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F1: A season review of the 2023 campaign so far

After 13 rounds this season, Max Verstappen and Red Bull lead the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships

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With there being no Formula 1 action currently due to the summer break, FormulaNerds takes a look at how things are shaping up at just past the halfway mark in the 2023 season. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
The season has been dominated by one man and one team after 13 rounds in 2023. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Heading into the opening weekend of the season in Bahrain, pre-season testing had shown us a small glimpse of what was to come in the first half of 2023.

Red Bull stood out as the strongest team by far in testing. The likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin all showing good pace as well heading into the season opener.

Mercedes’ on the other hand, were still a team in transition after coming of an underwhelming campaign in 2022. Despite the Silver Arrows having a decent car in the W14, it was clear to see that it was still lacking in performance terms compared to their rivals Red Bull.

McLaren and AlphaTauri were two of the more notable teams that not only lacked pace but seemed to have more issues with their cars before the season had begun.

The first Qualifying session of 2023 got off to a similar fashion as last year with the current world champion Max Verstappen taking the first pole position of the season. His team-mate Sergio Perez would line up behind the Dutchman with Charles Leclerc starting on the second row in third.

Verstappen claimed a very comfortable victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix, finishing over 11 seconds ahead of Checo to help give Red Bull the perfect start to their season with a 1-2 finish.

Leclerc, who was running in the top three at the time had suffered an engine failure towards the end of the race. This allowed Fernando Alonso to pick up his first podium since Qatar 2021 on his debut for the team in green after an immense display from the Spaniard.

His team-mate Lance Stroll finished in between both Mercedes’ drivers in P6. The Canadian driver put up a fantastic performance in the race having fractured his wrist and breaking his toe weeks before the season started.

Coming away from the opening race of 2023, we learnt that Red Bull were in a league of their own as they dominated out on track. This was going to be a recurring theme across the next 12 races.

Mercedes appeared to have not made the gains required to compete with the Milton Keynes team. However, an engine supplier of theirs in Aston Martin had arguably made the biggest improvement of any team as they looked even quicker than both the Brackley team and Ferrari.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Max Verstappen took victory in the season opener in Bahrain. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images
Saudi Arabia

The news heading into the Saudi Arabia was that Leclerc would be given a 10-place grid penalty for the race following his DNF in Bahrain.

In Qualifying, Perez took pole position after Verstappen was shockingly knocked out in Q2 after pulling into the pits with a reported engine problem. The Monegasque driver would claim second place. However, with his penalty, he would start the Grand Prix from P12 on the grid. This meant that Alonso moved onto the front row of the grid as George Russell would start in the top three.

Despite Alonso getting ahead of Perez into Turn One, there was nothing that the Spaniard could do to hold of the Mexican driver, who claimed his first win of the season at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen finished just over five seconds behind his team-mate after making his way through the field from fifteenth on the grid to claim second place.

Alonso picked up his 100th podium in F1 with another third-place result for Aston Martin. However, it was not without its controversy after he was dropped down to P4 and behind Russell at the end of the race due to receiving a 10 second time penalty. This decision was then overturned by the FIA hours later.

Both Russell and Lewis Hamilton came across the line in P4 and P5 as Mercedes seemed to have overtaken Ferrari in performance as the Scuderia finished in a disappointing P6 and P7.

What we learnt In Jeddah was that Red Bull continued to dominate the early goings of the season. Mercedes looked to be improving whereas Ferrari were heading in the opposite direction and McLaren continued to struggle after failing to pick up any points in the first two races.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull
Sergio Perez claimed victory in Jeddah. Credit: Dan Istitene – Formula 1 via Getty Images

F1 headed to Australia for the third round in 2023. Verstappen claimed his second pole position of the season in Qualifying. Perez however, crashed out in Q1 and would start the race in Melbourne from the back of the grid.

Mercedes continued to gain momentum after Russell lined up on the front row of the grid, with his team-mate starting behind him in third.

Verstappen would go on to win a very chaotic Australian Grand Prix that saw seven drivers DNF. Hamilton picked up his and Mercedes’ first podium of the season after finishing in P2. Alonso rounded out the podium places for a third race weekend in a row. Checo would go on to claim P5 after starting the race from 20th.

A chaotic race

The race had its fair share of Red Flags and standings starts. Leclerc found himself in the gravel and out of the race on the opening lap after being hit by Stroll.

The first Red Flag was brought out a few laps later when Alex Albon, who found himself in the points at the time span out into Turn Seven. Russell was then forced to retire, as he stopped at the end of the pit-lane on lap 18 after his car caught fire due to a gearbox failure.

However, even more chaos would unravel in the final few laps. After Kevin Magnussen hit the barriers, the race was stopped due to the debris and would be resumed from a standing start on the grid.

From the restart, not even a sector had been completed before another Red Flag was brought out due to multiple collisions on track. Carlos Sainz had hit into Alonso which saw the two-time world champion spin out.

Both Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly tagged one another before both cars went off into the barriers. Also, two of the three 2023 rookies in Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargent also had a coming together into Turn One.

It was eventually decided by the FIA to end the race under the safety car but in the order of where the cars lined up for the race restart. This was because less than a sector of the track was completed when the lights went out again. Sainz was also handed a five second time penalty for his incident with Alonso which put him in P12 at the end of the Grand Prix.

Nico Hulkenberg missed out on the chance of a P4 finish due to that lap not being reinstated. However, the German driver was still able to pick up some much-needed points for Haas as he came across the line in P7.

Despite all the commotion, McLaren had a much-improved weekend after the team had both drivers finish inside of the points. Lando Norris took P6 and rookie Oscar Piastri finished in P8 to score his first ever points in the sport at his home race.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen claimed his second win in 2023 at Albert Park. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

There was some excitement heading into Baku as this was not only the first Sprint weekend on the calendar but it was the first chance to see the all-new Sprint Shootout format.

Baku was dominated by two drivers, the first of which being Leclerc, who would claim his first pole position of the season in Qualifying. Verstappen would start the race on Sunday in second with both Perez and Sainz behind them both on the second row of the grid.

In the inaugural Sprint Shootout on Saturday, Leclerc once again took pole position which would be for the Sprint race later on in the day. Perez would start alongside him on the front row as this time Verstappen and Russell made up the second row.

The Sprint race saw the second of these dominant drivers in Baku as Perez would go on to win the first Sprint race of the season. Leclerc would take P2 as Verstappen finished in third.

However, after the race, Verstappen was not happy with the man that finished behind him in Russell, who the Dutchman blamed for ruining his race after the pair made some contact in the early stages of the Sprint.

In the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Perez emphasised why he is the king of the streets as he once again took victory to claim his second win in 2023. Verstappen finished only two seconds behind the Mexican as Red Bull made it another 1-2 result for the team.

Leclerc rounded out the top three as he picked up some important points for Ferrari. Alonso run of back-to-back-to-back podiums came to an end as he finished in P4.

However, there was chaos again towards the end of the race but this time in the pit-lane. Ocon was still yet to make a pitstop in the race and whilst Red Bull prepared to celebrate their victory, an organisational error led to the media filtering out onto the pit-lane and nearly hitting the Frenchman as Alpine driver just about avoided them as he entered the pits.

At this point in the season, we had learnt that there could be a title fight on our hands between both Red Bull drivers. However, with hindsight being a great thing, this opinion would soon disappear into thin air as we progressed through the season.

Another thing that we learnt was that the new Sprint Saturday format still needs some improvement, with a lot of fans saying that it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull
Perez dominated in Baku as he claimed his second win of the season. Credit: Alex Pantling via Getty Images

Heading into the first of three races in America this season and it was all to play for in the Championship after both Verstappen and Perez had won two races each in the first four rounds of the campaign.

In Qualifying, Perez claimed pole position after Leclerc’s spin into the barriers caused a Red Flag late on in Q3 which brought an end to the session. This meant that due to Verstappen messing up on his first run in Qualifying, he wasn’t able to register another lap because of the Red Flag. He would start the race from ninth on the grid.

Alonso qualified in second, with Sainz and Magnussen lining up behind the Spanish driver on the second row. Mercedes had a difficult session with Russell starting in P6 and Hamilton in P13 after the seven-time world champion was knocked out in Q2.

Despite Checo starting at the front of the grid, he could not stop his team-mate as the flying Dutchman took victory for the second season in a row at the Miami Grand Prix.

The Mexican finished over five seconds behind Verstappen as he cruised to a comfortable victory in the end. Alonso picked up his fourth podium in five races as he finished in third.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Alpine all claimed valuable points with Magnussen picking up one point for Haas after finishing in P10 in the race.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen made it two wins from two in Miami. Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was set to take place around the middle of May. However, due to the storms and flooding in the area, the decision was made not to go ahead with the race weekend.

In the aftermath of the devastation, Yuki Tsunoda and his AlphaTauri team were seen helping the clean-up effort in the region. Ferrari and F1 came together to donate two million euros to the Emilia Romagna flood relief fund to support those who had been affected by the events in the country.

Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Round six in Imola was cancelled due to heavy flooding in the region. Credit: Rudy Carezzevoli via Getty Images

After an extra week off due to the cancellation of the Grand Prix in Imola, the teams were back in Monaco for round 7 of the season.

The weekend had a mix of weather conditions for the drivers to contend with. In Qualifying, there was no stopping Verstappen who once again claimed pole position in one of the best Qualifying sessions in recent years.

Alonso narrowly missed out on his first pole position for over a decade around the streets of the Principality as he would line up next to Verstappen on the front row.

Leclerc and Ocon started Sunday’s race on the second row having both been on provisional pole towards the final few minutes of the session.

Verstappen would go to dominate a rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix as he took home another victory in 2023.

The race had remained dry until around lap 50 when the heavens opened and the rain began to fall. Things then started to get interesting as teams pitted for both intermediate and wet tyres in the final third of the Grand Prix.

However, despite finishing nearly 28 seconds behind the leader, Alonso picked up his best result of the season to date as he crossed the Checkered flag in P2.

There was one man though who was even more impressive as Ocon claimed his third podium in F1 and Alpine’s first of the season at the iconic circuit. The Frenchman was also voted driver of the day which he thoroughly deserved.

Both Russell and Hamilton came across the line in P4 and P5, with Hamilton picking up an extra point for the fastest lap in the race. Leclerc’s struggles at his home race continued as he could only muster a P6 finish. Both McLaren’s also found themselves in the points with Norris and Piastri securing P9 and P10.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen emerged victorious in wet conditions at Monaco. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Heading into Spain, there had been some changes made to the Montmeló track, which included the removal of the final chicane and changes to Turns 14 and 15, which had now reverted back to being fast-paced corners.

In Qualifying at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Verstappen took pole position for the second consecutive weekend in a row. Sainz would join the already two-time world champion towards the front of the grid in second place. A somewhat surprising second row saw Norris and Gasly line up behind both the Red Bull and Ferrari men.

However, what was more shocking was the Q1 elimination of Leclerc, who would start Sunday’s race in P19. Perez also had a bad qualifying session after he was knocked out in Q2.

Verstappen converted his pole position into victory, as he won the Spanish Grand Prix in another comfortable race for the Dutchman in 2023. He finished 24 seconds ahead of second place which ended up being Hamilton. Mercedes had great weekend with Russell picking up his first podium of the year.

Perez made his way through the grid from P11 to finish P4. Sainz claimed fifth place at his home race whilst Alonso was beaten by his team-mate Stroll, as Aston Martin had a more difficult weekend finishing in P6 and P7.

Zhou Guanyu picked up some important points for Alfa Romeo as he finished in P9. Leclerc on the other hand, failed to finish in the points as he had to settle for P11.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen won once again in 2023 at the Spanish Grand Prix. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Coming into Montreal, wet weather was set to feature across the weekend once again this season.

This included Qualifying, which saw Verstappen take pole position at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Hulkenberg surprised everyone when he put himself on the front row of the grid after the rain continued to intensify in Q3. Alonso and Hamilton would make up the second row for Sunday’s race.

Perez was knocked out in Q2 for the second consecutive weekend as he would start the race from P12. Leclerc was knocked in the second round of Qualifying as well. However, he would start ahead of the Mexican driver in P11.

Verstappen would go on to win the Canadian Grand Prix as he made up an iconic podium which included Alonso, who finished in second place and Hamilton, who completed the top three. Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey would also go up to claim the teams constructors trophy.

Ferrari’s decision to go long with their tyre strategy paid off as they Leclerc and Sainz finished in P4 and P5. Perez made his way from P12 on the grid to finish P6 in the race.

However, the best performance of the day went to Albon who took home P7 and a vital six points for the Williams team. Valtteri Bottas also picked up a point as he rounded out the top 10.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen took top spot of an iconic podium at the Canadian Grand Prix. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images

Round 10 of the season saw F1 head to the Red Bull Ring as the Sprint format made its return for the second time in 2023.

This weekend was dominated by one man only as Verstappen claimed pole position in Qualifying once again for the main race on Sunday. Leclerc and Sainz put themselves in second and third for Ferrari as Norris added himself to the second row at his best performing track on the calendar.

One thing that featured heavily in Austria were track limit violations. Perez was one driver in particular who was knocked out of Q2 for the third race in a row after having his all-important lap time deleted.

In the brand-new Sprint Shootout for this year, Verstappen claimed pole position for the Sprint race. Perez managed to redeem his recent struggles as he put himself on the front row alongside his Red Bull team-mate. Norris found himself this time in the top three as Hulkenberg completed the second row.

The Sprint race went only one way as Red Bull dominated once again with Verstappen taking victory and Perez finishing in second place. Sainz took third place with Stroll and Alonso finishing in P4 and P5 for Aston Martin. Hulkenberg, Ocon and Russell made up the rest of the point scorers.

Verstappen rounded out his dominant weekend at the home of Red Bull as he claimed victory at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Dutchman continued to operate in a league of his own as he extended his lead in the Championship.

Leclerc finished in second place with Perez completing the top three. McLaren showed some huge signs of improvement in terms of pace after Norris picked up P4 and a crucial 12 points for the team.

Both Mercedes drivers finished in P7 and P8. However, Hamilton would have finished ahead of Russell if it had not been for more than 10 seconds worth of penalties that he picked up during and after the race.

Many drivers received penalties including Tsunoda with a five second penalty, his team-mate De Vries with a 15 second penalty, Sainz, Hamilton, Gasly, Albon and Sargeant all received additional ten second time penalties and Ocon, who was handed multiple penalties totalling to 30 seconds.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Vertsappen dominated another Sprint weekend at the Red Bull Ring. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images
Great Britain

F1 headed to Great Britain next, which is one of the fan favourites in the calendar every year.

Qualifying did not disappoint either. Despite Verstappen claiming another pole position this year, it was McLaren that were the talking point at Silverstone after Norris and Piastri put themselves second and third for the race on Sunday.

Ferrari would start from fourth and fifth on the grid with both Mercedes behind them in sixth and seventh. Albon continued to show just what a great season he was having as he started in eighth.

Verstappen went on to win the British Grand Prix. However, he would have to go about it the hard way after Norris led the race into Turn One. The Dutchman had to battle hard to win the race as Norris took home P2 and Hamilton claimed his 14th podium at Silverstone to finish third.

Piastri was very unfortunate to miss out on a podium as he crossed the line in P4. McLaren picked up a total of 30 points at their home race to move ahead of Alpine in the Constructors’ Championship.

Russell and Perez finished in P5 and P6 ahead of Alonso in P7. Albon picked up more points for Williams on a milestone weekend for the team as he finished in P8. Both Leclerc and Sainz finished just inside the points for Ferrari in P9 and P10.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Despite having two British drivers on the podium at Silverstone, there was no one who could stop Verstappen. Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Heading into Hungry, the big news was the termination of De Vries’ contract at AlphaTauri. It was announced soon after, that Daniel Ricciardo would return to the grid and replace the Dutchman going forward this season.

Also, Red Bull new that they were on the verge of F1 history as winning in Hungary would set a new record of most consecutive wins by a team. The Milton Keynes team and McLaren were tied at 11.

However, it was going to be an interesting race after Lewis Hamilton made history himself after he claimed pole position in Qualifying. The British driver scored a record-breaking ninth pole in Hungary, the most by any driver at one circuit.

Verstappen would start the race on Sunday from second on the grid as Norris and Piastri kept up McLaren’s fine form, with both of them starting on the second row.

Alfa Romeo had a great session with Zhou and Bottas Qualifying in P5 and P7. Perez could only do enough for P9 on the grid. Sainz got knocked out in Q2 and would start the race in P11. Ricciardo out-qualified his team-mate on his return in P13.

Despite Mercedes picking up their first pole in 2023, Verstappen would go on to win the Hungarian Grand Prix, as Red Bull made history.

Norris picked up back-to-back podiums with another P2 result after he finished over 33 seconds behind the race winner. Perez rounded out the podium places in third on a historical day for the Austrian outfit.

Hamilton endured a difficult afternoon as an early mistake in the race saw him lose a couple of positions. He ended up securing P4 for Mercedes.

Piastri continued to impress in his rookie season as he picked up P5. Russell finished in P6 ahead of both Ferrari and Aston Martin drivers, who completed the top 10.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen took his seventh straight victory in a row as Red Bull made history in Hungary. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Round 13 of the 2023 season had the teams heading to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the third instalment of the Sprint format this campaign. There was some big news ahead of the weekend. The first being that Verstappen would have to contend with a five-place grid penalty after taking his fifth gearbox of the season.

The other news was that Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and Sporting Director Alan Permane would be leaving the team following the conclusion of the Belgian Grand Prix. Szafnauer would be replaced by Bruno Famin on an interim basis before the summer break.

Despite the minor setback for the Championship leader, Verstappen would claim pole position in Qualifying. However, it would be Leclerc who would start from P1 on Sunday. Perez would line up on the front row with Hamilton and Sainz starting on the second row.

In a thrilling Sprint Shootout, Verstappen claimed the top spot and would start from pole in the Sprint race. Piastri would line up second on the grid after being denied pole by eleven thousandths of a second. The Aussie’s team-mate would start in fifth behind both Ferrari drivers.

Just like Qualifying, the Sprint race was delayed by 35 minutes due to the wet conditions out on track. Once things got going, it would be Verstappen who took victory in the Sprint once again in 2023.

Piastri, led the early stages of the race after pitting straight away for slick tyres. This allowed him to get ahead of the Dutchman when he pitted the following lap. The Australian driver claimed his best result in the sport to date with a P2 finish.

Gasly rounded out the top three as both Sainz and Leclerc finished behind the Frenchman in P4 and P5. Norris picked up P6, finishing ahead of both Mercedes’ drivers, who were the final point scorers.

Verstappen continued his dominance after winning his eighth consecutive race this season at the Belgian Grand Prix. He would go on to finish over 22 seconds ahead of his team-mate Perez in second after starting from P6. Leclerc rounded out the top, claiming another podium for Ferrari this season.

Piastri and Sainz suffered a DNF after they both collided with each other into Turn One on the opening lap. Piastri would retire a lap later whereas Sainz would be forced to retire by his team later on in the race.

Alonso would finish in between both Mercedes drivers in P5. Hamilton, who took home P4 picked up an extra point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

Norris endured a difficult race after McLaren went for a wet weather set up for both drivers. As the track began to dry and conditions improve, The British drivers found himself losing positions as he could only muster P7.

Ocon and Stroll finished in P8 and P9 as Tsunoda picked up the final point for AlphaTauri in P10.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen claimed his eighth consecutive victory in 2023 at the Belgian Grand Prix. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images
As things stand
The Drivers Standings

In the 12 races that have taken place so far in 2023, Red Bull have won every single one with Verstappen winning ten and Perez winning two.

The Dutchman finds himself on 314 points and way out in front in the Drivers’ Championship. Verstappen could win his third world title in a row as early as round 18 in Qatar. Checo sits in second in the standings. However, he is 125 points behind his team-mate.

Alonso remains in third with 149 points. But, with Aston Martin dip in form over recent races, Hamilton is now only one point behind the Spaniard on 148 points.

Leclerc and Russell are level on points with 99 after 13 rounds this season. McLaren rise in form over the last couple of months see’s Norris in a best of the rest position on 69 points.

Behind the British driver in ninth comes Stroll with 47 points. Ocon sits in the top ten for Alpine on 35 points. However, Piastri is looking to break into the top half on the table as he finds himself only one point behind the Frenchman.

The three drivers who have failed to score any points so far include Sargeant, De Vries (who is no longer in the sport) and Ricciardo, who has recently made his return to action in 2023.

The Constructors’ Standings

In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull lead the way with a staggering 503 points. Their main rivals Mercedes sit in second, 256 points behind the Milton Keynes team.

Aston Martin complete the top three after having an immense season so far on 196 points. Ferrari make up the top four, sitting just five points behind the Silverstone team on 191 points.

McLaren lead their rivals in Alpine as they hold fifth place in the standings with 103 points. The French outfit remain in sixth and 46 points behind the Woking team.

The battle at the bottom of the grid is only separated by eight points between four teams. Williams and Haas are level on points with 11. Alfa Romeo have nine points and AlphaTauri sit in last place on just three points.

What can we look forward to?

There are ten races remaining this season once the action resumes after the summer break. Up next on the calendar is Zandvoort and a trip to the home of the Champions elect in Verstappen.

Qatar makes its return to the sport for the first time in two years for round 18. However, the big spectacle of the year is still to come with the penultimate race of the year being held around the streets of Las Vegas. Abu Dhabi will round off the campaign with the season finale race once again in 2023.

With this season so far being dominated by one man and one team in particular, it is very easy to predict how things will play out. However, with this being F1, anything can happen. What will things look like come the end of the season? Who knows. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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