It’s Lights Out and Away We Go!

By Sadie York

As the 2023 Formula One calendar comes to a (not very dramatic) end, it’s time to discuss the season’s ups and downs. For those unaware, Formula One is a motorsport consisting of ten teams with two drivers each. Over the span of roughly 10 months and more than 20 grand prix around the world, drivers will compete to secure the most points in the drivers (individual) and constructors (team) championships. Qualifying occurs on the Saturday of a race weekend and consists of three knockout sections that determine the driver’s starting positions for the race on Sunday. The biggest appeal of Formula 1 are the cars, which claim the title of the fastest regulated road-coursing vehicles in the world, reaching up to 200 mph while racing complex circuits. This season, there were various elements of the season that allowed it to stand out from previous years. 

Red Bull (Verstappen) Domination

Red Bull secured another Constructors Championship while in Suzuka, the 17th grand prix of the season. The race after, Max Verstappen secured his second World Championship in Qatar. For the entirety of the season, Red Bull has been dominating in almost every aspect, to the point where Verstappen has been able to break several long-held records. In many races, he finishes 10-20 seconds ahead of second place, which is a massive margin in Formula 1. If Max is in the first grid position when the race starts, he will take off and simply never be seen again. Essentially, every single grand prix is a victory for Verstappen, with him now continuing to break his own record for most race wins in a season. On the other hand, his teammate, Sergio Perez, has not had the greatest of months. Although seemingly the fastest car on the grid, Perez is not able to reach his full potential and is often disappointed by the end of the weekend with several Q2 knockouts, DNFs, and non-podium finishes. Nonetheless, Red Bull has continued their reign from the 2022 season with their supreme strategy, pitstops, and car.

A Moment of Silence for Ferrari Fans

Scuderia Ferrari: the most notorious team in the history of Formula One. Also, Scuderia Ferrari: pain. While not having as disappointing of a season as last year, Ferrari has simply been performing mediocrely. This year, Frederic Vasseur (former Alfa Romeo team principal) replaced Matthia Binotto (former Ferrari team principal) after several strategy disasters in 2022. Although nowhere near Red Bull’s pace, Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were still expected to race a competitive car. In the early stages of the season, Ferrari managed to stay fairly in the mix with teams such as Mercedes and Aston Martin. However, Leclerc suffered many DNFs while Sainz often placed outside of the top 5, setting back the team in the constructors and drivers points early on. Their midseason luck didn’t appear any better, but gradually, towards the end of the year, better results were produced. Ultimately, although not the worst of seasons, both the team and fans are disappointed about the average year for Scuderia Ferrari.

What Happened to Aston Martin?

Following legend Sebastian Vettel’s retirement from Formula One, 2x World Champion Fernando Alonso took his seat at Aston Martin. His year started off very successful, securing several podium places for weekends on end. For a lower-performing team such as Aston Martin, their sudden pace surprised the racing community. Alonso’s early performance quickly launched him and Aston Martin up in the points. Roughly around the mid-season, there was a drastic dropoff in the performance of the car. It was not racing as well as before, losing time to the Mclaren and Mercedes vehicles. With Alonso not winning vital points, the team flew under the radar. However, Fernando’s lead stayed prominent for most of the season until Lewis Hamilton surpassed him in the Driver’s Standings for third. Despite having a rough mid-season, during the recent sprint weekend in Brazil, both Aston Martin drivers qualified very highly (Stroll finishing second) after a dramatic change in weather ended the session early. Their pace for the grand prix was quick enough for Stroll to finish 5th and Alonso on the podium with a captivating battle to the line for 3rd. 

Everyone Loves a Little Bit of McLaren

Opposite of Aston Martin, McLaren had a shaky start to the season. Drivers Lando Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri were not able to get comfortable in a car that appeared very difficult to drive. Their race results varied for a while, mostly below 10th finishes and out of the points. Nevertheless, the team was able to figure out their issues and produce a super quick car. Suddenly, McLaren was qualifying high and getting on the podium. In his first year of Formula 1, Piastri was able to claim 1st place for 2 Sprint races while beside the dominant Red Bulls. On a few occasions, it seemed there was legitimate competition for Verstappen, whose lap times were not far off from the Mclarens. It is always exciting to see Norris and Piastri drive, especially when in a suitable car. Not to mention, the team’s pit stops can be considered the best on the grid. While in Qatar, the McLaren pit crew broke a Formula One world record when Norris came into the pits, performing a lightning-quick 1.80 second pit stop. Next year, hopefully, we can see the team excel from the start to end of the season. 

Mercedes Needs Their Mojo Back

Coming back from a disheartening season, the Mercedes AMG-Petronas Formula One team had a lot to prove. This year, they’ve had a fairly good season considering the circumstances. Drivers George Russell and 7x World Champion Lewis Hamilton have made the most of their car, placing consistently in the ranks. Currently, as of before the anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix, Mercedes stands second in the Constructors and Hamilton third in the Drivers Championship to, of course, Red Bull. Mercedes was the most dominant team with a superior car for many years, until in 2021, when Verstappen won the championship in a controversial final race at Abu Dhabi. Since then, Mercedes has attempted to make improvements in the hopes of becoming the top team once again. Throughout the season, there have been points where there is not anything more the Mercedes drivers can do when stacked against the Red Bulls, with Lewis finishing in a solid amount of second place finishes. Nonetheless, the team continues to push and strives for the best in the future.