Well that is it. 2023 in the world of Formula 1 is over. And it’s been one for the history books.
Not perhaps one that many people will fondly remember for the tightest of Championship battles or epic rivalries, but one that will certainly be remembered for the dominance of Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
We had some great races. Some not so great races. Some new stars emerge. Some other driers struggle. And for the first time in the history of the sport, we will see exactly the same grid line up in Bahrain in March that lined up in Abu Dhabi at the end of last month.
So with all that in mind, just how can you sum up the season with five talking points? Well in my final edition for the year, we are about to find out.
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The greatest individual season ever
I posed the question a few months ago about whether this season by Max Verstappen would go down as the greatest individual season in the history of Formula 1.
I don’t even think that is a solid question anymore, as the statistics really solidify it as clearly the number one. The one main statistic that really solidifies it as the greatest ever is the overall win percentage. And to clarify – this is win percentages from main race wins, not including sprint races, which of course didn’t exist when the other drivers in the top 10 set their benchmarks.
Verstappen won an astonishing 86.36% of race in 2023, more than 10% more than the driver who previously held the record of highest race win percentage in a single season Alberto Ascari.
Ascari set his benchmark of 75% in only the third year of the Formula One World Championship in 1952, winning six out of the eight races.
To put Verstappen’s feat into context, he won more than triple the amount of races as Ascari did in a single season, 19, and only lost out on one race less than Ascari, missing out on only three possible race wins in 2023.
It’s an extraordinary feat no matter which way you look at it, and whether you are a Verstappen fan or not, there is no denying the sheer dominance and greatness that we were witness to in 2023 by the Dutchman.
Take away Red Bull and you have an incredibly tight field
I’ve had fun doing a series of articles looking at how the World Championship would’ve gone down in 2023 had Red Bull been excluded from the results and it has been fun reading in what would’ve been an extremely close Championship.
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And while the conclusion of that series is coming, we don’t need the eyes of wonder to see that the field behind the dominant Red Bulls was incredibly close. In fact it was so close that every single round we went to there was generally a different contender for ‘best of the rest’ behind the dominant Austrian energy drink team.
At the beginning of the year it was all falling the way of Aston Martin who were by far the superior team. Mercedes then had their time in the spotlight, with the ever consistent Lewis Hamilton scoring in all but two of the races in 2023.
Ferrari also had their moments, and of course were the only team besides Red Bull to win a race in the season and then there were McLaren who came to life in the second half of the season to vault up the standings and be a constant threat for podiums in nearly every race towards the end of the year.
Outside of those contenders the midfield also remained tight, with Alpine holding off challenges from Williams and AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo and Haas also capable of flashes of brilliance on their day.
It was entertaining to see and always made it a bit of a gamble each weekend to see just which teams would be fighting for the final podium place on the Sunday, or in some cases when Perez would be having an off weekend, fighting for both steps behind Verstappen.
So while first and second place in 2023 were really a foregone conclusion, the battles behind are perhaps the closest they have been in a long time.
But with that being said…
Don’t expect 2024 to be any different to 2023
As much as the tightness behind Red Bull was great to watch, there really seems to be little doubt that anything will change in 2024.
Next season will be a very rare occasion where basically nothing in the technical or sporting regulations change, meaning essentially status quo between now and the new season.
That’s of course not to say that teams won’t iron out bugs in their cars to fix the deficits they faced during 2023. But there are very limited opportunities for teams to fully exploit a regulation change that can often see the order get a shake-up.
(Photo by Bai Xuefei/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Added to this for the first time in the history of the sport we will see no changes between the driver line-ups from the last race of the previous season to the first race of the new season, it will more than likely feel very familiar once those five red lights go out in Bahrain on March 2nd.
Oscar Piastri is Australia’s next World Champion
Early in the season I felt the gamble to put Oscar Piastri straight into a McLaren wasn’t paying off.
There wasn’t too much to write home about the young Melbourne driver who seemed to be struggling slightly against teammate Lando Norris and some were questioning whether the second seat in the papaya team was always going to be a curse for an Aussie driver.
Boy was I wrong.
Piastri soon shook up the F1 world with some stunning drives in the second half of the year, including taking a sprint win in Qatar and two main race podiums in Japan and Qatar, ending the season with 97 points and in ninth place.
In doing so he became the first rookie in F1 to score two or more podiums since a certain Lewis Hamilton did so back in 2007 and showed the world just why there was so much hype around him going into 2023.
With all that being said there is really little doubt that he is on track to join Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones as becoming a F1 World Champion from Australia.
Big call? Yes. But there is history on the side of drivers who score multiple podiums in their rookie season.
The last three who did it, Hamilton being one, Jacques Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna, all went on to become World Champion.
In fact four of the last five rookie drivers to achieve multiple podiums in their rookie season became World Champion, with Jackie Stewart being the other on that list and Clay Regazzoni being the odd one out.
(Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)
While it may not happen anytime soon given the dominance of Red Bull and limited regulation changes set to occur until 2026, Piastri simply needs to continue doing exactly what saw him shine brightly in 2023 to continue on that path and break Australia’s 43 year drought when it comes to bring a F1 World Championship back down under.
Formula 1 needs Andretti and other new teams
2023 saw the FIA and F1 open up the grid to potential new teams in the coming season.
While there were many interested parties, only a handful were chosen for serious dialogue before the bid run by former F1 driver Michael Andretti was chosen as the sole entrant to be successful.
Of course, this was only in principle. Nothing has been confirmed for their entry, with it being dependent on the other teams coming to an agreement to allow it to happen.
And while there are many elements to this that will need to be sorted out, it is clear that F1 really does need not only Andretti to join, but for other teams to also come in.
With the previously mentioned fact that we are seeing no driver changes from the last race of 2023 to the first race of 2024, that leaves it even harder for up and coming drivers to find their place in the pinnacle of motorsport.
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It also leaves the order ridiculously stagnant when it comes to a season when there are limited changes, effectively giving us nothing new to look forward to in a new season.
Long gone are the days of privateer teams scraping together cash to make the grid for a couple of glory runs, yes.
But the interest of the fans is far more than just turning on their TV on a Sunday or showing up at a track with nothing more to expect than Red Bull winning and hearing the Dutch National Anthem.
We need an injection of fresh talent. Fresh teams. Fresh excitement to give us something and someone to root for that changes things up. Makes things exciting. Give us something new to look forward to and talk about.
Remember when a certain 17-year-old made his F1 debut in 2015 and had the entire F1 world talking? That is what I’m talking about. Nowadays that is impossible with age restrictions, but the fact is there is no space right now for the next Max Verstappen to make his impact on the sport if there aren’t more spaces or opportunities available.
Yes, F1 is in a great place right now. But risks aren’t always a bad thing, and a storied name like Andretti would add nothing but value to the grid, not take away from it.
Hopefully 2024 will be the year that sees that risk being taken and a new team soon be included on the grid.
What was your view on the 2023 season? How do you feel Max Verstappen’s season rates compared to other dominant seasons in the history of the sport? And how do you feel 2024 will play out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here