Greetings Racefans! Who is ready for some exciting Formula 1? I know I am. I can’t wait to see if Jos Verstappen can win the drivers championship, the constructors championship and the Indy 500. It’s going to be awesome to see Lewis Hamilton in that silver Mercedes speed through the corners. I’m predicting that Mr Hamilton wins his 3rd championship. And what about Gunther Steiner? That guy is crazy. How many times is he going to say, “Fucking Hulkenberg!” this season? Speaking of Fucking Hulkenberg, how does that German guy have a ride again while Danny is a spectator? We all love Danny, so why no Danny at Haas? Danny won in the McLaren and the Arrows, so why not the Haas? I say, “Fuck you Steiner!” Bring back Danny Ric. Geez, I’m excited. I mean, Binotto got his ass fired, so now we get to watch Freddy Vasseur making excuses for those morons in red who can’t decide what tires to use. And what about Horner and Toto? I say get those two guys on the track and let them battle it out! My money is on the big old Austrian oida, even if Horner raced in 14 F3000 races across the 1997-98 seasons. This is fun! No one has asked me to write about F1 yet. Now it’s time to talk Botttaasss Bitch……..
Okay, Okay I’m going to stop this right here. I confess, I thought I could save a ton of time by enlisting a chatbot to write the season preview, but this is getting a little too sideways. I attempted to download ChatGPT but didn’t have any luck so I instead went with the “other” chatbot. I think it’s safe to say the good folks over at Google need to stop gathering information from racing site comment sections and online forums and put a little more emphasis on old Autosport articles. More Nigel Roebuck, less Indydude69. That said, I am loving this little Chatbot’s style and I am intrigued with where he was going with Bottaasss. But for something as important as the season preview, I figure I better take the reins back and provide some more restrained and hopefully insightful human thoughts as we embark upon another season.
So the 2023 world champion is……
First, before I crown the champion (hint- rhymes with wax), I need to mention a few tweaks that may slightly alter the status quo. There are only a handful of people on this earth capable of understanding both the technical and legal rule books that govern F1, so I will try to briefly explain in layman’s terms:
-Porpoising sucks so the 2023 cars will incorporate higher floor edges and have a new set of diffuser rules to play with.
-Going against the traditional F1 ethos of “may the best team win” (again and again and again), there is a new balance of power, sliding scale allotment of wind tunnel and CFD time permitted based on finishing order in the past championship. So, Williams, being last in the ‘22 championship, will be permitted the most wind tunnel time while Red Bull, due to finishing first, will be allowed the least amount of time in the windtunnel. Time will tell if it makes a difference.
-There are new DRS zones being added and a few DRS zones being shortened. (Insert straight face emoji) I wish the rules committee would do a more in depth study of the DRS zones at each circuit and come up with a solution that allows the cars to arrive at the braking zone at the exact same time, or introduce a defense button that can be deployed a few meters after the following car opens its wing so the lead car at least has a fighting chance. This current DRS system is too easy! And bring back V-10’s!
If the lone preseason 3-day test at the Bahrain international circuit is anything to go by, Red Bull appear to be a step ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes, Aston may become the new darlings of the midfield unless Alpine have something to say about that, and McLaren are in the shit, again! The rest are fighting for scraps.
For a little more in depth look, it’s time for a quick run through the field brought to you by Sunoco Fuel.
Red Bull – In ‘21 it came down to the Masi decision. In ‘22 you could argue that the cost cap breach gave Max the unfair advantage. Will ‘23 be a straightforward Max walk in the park? The simple answer is: Yes! The championship core is back together and I see no reason why Max won’t repeat as drivers champion. They will have to overcome the aforementioned balance of power wind tunnel development disadvantage plus the 10% additional windtunnel reduction penalty due to the ‘21 cost cap breach, but this team is led by the most valuable player in the history of F1, Adrian Newey, and has an all time great behind the wheel. At this point, these guys are racing into the history books. Whether they repeat as constructors’ champions will come down to the man known as Checo. At the beginning of ‘22, it appeared that Perez had closed the gap to Max, but as the season progressed and Max was able to find the RB18’s sweet spot, Checo was left in the dust. This season will be a huge opportunity for Perez to cement his legacy as a top flight driver. Beating the two red and black cars will be no easy feat, so if Red Bull can pull off the double, Checo will be the unsung hero.
Ferrari – Ferrari, I love you. But please, find a way to make that rubber last! The Scuderia have a quick car, an ace in Leclerc and a very good second driver in Saniz, so now is the time to capitalize and win a bunch of races. Mattia Binotto took the fall for last season’s endless parade of tactical errors, so it will be fascinating to see if they correct their issues under the new leadership of Fred Vasseur. Mr Vasseur is a battle tested racing lifer, but he will need to have his loyal soldiers in the key spots before he can invoke real change in this tragicomedy. F1 is always a better place when Ferrari are in the hunt so my dream is a three team battle royal with RBR and Mercedes.
Mercedes – After 8 straight constructors titles, last year was a bit of a shock to see Mercedes mystified by the W13, but it was no surprise to see them keep digging and eventually win a race. For ‘23, they will likely take over the primary role as Red Bull hunters, but it’s the battle for superiority within the team that should make for great drama. There is no denying that Russell is a force, and the final tally last year read Russell 275 points (1 win) to Hamilton’s 240 points (no wins), but if you look a little closer I think Lewis still has the edge. Like Max, Hamilton has that little bit of extra magic that only a small handful of people possess at the top of professional sport and I’m expecting to see a motivated champion fighting to prove that he’s still The Man. His legacy is on the line. Since his debut season in 2007, Hamilton has only been out-scored by a teammate 3 times. (Button 2011, Rosberg 2016, Russell 2022). If Russell were to beat Lewis again this season in a straight fight, there would be a seismic shift within the team and Lewis would be looking at the end. I don’t think he’s ready for the end. Damn this is going to be good!
Alpine – France’s National F1 team seems to be a well managed outfit with two quick drivers, yet 4th in the championship seems to be their ceiling. I just don’t see how this team will be capable of taking the fight to Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari anytime soon and car manufacturers typically run out of patience when shareholders start griping about cutting costs. Andretti-Cadillac powered by Renault anyone? Gone for ‘23 is the polarizing yet often brilliant Fernando Alonso and in his place is Pierre Gasly. It will be interesting to see how Gasly performs now that he’s finally able to shed his Red Bull wings. To add a little spice to the mix, word on the street is Gasly and Ocon are not the best of friends. Two French drivers aiming for top dog status in a French team invokes feelings of passion, romance & violence. To the winner goes the spoils, to the loser, death!
McLaren – I think it’s common knowledge that Zak Brown is the best in the business at signing on sponsors, and he’s proven to be so adept at signing drivers that at one point late last year he had the following drivers on the books for McLaren’s F1 and Indycar teams: Lando Norris, Danny Ric, Oscar Piastri, Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou, Alex Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist and lord knows who else? He even has Kyle Larson signed to race for McLaren in the 2024 Indy 500. But, the one area where he may be lacking is finding and employing the right minds to lead McLaren back to glory. 2022 was a pretty miserable year and now McLaren are squarely back in the Formula 1.5 category looking at a massive, seemingly insurmountable gap to the top 3 teams. In Lando they have a proven driver who looks ready to graduate to a top flight team. In Piastri they have a rookie with an impeccable junior career resume who is tipped to be big time. I can’t wait for this battle. If Piastri comes out of the gate quicker than Lando, then it’s safe to say that he’s a surefire future world champion and Lando will forever be stuck in the midfield. So much is at stake. I guess that’s why they call it, “Drive to Survive.”
Alfa Romeo– For the next three years, this Swiss based team will be cruising around in the midfield while gearing up to transform into the mighty Audi works squad. Look out world when that happens! For now, let’s just enjoy Valtteri Bottas for all his Finnishness and his Chinese teammate Zhou. An oddball pairing if there ever was, Bottas is still capable of a banger lap when the settings are to his liking. He reminds me of Jarno Trulli: Blindingly quick when everything is just right, very mediocre when things are not right. I’m also expecting Zhou in year two to be solid and consistently quick. Last year he may have had the worst reliability luck in the 20 car field so he had barely any points to show for it, but his qualifying head to head with Bottas was 8-14 so he’s definitely not a wanker. Go Zhou. A competitive Chinese driver in a works Audi F1 car sounds like money raining down into the Liberty coffers. (Stock tip of the day: Liberty Media F1 Group – NASDAQ – Symbol: FWONA)
Aston Martin – Lawrence Stroll has told anyone willing to listen that he’s building up a war machine capable of world dominance, it’s just not ready to happen in 2023. Call it supply chain and covid delays. But by golly when he’s ready, he’s going to paint the world green. In all honesty, taking on Alonso may lead to Lance’s downfall and a lot of door slamming in the team trailers, but I’m expecting the 41 year old Spanish wonder driver to be in the hunt for the mythical F1.5 drivers title, also known as 7th place. Stroll Sr does seem to be assembling a solid crew of engineers and this team has a history of overperforming (think Checo winning in the pink Force India), so I’m expecting a significant jump up over last year’s disappointing 55 total constructors points.
Haas – By doing the right thing and dumping Moneybags Mazespin and bringing back the loveable K-Mag, Haas immediately jumped back to respectability in ‘22 and had a few decent weekends to show for it. As is almost customary, they came out of the gate fast (in Bahrain, MAG qualified P7 and SHU P12), but by the end of the year they were circulating at the back. I know that F1 is bloody difficult, but they need to reevaluate the people in charge of in-season development and spend their money wisely. Go Cost Cap! For ‘23 Gunther has replaced the up and down Mick Schumacher with the hopefully reliable hands of Nico Hulkenberg. The Hulk has always been a steady, quick driver in midfield cars so it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with Magnussen. At 30 and 35 years of age respectively, these two will be the old dogs on the grid.
Alpha Tauri – Arguably, the most amazing piece of information coming into the ‘23 season is that Yuki Tsunoda is getting a 3rd year to prove to this team, famous for firing its drivers, that he’s worthy of taking the Perez Red Bull seat in the next year or two. I’m all for Yuki, but he must have friends in high places to keep Trump, I mean Tost, from uttering his favorite words: “You’re Fired!” Paired with Yuki will be the intriguing Nyck de Vries. It’s been a long and winding road for the ‘19 F2 champion and ‘21 FE champion, but de Vries brings a ton of knowledge of the inner workings at Mercedes and knows how to pedal a race car. He should be a great asset to the RBR family and once again, this is likely a win or go home intersquad teammate battle. You can say that F1 is boring on the track, but man it’s cutthroat and requires humans to dig deep. I love it!
Williams– Is there anyone for Williams to beat this year? Albon did a nice job hanging around the top 10 on multiple occasions last year looks to be in his prime, but can the team take the next step? Just leaping the Haas and Alpha T teams would feel like winning the Super Bowl for the second most successful team in the sports history. For those of you new to this, Williams has 9 constructors titles and 7 drivers titles! But F1, like life, never stands still and now Williams find themselves at the back. Hoping to avoid being at the very back of the grid will be American rookie Logan Sargeant. Not an easy task, but LS has shown some flashes of speed in the junior categories and I think he will gain more respect than his predecessor, Nicolas Latifi. That said, it will be a minor miracle if he can survive the next couple of seasons and earn a contract somewhere else up the grid. Go USA.
Armed with that knowledge, now it’s time for some BOLD PREDICTIONS!
-Max achieves the unthinkable, essentially the equivalent of tossing a perfect game, and wins all 23 races. And you might as well throw in 23 poles and 23 fastest laps.
-F1 learns how fickle the American sporting public can be and sees its ratings plunge to pre Drive to Survive levels due to the predictability of the Max parade. This causes most American companies to pull their sponsorship deals. The tech bros also quit buying million dollar suites and the predominant appearance of the typical fan at the 2024 Miami GP is a shirtless male in a Speedo with crooked teeth, cigarette hanging out and a Fosters oil drum can in hand. To compound this misery for Liberty and F1, the new Netflix series produced by the Drive to Survive folks about the PGA Tour turns golf into the next big thing. Suddenly for $900,000, you can get a cabana hosted by Paris Hilton on the 18th fairway of the Phoenix Open with hot tubs, unlimited locally sourced organic food and beverage, a state of the art virtual golf simulator, a shaman, yoga mats, meditation chamber and of course, 5G wifi.
-The FIA and F1 hold a press conference in Manhattan to announce the 11th and 12th teams to the grid and lo and behold, it’s Penske-Porsche and Ganassi-Honda. Michael Andretti then makes a $1 billion dollar offer for Alpha Tauri but Helmet Marko counters back at $6 billion. Sadly, some things aren’t meant to be.
-Felipe Drugovich subs for the injured Lance Stroll in Bahrain and finishes an amazing 5th place. Lance returns for Saudi Arabia and finishes 16th and one lap down. Lawrence Stroll then shocks the paddock by sitting his son for the remainder of the year. It’s not without personal repercussions as Mrs. Stroll files for divorce and claims that her settlement money from the split will go towards getting Lance back in F1.
-One unlucky Dutch fan is killed and three others are hospitalized after ingesting too much orange smoke omitted from smoke bombs in the grandstands at Zandvoort while celebrating Max’s 3rd straight victory on home soil.
-One down and out team principle will become tabloid fodder after its revealed that following the Vegas GP, he hosted an all night coke fueled party in his suite attended by expensive call girls, wealthy degenerate gamblers and Ted Kravitz.
I’ve seen the future and I can tell you that the following will be your 2023 finishing order from top to bottom:
Verstappen – 15 wins
Perez – 2 wins
Hamilton – 3 wins
Leclerc – 2 wins
Russell – 1 win
Here’s to hoping that my premonition of the Max Army painting the world orange doesn’t come to fruition and we are instead treated to a season long three team mega fight for the championship with the midfield only separated by a couple of tenths. With 23 races on the books, that equates to something like 138 hours of sitting in front of the tube listening to the good folks at Sky Sports, so for the Love of God, make it exciting! I wish I was going to be attending one of these 23 GP’s, but this new surge in popularity has made things difficult for the common fan and to be honest, I’ve seen the mountaintop and it ain’t Vegas or Miami.
Don’t forget to support your local Indycar series. This year is looking to be fantastic.