The off-season in Formula 1 is very short. The dust barely has time to settle on the last season before the new season begins, and drivers are back out on the grid in their new cars. The driver line-up may change from season to season, and the cars close to the top of the grid may change as teams gain advantages against their rivals, but the drama is always the same. This looks set to be the most unpredictable Formula 1 season in quite a while, and for the first time in more than a decade, there are more than two contenders for the driver’s championship.
We don’t envy anybody who’s considering placing a bet on the outcome of this Formula 1 season – there are simply too many variables. Trying to make predictions is so hard that if you’re going to make a Formula 1 gamble, you might as well just pump your money into the official Formula 1 online slots game that does such a roaring trade at so many online casinos and hope for the best. Perhaps there’s something in that metaphor, though. If you listen to the advice of a website that compares casinos like sistersite.co.uk, they’ll tell you that it’s possible to enhance your chances of winning at an online casino by understanding the potential and return-to-player rate of whatever casino game it is that you’re playing. Perhaps we can do that by examining the credentials of the drivers in contention for the top prizes.
The most obvious place to start is with the reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver is the most technically gifted driver of his generation, and at Red Bull, he drives for a team that almost always produces the fastest car in terms of cornering. Verstappen is the man to beat and may even feel like he has a point to prove to himself after the controversial way he won the title in the final race of last season. There will always be an asterisk next to his maiden world title victory thanks to that controversy, and Verstappen will want to prove that he’s capable of winning the biggest prize in the sport without any assistance from the stewards or the race director. He’ll be a difficult man to stop, and as ever, Verstappen’s biggest rival is likely to be himself. He’s learning to control his impulsiveness and aggression better as he matures, but that element of Verstappen’s character that makes a crash possible at any time is always likely to be there.
It feels crazy to say that Lewis Hamilton probably isn’t a contender for the world championship this season, but that’s how things appear to be in 2023. Hamilton is a seven-time world champion and was robbed of a record-breaking eighth championship in Abu Dhabi last year, but this year’s Mercedes looks like a flop. It’s too slow, prone to bouncing, and can’t keep pace with either Red Bull or Ferrari. There’s still plenty of time for Mercedes to improve the car, and a driver like Hamilton can never be ruled out altogether, but the smart money says he won’t be lifting the trophy at the end of what might be his final season in the sport before retirement.
After two races this season, Charles Leclerc has finished first and second. Ferrari is back after two years in the wilderness, and their Monacan driver looks to be a genuine contender for the world championship. If he’s able to win it, it will be Ferrari’s first drivers’ world championship for well over a decade. That’s far too long to go without the top prize for this illustrious team, and they might never have a better chance than they do this season. They finally have the right car after years of expensive errors and underperformance, and with Leclerc, they appear to have a driver who doesn’t get rattled in the same way that Sebastian Vettel so often did when duelling with Lewis Hamilton in the past. If Ferrari can take its positive start to the season and build on it, the Scuderia will finally have something to cheer for after years of waiting.
Carlos Sainz, Leclerc’s teammate at Ferrari, rejects any suggestion that he’s the “number two” driver in the team. The Spaniard considers himself to be every bit Leclerc’s equal and is unlikely to give ground to his teammate if the two Ferrari drivers find themselves battling it out for first place on any track anywhere in the world. His motivation for joining Ferrari was the same as Leclerc’s – he wants to win the world championship, and he believes he’s capable of doing it. It will be interesting to see how Ferrari handles the competition between their two young stars as the season develops. The last thing the team needs is the risk of the two coming together and taking themselves out of a race in the process, but it’s a very real possibility – especially in the tense, fraught, final races of the season towards the end of the year.
If we’re including Lewis Hamilton in this list, then we also have to include his teammate George Russell, who out-qualified his legendary teammate in Saudi Arabia and also finished ahead of him on the track. Russell already looks like a more competent driver for Mercedes than his predecessor Valtteri Bottas ever was, and he wants to prove that he has what it takes to become the number one man for Mercedes once Hamilton eventually decides to call it a day. Russell is being let down by his car at the moment in just the same way as Hamilton is, but if Mercedes can make improvements and bring their cars back into the running, Russell has just as much chance of winning races as Hamilton does.
That’s five men in the mix for the world championship by our count, and we haven’t even mentioned Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who appears to have accepted second billing at Red Bull. This is a story that will be told on the track rather than in opinion pieces like this one, though – and it looks like it will be a compelling tale.