Stories to Watch in Formula 1 Pre-season
Contributing writer James Minor ’23 sums up the major forces promising to shape the dramatic arc of this year's season of Formula 1 racing.
Tomorrow Formula 1 (F1) will begin pre-season testing in the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain. The three-day test session will give the 10 teams, which all revealed their cars over the past couple of weeks, the opportunity to collect data on the machines they have been developing for the better part of the past year. This year’s testing sessions also lead up to the release of the new season of Netflix’s “Drive to Survive,” an annual show that documents a number of the story lines across the previous season.
F1 is a motorsport that races high performance cars around the world from early March to late November. Beginning in 1950, the sport has moved through many different eras — the most recent of which started last year with a brand new set of regulations. Currently, there are 10 teams, each with two drivers. Each teammate is given the exact same car to race and is awarded points for both the team and themselves based on their performance. The sport has two championships: the Constructors Championship, whose winner is an entire team, and the Drivers Championship, for individual drivers. Each driver receives the points they score and each team combines the points of their drivers for their own tally.
Last year saw Red Bull edge out Ferrari for the Constructors Championship and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen take home the Drivers Championship by a comfortable margin due to various errors across the season by Ferrari. Now, with pre-season testing on the horizon, the dust has settled and the big storylines of the upcoming season are becoming apparent.
The main storyline all the pundits are speculating about is — naturally — the fight for the championship. Last year Red Bull won it, but Mercedes won all eight out of the eight seasons before that (with driver Lewis Hamilton winning the Drivers Championship in six of those eight years). Their loss last year was largely due to early season troubles that prevented them from challenging for race wins until the end of the season. However, new aerodynamic innovations and the general reputation Mercedes has for always finding a way to the top have fans and neutral observers alike excited for what they may bring — including a potential record breaking eighth championship for Hamilton.
Ferrari have hired a new team principal to oversee the team, bringing new hope to the whole of Italy that the team will return to winning ways.
Red Bull returns with its winning driver lineup and seems to have evolved the concepts from last year's championship-winning car. All of these factors seem to point to a three-way fight for the championship — the first in many years.
Another set of storylines focuses on the rookies and veterans in new teams. Of special note on the veteran side are Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso. Gasly, moving from Alpha Tauri (essentially Red Bull’s B Team) to Alpine (pronounced al-peen), is entering the prime of his career. After a stint with Red Bull that ended on quite a sour note, the Frenchman is likely hoping that a fresh start can rejuvenate his career. The main obstacle for him is a teammate he may not gel with and the lack of reliability that has plagued Alpine’s cars in recent years. Alonso, a former two-time champion with Ferrari, seems intent on fighting Father Time to the end. The 41-year-old recently left Alpine to join Aston Martin, a team that spent most of last year towards the back of the field but promises major progress this year.
On the rookie side of things, there will be 3 youngsters hoping to show their worth this year: Oscar Piastri (21 years old), Logan Sargent (22), and Nyck de Vries (28). Following the initial announcement of Alonso’s departure, Alpine announced Piastri would race for them this season. Hours later, the young Aussie denied that he had agreed to anything and — after a long arbitration — ended up signing with McLaren. Needless to say, he needs to prove he’s worth all the trouble and he’ll have the perfect opportunity to do so against fellow upstart Lando Norris.
Logan Sargent represents the return of the USA to the grid. While an American team funded by machine-tool manufacturer Gene Haas entered the sport in 2016, Sargent promises to be the first American driver to compete a full season since 2006 and could contribute to the sport’s years-long attempt to capture the American market.
The eldest of the rookie class by far, De Vries has spent the last year in reserve driver roles for Mercedes, McLaren, Williams, and Aston Martin. He made his debut for Williams last season at the Italian Grand Prix and impressed so much he was given a full seat this season at Alpha Tauri. Much is expected of him and he’s definitely one to watch over the next few years.
These are the main stories to follow this year and the ones that will be most talked about through pre-season testing. I intend to write a review of testing that will also act as a preview of the Bahrain Grand Prix — a week later at the same track — as well as a continuous series of articles about the season through the rest of the year.
Next week’s article will include more team specific info to help you choose who to root for this season. If you have any F1 related questions or general conversation, feel free to randomly approach me to talk about the sport — I’m usually around wearing a Mercedes jacket. Other than that, this season is shaping up to be a real barn-burner, so stay tuned for more F1 articles in The Student!