The 2023 Formula 1 season is set to kick off this weekend, with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Following three days of pre-season testing, the ten teams and 20 drivers are set to lay down some laps that matter, starting with practice sessions later this week.
So naturally, it is time for some predictions that are sure to be wrong.
What team finishes last?
We can start with the bad news, before working through some of the more enjoyable categories. Unfortunately, each season one of the teams has to finish last, and there are some contenders again this year.
There are reasons for optimism around Williams this year. Finishing tenth in the Constructors’ Championship a season ago afforded them more time in the wind tunnel, giving them a chance to level the playing field through car development. They also looked strong during pre-season testing, with driver Alex Albon conceding “we’re not in a bad place” when chatting with F1TV.
Still, the team is relying on a rookie driver in Logan Sargeant, and has some catching up to do. It might be a stronger year for Williams, and they may very well be on the path back, but a wooden spoon looks likely in their future.
What driver has the most overtakes?
This is always a tricky category to predict, as you have to thread the needle a bit. You want to pick a driver and a team that is strong, but not too strong that they will be starting up front each week, cutting down on the overtake chances. At the same time, you do not want to pick a driver/team pairing that is always at the back, because they are struggling on the track each week.
For reference, here is last year’s list, courtesy of GP Blog:
The pick for this season? Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin. As we will discuss in a moment, there is a lot of buzz around Aston Martin and the AMR23 for the 2023 F1 season, and Alonso could be in position to work his way around the track each week.
What team finishes fourth?
The team that might have generated the most buzz in Bahrain last week?
Despite driver Lance Stroll being sidelined with a training injury, and reserve driver Felipe Drugovich enduring an electrical failure on the first day of testing that brought out an early red flag, Aston Martin and the AMR23 turned a lot of heads over the three days in Bahrain. Both Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg sang Aston Martin’s praises last week, along with Mercedes driver George Russell, who said the AMR23 “makes a balanced impression.”
In fact, one engineer went as far to say that the team is “at least fourth,” and “could even pose a threat to Mercedes and Ferrari.”
Perhaps the excitement should have been expected. The AMR23 is drawing comparisons to Red Bull’s RB19, and Aston Martin’s current Technical Director Dan Fallows joined the team in April of 2022 after serving as the Head of Aerodynamics at ... Red Bull.
So the AMR23 is the first design with his full imprint.
Time will tell if the team lives up to expectations, but right now, they look strong enough to push for fourth, if not higher.
What team finishes second in the Constructors’ Championship?
If you had asked me this question a few days ago, Ferrari was likely the choice. The SF-23 looked strong in early testing, particularly on the straights, and the Mercedes W14 suffered a hydraulic failure on the second day of testing, ending George Russell’s afternoon session.
In the days since, however, the mood has changed around the two teams. Both Russell and Lewis Hamilton seem more upbeat about the W14, and it does seem that Mercedes has finally solved the aerodynamic issues that plagued the Silver Arrows at the start of 2022.
For Ferrari, however, there are now more questions. The straight-line speed seems to be there, but issues regarding cornering, as well as tyre degradation, have cropped up around the team. Driver Charles Leclerc admitted after testing that the he and the SF-23 were “struggling a bit more in the corners” than with last year’s ride, and the driver concluded that the team has “got some work to do.”
Ferrari started off strong in 2022, while Mercedes struggled to get the physics right with the W13. But strategic blunders from Ferrari opened the door for the Silver Arrows to make a late charge.
That door seems open enough for Mercedes to walk through it this season.
Who wins the Drivers’ Championship?
Ok, now it is time for some chalky picks. Max Verstappen looked as strong as ever last week in Bahrain, and that shows no signs of slowing down.
What team wins the Constructors’ Championship?
Red Bull. Yes, this is a chalky pick, but the other teams and drivers pointed to Red Bull and the RB19 as the team at the head of the class last week, and it looks like they are indeed in fine form as the season beckons.