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The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

Formula 1 2023 Season Preview

Pedro Mendes
Photo courtesy Pedro Mendes

Formula 1 is back underway.

After a long winter break, Formula 1 [F1] returns to Bahrain this Sunday, March 5, 18:00 local time. Three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain came and went, and now the teams look forward to returning to the circuit for racing.

This season features 23 races over the course of the year, beginning in Bahrain on March 5, and ending with Abu Dhabi on November 26 — with around a month in summer allocated as a break for drivers and teams.

Perhaps the most anticipated race of the season is brand new on the calendar — Las Vegas; the penultimate race of the season, it features the main straight of the race being the Las Vegas strip.

Other fan favorites returning this year include Monza, Belgium, Silverstone, and Australia.

Formula 1 will also see many new faces in the paddock this year, as well as some departing drivers, and team switches make the paddock feel largely unfamiliar to last season.

American driver Logan Sargent joins Williams for his first year in F1, replacing former driver Nicholas Latifi.

Haas announced ahead of the final race of 2022 that they would not be renewing Mick Schumacher’s contract for 2023, with former F1 driver Nico Hülkenberg set to take his place. Schumacher also parted ways with the Ferrari Driver Academy at the end of 2022, becoming Mercedes’ reserve driver for 2023. Schumacher will also serve as a reserve driver for McLaren in 2023, due to the two teams’ engine contract to share reserves, thus meaning that he will be available to substitute for both McLaren drivers if needed.

With Sebastian Vettel announcing his retirement from F1 following the 2022 season, Fernando Alonso quickly announced he was filling Vettel’s former seat — leaving Alpine without a second driver. Alpine announced the signing of their reserve driver Oscar Piastri, however, Piastri soon put out a press release stating that he would not be driving for Alpine in 2023.

It was soon revealed that Piastri would move to McLaren and drive alongside Lando Norris. McLaren, who had Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo signed until the end of the 2023 season, chose to terminate, replacing him with Piastri. McLaren buying Ricciardo out of his contract left him without a seat for the 2023 season. He eventually signed with Red Bull Racing, returning to the team as their third driver and reserve at select races for 2023.

“The smile says it all, I’m truly excited to be coming back home to Oracle Red Bull Racing as their Third Driver in 2023,” Ricciardo said in a team press release. Ricciardo raced for Red Bull from 2014-2018. With Red Bull, Ricciardo achieved 29 podiums and seven of his eight F1 wins.

“It is great to bring Daniel back into the Red Bull family,” team principal Christian Horner said. “He has enormous talent and such a brilliant character; I know the whole factory is excited to be welcoming him home.”

Ricciardo’s duties with the team will include the simulator, tyre testing, marketing duties, and reserve driver duties at select races when official Red Bull reserve Liam Lawson is unavailable.

“Red Bull will utilize Ricciardo’s infectious buoyant personality for marketing and ambassadorial opportunities,” according to Phillip Horton of Autoweek.

Alpine began searching for drivers to fill their second seat, ultimately deciding on former Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly.

This move opened a seat for rookie Nyck De Vries, who made his F1 debut in September 2022, filling in for Williams driver Alex Albon at the Italian Grand Prix. De Vries, alongside Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda, will complete Alpha Tauri’s 2023 driver lineup.

Three days of pre-season testing gave fans and the media a glimpse of what is to come in 2023.

Red Bull, the reigning world champions, looked every bit as strong during testing as many people expected. Off the bat, current world champion Max Verstappen seemed quite happy with the balance and set-up of the car, being able to push the limits of the car throughout testing. Sergio Perez logged a lap time of 1:30.305 on the C4 tyres Saturday evening, the fastest in the preseason and 0.3s faster than Lewis Hamilton in second.

Though Mercedes has corrected the porpoising, technical term for the bouncing drivers experience in the cars, both drivers were experiencing during the start of the 2022 season, the team still has a bit of catchup to do to their rivals. There are still issues the team needs to sort out prior to lights out in Bahrain, with Hamilton saying that the team has a “mountain to climb.”

McLaren insists they “didn’t take a step backwards” but rather “didn’t develop fast enough,” according to new team principal Andrea Stella. The team’s new car looked quite unbalanced during testing, and much of their time was spent in the garage fixing issues they encountered during their drives. In 2022, the team placed fifth in the constructors championship, trailing Alpine by 14 points.

One team that surprised many during testing was Aston Martin. They seem to have made the biggest step forward in the winter, placing fourth in the qualifying rankings and fifth in the race pace charts, according to F1 Correspondent & Presenter Lawrence Barretto. They came out of testing not only as almost assured leaders of the midfield, but also with many believing they could challenge Mercedes for third place in Bahrain.

Despite predictions, preseason is a mere three days for drivers and teams to get situated to their new cars, thus, predictions made following testing should often be taken with a grain of salt.

Because in Formula 1, everything is all to play for.

Come Sunday, it’s lights out and away they go.


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About the Contributor
Tiffany Zhang
Tiffany Zhang, Features & Sports Team
Tiffany Zhang is a senior at MIHS and in her second year of journalism. She is currently a member of the Features Team and the Sports Team and has served as a staff writer in the past. In her free time, Tiffany enjoys reading, thrifting, and watching Formula 1 races.

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    Jordan BalousekMar 6, 2023 at 11:54 am