initially the case before the decision was made to red flag the race, as the amount of debris on the circuit would have led to the race finishing under the safety car.
Many drivers voiced their astoundment at this decision, both during and after the race. There had already been one red flag, after Alex Albon had crashed out, in another situation where it seemed like a safety car would be sufficient. This second stoppage meant there would only be two laps of racing action left, effectively giving fans a super short sprint race. Which turned out to last less than a sector, with three accidents before turn three leading to a final stoppage, and the race finishing under the safety car – exactly the scenario that the race directors were trying to avoid.
The red flag led to what could be known as ‘Schrodinger’s lap 56’. On the one hand, the lap never happened, as the final restart was carried out using the positions from the end of lap 55. On the other hand, both Alpines, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant had been eliminated from the race in the chaos, with Carlos Sainz receiving a 5-second penalty for spinning Alonso, even though the Aston Martin had now technically lost nothing in the spin. In normal situations, a 5-second penalty is annoying, but this penalty effectively equalled a disqualification, dropping Sainz to the back of the field with no chance of recovery.
Of course, safety has to come first in Formula One, and the safest way of clearing up debris after an accident is ensuring that no cars can come near the marshals, hence the need for safety cars and red flags. But the amount of red flags and safety cars in recent seasons has led to rumblings that they are used as a tool to close up the pack and inject excitement into races which seems a foregone conclusion. This alone isn’t a bad thing, as long as it is clear when this is going to happen, so viewers, drivers and teams aren’t left guessing what decision the FIA will make today. Team bosses made comments in a similar vein, with Christian Horner and Toto Wolff being in rare disagreement that they want to see races finish under a green flag, but it should be clear what the procedure is with late-race incidents.
Fans want to be left on the edge of their seats by what they are seeing out on track. If it feels necessary to stop a race to add to that excitement, then perhaps the sport has bigger problems that no amount of flag-waving will solve.
Verstappen wins a chaotic Australian Grand Prix under very confusing circumstances. Hamilton finished P2 in a mixed day for the team while Alonso finished in P3 for the third time this season despite nearly being taken out of the race by Sainz in a dramatic restart towards the end of the race.
Lights out and Verstappen came straight across to cover off the advances of Russell, but his attempt was not successful. The reigning world champion did appear to exercise some caution with a slower exit from turn two. He seemed to be struggling.
Behind them, Leclerc had made a good start but Stroll was coming up close behind him. Leclerc turned into turn three but Stroll had taken the apex of the corner and tapped his rear right-hand side. Leclerc went for a spin and ended up in the gravel, ending his race prematurely.
At the same time, Verstappen leaves enough gap for Hamilton to be alongside him into turn three. It was a brave move from the seven-time world champion but he makes it through the inside of Verstappen. There were a few complaints on the radio but everything was deemed a lap one racing incident.
The safety car was deployed with a Mercedes one-two. On the restart, Russell made sure he pulled a gap to his teammate and the now-frustrated Verstappen. Everyone got a clean lap with Hamilton and Verstappen closing gradually on Russell. The driver from Kingslynn was on the radio asking if he is to defend against his teammate or preserve his tyres but he was answered when they called him into the pits for a new set of hard tyres. Russell came out in P7 on lap 6, but just one lap later it would prove to be the wrong decision.
Albon lit up the rear tyres into turns six and seven and spun straight into the barrier, projecting gravel all over the track. Albon was out and initially, the safety car was deployed. But the FIA needed time to get rid of the gravel on the track and brought out the red flag.
This gave everyone a free choice of tyres before the restart but was unfortunate timing for Russell. They rolled out on the formation lap before lining up on the grid for the restart. Russell was down in P7 with work to do while Hamilton was in P1 with Verstappen alongside.
Most drivers were on hard tyres so at the restart it was obvious they couldn’t get the immediate grip they wanted. Verstappen struggled again with the standing start but Alonso backed out of a move on the outside of turn one due to the lack of temperature in his tyres.
The lead for Hamilton wouldn’t last long though. On lap 12 Verstappen had DRS and a superior pace around the outside of Hamilton to take the lead of the race. Meanwhile, behind them, the other Mercedes made his way up into P4, past Gasly.
Sainz and Perez were also making their way through the pack. Sainz made turn three his new favourite overtaking spot but getting past Norris and then Tsunoda in consecutive laps. Perez used his extra pace to make it up to P13 before the next major incident.
Without warning, on lap 19, flames began to spit out the back of Russell’s car. Mercedes later suggested it was a power unit failure. However, Russell was able to safely stop at the end of the pitlane and get out of the car. This brought out a Virtual Safety Car and closed the pitlane. Therefore there were no changes of tyres for anyone and the race got back underway once the flames had been put out.
Perez continued his good form by making it into the points with a fantastic double move on Piastri and Tsunoda on lap 23. Piastri and Tsunoda had been battling for the majority of the race at this point, so when Piastri finally made the move on the Alpha Tauri on lap 29, the home crowd roared.
By lap 32 the race had settled into business as usual. Verstappen was setting consistent fastest laps, but Perez was able to make the most of DRS zones and get his name on the fastest lap board. Hamilton and Alonso then entered the fastest lap chat as they closed the gap to Verstappen.
At this point, the teams were considering a second stop due to potentially being on the hard tyres for 49 laps by the end of the race. The battle was mostly between Aston Martin and Mercedes trying to work out who would jump first.
However, their questions were answered when, in a strange incident, Magnussen lost his rear right tyre. It appeared that on the exit of turn two, he just went too wide and hit the wall, losing his tyre and bringing out another safety car, and eventually the red flag two laps later.
It was all set up then for a two-lap sprint to the finish with everyone changing to soft tyres. It would be another standing start as stipulated in the rules. As the cars lined up on the grid it looked as though Verstappen was very far forward in his box. He was however his wheels were still on the line and therefore in the box.
Absolute chaos ensued at the restart. Verstappen got away well with Hamilton hanging on the P2. Behind the Sainz had made a good start but he hit the rear of Alonso in front causing the Aston to spin on the exit of turn two.
Behind them, Gasly locked up into turn one and ended up across the grass before getting back on the track. As he arrived on the track he didn’t see the car of his teammate on the outside of turn two. Gasly veered back to the racing line but collided with Ocon pushing both into the wall and out of the race.
Perez also took a trip across the gravel but made it out safely, while at the back Sargent locked up into the back of De Vries. Both got stuck in the gravel and were out of the race. Unsurprisingly the red flag was deployed again but this led to some confusion about restarting for a fourth time.
With everyone back in the pitlane the clock was on lap 58 of 58, meaning only one racing lap left. Any laps behind the safety car count as racing laps so it appeared the race would finish behind the safety car, but the question was what order would the cars be in.
At the British Grand Prix in 2022, the red flag came out before the cars had made it through sector one so they went back to the last known order of the cars, the grid. This was a similar situation. The red flag came out before Verstappen made it to turn five, meaning they didn’t have any timings for drivers after the restart and would have to go back to the order from the grid on lap 57.
Once the crashed cars had been taken out of this grid order, it meant that Alonso was back up in P3 with Sainz in P4, Piastri in the points and Hulkenberg down in P8. This frustrated Haas as Hulkenberg was up in P4 after the carnage at the start. To rub salt in the wound for them, Sainz was given a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Alonso.
After a re-shuffle of the cars in the pitlane, they headed out on the final lap. At the end, the safety car peeled off and Verstappen took the chequered flag with Hamilton in P2 and Alonso in P3. Sainz attempted to create a small gap but with the cars bunched up he dropped to the back of the pack and out of the points.
Only 12 cars finished the race and McLaren managed to capitalise on this with both cars getting points. Piastri was extremely happy to get his first points in F1 in his first home race and he gave plenty for the home fans to cheer about after a long race day.
We now wait until the end of April for the next race, but I imagine this won’t be the last we hear of the restart procedure for that time.
Sergio Perez took yet another street circuit win at Jeddah on Sunday night as Redbull reigned supreme yet again, much like their first outing in Bahrain earlier this season. The Mexican driver faltered at the start and lost the lead to Alonso by turn 1, but the unmatchable pace of the Redbull meant that there was no one stopping him from taking the win tonight, not even his teammate.
It was an eventful beginning to the race as Alonso in the Aston Martin got the better of Perez at turn 1 while there was a lot of action between the Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari cars behind. The joy was short lived for Alonso after Perez passed him again, which was then followed by a 5-second time penalty as the Spaniard was out of position at the start. Things got worse for Alonso after the national anthems of Mexico and Austria on the podium as he was hit with a further 10-second time penalty for serving his 5-second time penalty incorrectly. The post-race penalty for Alonso meant that Geroge Russell and Mercedes had their first podium of the season, which looked like a far off possibility based on the mood around the Mercedes paddock.
Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari had a great start as he was able to gain three places in no time after starting from P12 thanks to a penalty pertaining to the control electronics while Verstappen further behind from P15 had a steady opening to his race. A dummy call from the Ferrari pit-wall meant that Stroll of Aston Martin was the first of the front runners to come in to the pits for a change of tyres and it proved costly for him. Both Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc overcut the Canadian and were well ahead of him after the first round of stops and things got even worse for him as a mechanical issue forced him to retire which brought the safety car out.
It looked like there was no need for a safety car as Stroll seemed to park well of the track but an incorrect GPS indication from Stroll’s car meant that the inevitable has happened. Mercedes and Verstappen were one of the few to take advantage of the safety car and Ferrari were the ones to come out of it with a lot of bad luck. The race was pretty much decided at this point as Max’s pace proved to be too fast for anyone else on the track apart from his teammate, who ultimately won the grandprix.
It was a good result for Alpine as both Ocon and Gasly finished in the points scoring positions at P8 and P9 respectively, with Kevin Magnussen in the Haas scoring the last available point after a feisty battle with Tsunoda towards the end of the race. His teammate Hulkenberg in the other Haas only managed a P12 just outside the points. Alfa Romeo have had a mixed race with Zhou Guanyu finishing in P13 while his teammate Bottas finished P18 and last of the running cars in the race.
McLaren might have thought that their fortunes have changed a little with Piastri starting P8 in the race but an tussle in the opening lap meant that the rookie driver needed a front wing change. It got worse for them when Norris came in the next lap as well with the same issue. This meant that the pair were running at the back of the grid for the large parts of the race and McLaren were forced to issue team orders when Piastri was faster than Norris. He then made it count by making a pass on fellow rookie driver Logan Sargeant in the Williams for P15, while Norris finished P17. Alex Albon in the other Williams had to retire with a break issue, making him the second driver to not be classified in the race. It was a decent outing for Alpha Tauri albeit it was without points as Tsunoda was P11 at the end and his teammate De Vries finished the race at P14.
With yet another Redbull 1-2 unfolding at Jeddah, it is going to take a mighty effort from the remaining frontrunners in Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari to cause any damage to the bulls. It is still early in the season to think that Redbull could end up winning both the championships but the tone that has been set by them in the first two races certainly fits the thinking. The Australian Grandprix arrives in about two weeks time before F1 goes for almost a month’s break in April.
Perez took pole while his teammate suffered a driveshaft issue in Q2 meaning he will start P15. Alonso was unable to capitalise on his speed in practice, managing P3 with Leclerc getting P2 before his penalty is applied. This is how it happened during Qualifying.
Q1 began like normal, with the faster teams choosing to stay back while everyone else took to the track. It wasn’t long before the incidents started to bring out the yellow flags.
De Vries nearly caused the first red flag of Qualifying by locking up and spinning into turn 1. However, he was able to use the run-off and get his car going again.
With 10 minutes to go, Norris made contact with the wall on the way into turn 27. The team worked hard to get his car back out, hoping for a red flag but unfortunately, they couldn’t make it work. Norris will start in P19 and was forced to watch as his teammate went front strength to strength.
Alonso went for a quick spin on his first fast-lap run. He managed to keep the car out of the wall by completing a full 360. He appeared to get on the power early out of turn 10, he overwhelmed the rears and went around.
There were plenty more mistakes in Q1 than in any of the practice sessions. The drivers were complaining about the track, saying it was not where they wanted it but had to stick to the strategy. The grip just wasn’t with them in the session after the Formula 2 race.
After having a lap time deleted for track limits at turn 27, Sargent spun, bringing out only a yellow flag as he got going again. He lit up the rears heading through turns 22 and 23 which he had been having problems with all weekend.
Alpha Tauri tried to recover from De Vries’ incident but they seemed to be having poor luck in Jeddah. Both drivers were out in Q1 with Tsunoda in P16 and De Vries in P18.
Williams joined them with Albon couldn’t make it out of Q1 but qualified P17 while Sargent still had issues getting a lap together and damaged the car on his final run meaning he goes away in P20.
Q2 has most people out on soft tyres, apart from RedBull, who at this point could potentially come out on the wet tyres and still go fastest.
9 minutes left and Verstappen came over the radio with what he thought was an engine issue. He managed to limp home for the team to have a look at the car and potentially solve the problem. However, within seconds of being back in the garage, the double-world champion was out of the car and out of qualifying. RedBull have since reported it as a driveshaft issue. Cue an angry Verstappen making his way through the pack on Sunday.
Meanwhile, his teammate set a lap time good enough for P2, just behind Alonso. Behind them, Sainz had a big moment narrowly missing the wall and being able to carry on. In P11 with only 2 minutes to go, it was very important for the Spaniard to put in a good lap.
Alfa Romeo and Haas went about qualifying very quietly but had strong sessions each. They made up the remainder of the eliminated cars from Q2, joining Verstappen.
Out in Q2, Hulkenburg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, and Verstappen.
Q3 seemed to be wide open now that Verstappen was out. However, we were looking at a potential pole for Alonso for the first time since 2012. Perez was out to stop that and pick up the pieces of his teammate’s problems.
The First runs were done, and Perez was half a second in front of Leclerc in P2 with Russell in P3. Alonso wasn’t far behind but it appeared there was more pace to come out from the only RedBull in the session.
Both Alpines made it into the top 10 for a strong qualifying for both drivers after a not-so-great weekend in Bahrain. Ocon starts in P6 while Gasly starts in P9. Piastri joined them for his first Q3 session and made a good effort against his more experienced rivals, but starts P8 with Leclerc’s penalty.
Hamilton will not be pleased with starting P7. Still unable to adapt to the car properly while Russell starts in P3 after Leclerc’s penalty is applied. This was the story for the Silver Arrows during qualifying who had a generally mixed session. However, in a race that has a 100% chance of a safety car, they will be looking to use their reliability to gain points tomorrow.
Ferrari had a decent qualifying for them, but none of that matters with Leclerc’s penalty. He will start P11 while Sainz will start P4, alongside Russell. If they want to mount a challenge on Verstappen and RedBull this season they will need to take advantage of having the reigning world champion behind them suffering from reliability issues.
Tomorrow will be an extremely interesting race to watch with Verstappen and Leclerc starting out of position and Alonso hunting down the remaining RedBull at the front of the pack. Can Russell take advantage of his good starting position or will Sainz get ahead? Will there be a safety car or red flag which changes the race, probably, but it’s worth watching to find out.
Just a few months after the 2022 season finished with a victory for Max Verstappen and his RedBull team in both championships in what was their most dominant season ever, the F1 family arrived in Bahrain ready for just 3 days of testing before the new season would begin at the same circuit.
It was a very busy 3 days with the teams trying to get a grip on their new cars and hoping to see improvements from last year.
Testing times are always difficult to read with differing fuel loads, not knowing which engine modes are being used and teams even hiding their hands to not give too much away. However, you can always tell which teams are happy with their winter’s work and which ones are confused and wondering where they have gone wrong.
With no big rule changes this year, most cars would just be an evolution of last year’s car. The main rule change was the floor being lifted by 15mm, this would mean a loss of downforce but most teams would have recovered this already by the time the test ended. In fact, during the first morning of testing the cars were already beating last year’s times.
The quickest times from each day were ;
Day 1 – Max Verstappen – 1.32.837
Day 2 – Zhou Guanyu – 1.31.610
Day 3 – Sergio Perez – 1.30.305
Obviously, this time next week, times will be critical but as this is testing they are not the most important thing to look for. How many laps the teams do, reliability issues, how easily they switch each compound of tyre on, and how easily the balance can be changed are among the things teams will be looking at. With that in mind a summary of each team shows the following.
The World Champions may not have completed the most laps but they had seemingly no problems during the three days, in fact, the biggest drama seemed to be when the car fell off the jack in the pitlane during one of the sessions. For the rest of the field, it looks ominous as they ran through 3 days of programmes without any issues and were quick on each compound of the tyre. It was very reminiscent of the early Hybrid era days when Mercedes used to pound round tracks for fun and be fastest even without trying for performance. In fact, Verstappen only used the C3 tyre for the whole test not feeling the need to use any of the softer compounds, yet looking quick at all times and having what looked the easiest car to control. 2023 could be yet another year of domination for the reigning champions.
Ferrari – 416 laps (Leclerc – 1.31.024 – Sainz – 1.31.036)
Last year’s runners-up started testing with the hope that stopping the development of last year’s car early to concentrate on this year would bring big rewards. To be fair Ferrari are one of the hardest teams to judge following testing. It seemed as if they didn’t go for performance runs at all but it also looked as if they took a few wrong directions with different setups during their race runs. There are no real reliability issues over the three days and no stand-out moments during the runs. The car looks fast but have they done enough to catch RedBull up or are they even further away at the start of the new season?
Both drivers seemed happy after the test so only time will tell.
Mercedes – 398 laps (Hamilton – 1.30.664 – Russell – 1.31.442)
The 8 times World Champions had by their standards a shocking season in 2022 with their striking zero sidepod cars failing to live up to expectations. Going into this test the team have stuck with this concept hoping they have all the data to make the concept work. although the team did set some very competitive times the car looked very much on the edge and it seemed they were pushing harder than any other of the top teams. The test was by no means a disaster for them and they are definitely looking better than at this time last year but from this test, it looks as though they are further behind than at the end of last season when they looked to have clawed a lot of the deficit to RedBull and Ferrari back. If they are not in the top three next week they will be pinning all their hopes on a big upgrade already which is not how they would have wanted to start this season.
The French Alpine team came to the test boasting of an improved engine and a much-improved car. Although the car looked the most twitchy of all on track and seemed to still be suffering from the dreaded porpoising the team sounded confident and most observers seemed impressed with them and the fact they didn’t seem to show their hand too much. This season could see them jump free from the midfield and with two very hungry drivers could be a surprise package this year.
McLaren had another poor test which seems to be the norm for the once-great team. With Piastri joining Norris this season the team had hoped they could move forward after a slightly disappointing 2022. Things didn’t start well when the front wheel winglets came loose and the team had to strengthen them before any more running could be done. The team confirmed they hadn’t hit their targets in the test and look to be starting the season on the backfoot already. Could they already be hoping a big upgrade coming early in the season would save their blushes?
This time last year Alfa Romeo was suffering from reliability issues and was not looking good. Fast forward a year and although they had one major issue causing Bottas to stop on track and cause a red flag they look to be in good shape. Consistent running on all three days and even setting the fastest time on day 2 means the team could be looking at a very impressive start to the season with points a definite possibility at the early races.
Aston Martin – 387 laps (Alonso – 1.31.450 – Drugovich – 1.32.075)
Possibly the biggest talking point of the test was Aston Martin, Just before the test it was announced Lance Stroll would not be taking part thanks to an injury caused by a cycling accident whilst training. The team haven’t announced his injuries, but he could miss not only the first race but also a few after that. This would leave the majority of testing to new driver Fernando Alonso with reserve driver Felipe Drugovich also taking part. The missing Stroll didn’t seem to stop the team as they look to have made a massive step forward with a revolutionary new car. Not only could they set quick one-off lap times but in fact on Alonso’s race run on the final day not only did he have little tyre degradation but his times made him the third-quickest driver over a race distance. The team look to be in a very good place and even with the doubts over Stroll, they must be looking forward to a very competitive start to the season.
In 2022 Haas made a very competitive start to the season and although they slipped back down the order through the season they moved away from the back end of the field that they had made their own in previous seasons. During this test, the team looked to have maintained their speed with a car performing well with Magnussen and the returning Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel. They will be hoping they can score some early points before teams on the back foot bring upgrades and NPC doubt overhaul them.
Alpha Tauri – 456 laps (De Vries – 1.32.222 – Tsunoda – 1.31.261)
The team that completed the most laps of the three days. Setting some decent times, they clearly used their 2 drivers to test different setups each day which was showed by the difference in their times each day. Obviously, they have a reliable car which was proven by the number of laps they completed. Another team with a new pairing this season but the fact they have 2 drivers who need to outshine each other to move their careers forwards should help the team have some very competitive outings this season. With rumours in the paddock that the team might be sold this season they will be looking to put on an impressive start to the season.
Williams – 439 laps (Albon – 1.32.793 – Sargeant – 1.32.549)
The last few years for Williams have seen them become the team at the back more often than not. This season could see them move forward, Probably not into the midfield but at the very least clinging to their coat tales. They ran reliably over the 3 days which is always a good starting point and Alex Albon has a proven quick driver who is more than capable of solid results. They will need Logan Sergeant to be up to speed immediately if they are to move forward. All in all, it looks like Williams could finally be moving away from the back of the grid this season.
With the first race of the season being held at the same track in a week’s time the paddock didn’t have the usual rush to pack everything away so will no doubt spend the next week going over all the data and looking where they can find more speed for next weekend and also where to start looking for development.
The longest season ever is ahead of them, so the teams will know they have time to work through developments and make sure they go in the right direction for the season.
With RedBull looking not only quick but reliable, they will be the happiest of all the teams. Ferrari will be hoping to keep them honest and Mercedes could still be in the hunt from the first race. 2023 promises more surprises and entertainment and in just a week’s time, we will know who has got it right and who needs to go back to the drawing board.
Williams Racing have revealed their brand new livery for their Formula One contender, the FW45. The design is based on their previous car the FW44 with the most notable changes being towards the rear of the car with a different design and an outline of the numbers. The design also features a matte colour finish.
Speaking about the FW45, returning Williams Racing driver Alex Albon said “The car looks great and will hit the track at Silverstone. The team has worked really hard last year and over the winter to address some key areas in our car, putting in the work to try and maximise what we get out of the car for 2023, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the FW45 can do.”
One of the few changes coming to Williams in 2023 is rookie Logan Sargeant. Regarding the car, Logan said “I’m super motivated and we’ve put a lot of hard work in. The car is looking amazing and it shows the huge effort the team has put in the off-season, so I’m looking forward to getting started at Silverstone before heading out to Bahrain.”
Many new sponsors also join the team in 2023. Gulf Oil International, Stephens and Michelob ULTRA are just to name a few. These feature across the livery and racing suits.
Speaking about the upcoming year, the chairman of the board Matthew Savage said “We are excited about this year’s car, and I cannot thank the entire team at Grove enough for their hard work to get ready for the season.
“I am delighted to welcome both new and existing partners to our journey. With our new Team Principal James Vowles joining us later this month, as well as our exciting driver lineup of Alex and Logan, Williams Racing will be giving its all in 2023.”
Both Albon and Sargeant will take the FW45 to the Silverstone Track on 13th February as it undertakes its first laps of the season.
The Williams Racing announced that Team Principal and CEO Jost Capito and the Technical Director FX Demaison has confirmed that they will be leaving the team ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
In a statement published by the team, Jost said it was a “huge privilege to lead Williams Racing” and to “lay the foundations for the turnaround.” He went on to say that he will be “watching the team as it continues on its path to future success.”
The Chairman of Dorilton Capital Matthew Savage thanked Jost for his “hard work and dedication” as they “embarked on a major transformation process to begin reviving Williams Racing.” He went on to say, “We also thank FX for his contribution and wish him all the best for his future as he moves on.”
Williams Racing was sold to Dorilton Capital in 2020 after discussions with the Williams Family. This lead to both Capito and Demaison’s arrival to the team.
Rain-soaked confusion in Suzuka eventually led to Max Verstappen achieving his second World Drivers Championship. We move on to the states where we are back at COTA which will hopefully provide us with another crowd-pleaser.
Championship battles are not over yet
The race to first in the driver’s championship may be over, but second is still very much up for grabs. A P2 in Japan for Perez meant he moved back ahead of Leclerc by only one point heading into this weekend. With four rounds left, the fight for vice-champion could go down to the wire with both drivers wanting to finish best of the rest, and maybe save some dignity for Leclerc, who had been Verstappen’s main rival.
For the teams, however, their main focus is always the constructors as this is where the prize money is handed out. It looks inevitable that Mercedes will have their dominant run in the V6-turbo era ended as they are the only team to win the constructors championship in this period.
RedBull could complete the double at the end of the US Grand Prix if they win the race or are 147 points clear of Ferrari by the end of the weekend. This would be the first time RedBull would have won both championships in the same year since 2013 when Vettel became a four-time world champion.
The Cost Cap issue rolls on
After a delay in the announcement, RedBull’s celebrations were cut short as the FIA finally confirmed they and Aston Martin had breached the 2021 cost cap. RedBull had a “minor” infringement which is a less than 5% breach, whilst Aston Martin is reported to have an even smaller breach.
There have been official penalties from the FIA, but it is expected that this will be the main talking point on everyone’s lips, especially if RedBull do manage to wrap up the constructor’s title at the end of the weekend.
American Drivers back in F1
Even if it is only for FP1, the young driver of Logan Sargeant will get his chance to take to the track in the Williams while Alex Palou is getting his shot in the McLaren which will give plenty of American fans something to cheer about.
Sargeant has been linked with the Williams seat available with Latifi departing and De Vries signing with Alpha Tauri. He is currently third in the standings in F2 and had an impressive season in 2021 which has led to this opportunity. He will want to impress the bosses at Williams to prove he is ready for the next step in his career.
It’s a late one for those in the UK. Qualifying starts on Saturday at 11pm BST and the race at 8pm BST on Sunday.
After two weeks off we head to the streets of Singapore for a night race which we haven’t been to since 2019. There is the possibility that Verstappen could wrap up the championship while most of the talk in the paddock will be about the changes in the driver market.
2023 driver line-up is all change
Whilst there is still a gap at Alpine after the Alonso/Piastri incident, there have been extensions and exits from other teams along the grid.
Zhou was confirmed at Alfa Romeo for 2023 as well as an extension announced for Tsunoda over at Alpha Tauri. The interest in the Alpa Tauri drivers is likely to continue because, despite an announcement earlier in the season saying Gasly is staying, there has been significant interest in his seat as there is increasing pace in the rumours behind Gasly’s move to Alpine, but there has been no official confirmation of this.
One of the other interesting and slightly more inevitable announcements was the exit of Latifi from Williams at the end of the 2022 season. This was a long await change as Latifi hasn’t been performing to the same level as his teammates, and since the takeover of the team by Dorilton, they no longer need his money.
However, the timing of the announcement would suggest that the weekend in Monza sealed his fate. After Albon, unfortunately, had appendicitis he had to miss out on the race weekend, allowing Nyck de Vries to step in. While the race itself ended in an anti-climax behind the safety car, de Vries was able to finish his first F1 race in P9, comfortably ahead of Latifi and therefore bringing plenty of questions before Williams announced his exit from the team.
Can Verstappen round off the championship?
RedBull and Verstappen have had an incredible run of form recently, winning five races back to back and 11 races this season meaning Verstappen could wrap up the driver’s championship this weekend if the race goes in Verstappen’s favour.
The things to look out for is that if Verstappen wins without the fastest lap, Leclerc needs to finish P9 or lower and Perez needs to finish P5 or lower. If Verstappen wins with the fastest lap then Leclerc needs to be P8 or lower and Perez needs to be P4 or lower for Verstappen to win.
Considering the reliability and poor strategy calls of Ferrari, this situation is not out of the question. For Perez, RedBull will simply play the team game to make sure Verstappen secures the championship sooner rather than later.