The F1 season has gotten off to a blistering start as usual, and fans can expect it to deliver the usual mix of drama and excitement both on the racetrack and off it. Last season, Max Verstappen held off a strong early season push from Ferrari and powered to victory for Red Bull.
This season brings fresh interest for fans in the form of the arrival of three new rookies: Logan Sargeant (Williams), Oscar Piastri (McLaren) and Nyck de Vries (Red Bull). Fans will also be watching to see how Spaniard Fernando Alonso performs for his new team, Aston Martin. In 2022, Alonso announced he’d be leaving Alpine. Will he make a successful bid for the championship, or will Verstappen defend his title? Below is a look at some of the favorites to lift the 2023 trophy.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
If you like to bet online on the Formula 1, you’d be forgiven for thinking your money will look good with Max Verstappen. Two consecutive championship victories, the last being by 146 points, firmly convince the sportsbooks he won’t be surrendering his title at the end of the 2023 season. Red Bull won the Constructors’ Championship as well last season, so he’ll have every confidence in his vehicle.
In 2022, people were asking if anyone would be able to stop him. His dominance in the Belgian Grand Prix was another level. This season, he’s started as he means to go on by taking the Bahrain Grand Prix. The other drivers have a job on their hands.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton had a shocker of a season in 2022, finishing sixth for Mercedes, an uncharacteristically low placing for him. It was his first season without a win or a pole position. A lack of pace and a DNF in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix completed what had been a miserable season for the Brit.
Initially and interestingly, sportsbooks have made Hamilton as the second favorite to lift the trophy. A fifty-second finish behind Verstappen, however, may persuade them to review that opinion as the season goes on. A poor car let down Hamilton last season, and it could be potentially more of the same this season.
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Charles Leclerc won two of the three opening races in the 2022 season and tricked everyone into thinking he might become the F1 champion. Understandable as he had a 40-point lead over Verstappen after just three races.
Leclerc isn’t solely to blame for the disappointment, however, as technical errors and strategic ones also contributed to putting out of contention for that title. He finished second last season, a career best.
Leclerc has admitted that Red Bull have an advantage early in the season, but he’s confident that Ferrari can mount a serious challenge for the title. The arrival of new team principal Frederic Vasseur has brought hope to the team. Some still feel that 2023 isn’t going to be Leclerc’s season, however, as the new principal will need time for his approach to mature. They also feel Mercedes and Red Bull are simply better operationally. Then there’s the fact it’s been a long time since Ferrari won a title. The last time they won the Drivers’ championship was 2007.
Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
Sebastian Vettel retired at the end of the 2022 season, leaving Fernando Alonso with some big shoes to fill. If anyone can do it, he can though. The Spaniard is no stranger to F1 glory, having won the championship twice with Renault in the noughties.
Alonso has already started well with a third-place finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix. When testing the performance of the car, he had a good feeling about the vehicle and believes he has a decent car. The Saudi Arabian and Australian grand prix will provide him with decisive confirmation of the car’s quality though.
George Russell (Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton may be keen to put right all the wrongs of last season with a championship win, but he’ll also have to contend with teammate George Russell. Russell has shown he can handle pressure and placed several times in the top three last season. That includes a win at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Even so, Hamilton’s countryman has predicted dominance by Verstappen and Red Bull this season.
Max Verstappen is the man to beat if all the other drivers want to lay their hands on the title. Verstappen has already got one race victory comfortably under his belt, a sign he won’t be making things easy for them. Still, some drivers have bittersweet memories of last season, or just plain bitter ones, and will be gunning hard for him. The world may see an upset.