Recent confirmations suggest that there won’t be many changes to the Formula 1 driver roster for 2023. But some unanswered questions remain.
This week, AlphaTauri announced that Pierre Gasly would return to the team for what would be a seventh season, making him the most recent driver to have his current team confirm his participation in the 2023 Formula 1 season.
The driver roster for the upcoming season was very slightly altered before this release. Williams is apparently preparing to replace Nicholas Latifi with Oscar Piastri with Alexander Albon, while Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine, AlphaTauri, and Alfa Romeo all look to be keeping the same lineups for next year.
That leaves three teams, each of which is betting heavily on one driver to win this year’s silly season.
No. 1 in the silly season of Formula 1 is Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren.
Although Daniel Ricciardo’s contract with McLaren is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2023 Formula 1 season, his performance since joining the team last year has caused many to speculate that the agreement might be terminated one year earlier. According to reports, that deal has “mechanisms” in place that would let such to happen.
Who actually has the power to decide whether or not Ricciardo will remain on the team beyond 2022 and what exactly are those “mechanisms” and the elements that influence them?
Could Ricciardo theoretically remain with McLaren through 2023, albeit in a different series, given that the company already runs the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team and has increased its fleet to three cars, in addition to launching a Formula E team by purchasing Mercedes-EQ?
Felix Rosenqvist, a current Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver, just extended his contract through 2023, but it doesn’t officially bind him to the IndyCar series.
Will Lando Norris, who is under contract through the 2025 season, and Ricciardo return for another season together, or will McLaren change things up by hiring someone new? Would Ricciardo actually remain with the company if they do hire someone new, or would he eventually join with a different Formula 1 team?
Vettel, a four-time F1 world champion, signed on with Aston Martin before the 2021 season, although his current contract expires at the conclusion of the current season.
Previously saying he would wait until the summer to decide whether or not to continue, Vettel hasn’t been in a rush to make a choice on his future.
Given that most of the top teams have already decided on their lineups for 2023, the future of Sebastian Vettel is expected to be a big topic of discussion.
Speaking last weekend in Canada, team principal Krack reaffirmed that there had been no change in policy and that Aston Martin wanted to continue working with him in the long run.
Krack responded, “We have always been clear that if he wants to continue, we would prefer to have him stay for a while.
“We’re conversing. We don’t need to give each other deadlines because we have a very, very excellent relationship.
He is aware that if we continue to drag this out too much, we will eventually run into difficulty.
But the conversations we’re having are really reliable. Everything is fine from that perspective.
Aston Martin AMR22, Sebastian Vettel Image courtesy of Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images
Following his COVID-19-related absence from the first two races of the season, Vettel scored his first points at Imola before posting his best season performance in Azerbaijan, when he finished sixth.
Prior to the AMR22’s big improvement the following month in Spain, Vettel stated in April that his future depended on how Aston Martin handled its problems with the vehicle.
With a broader setup window thanks to the change in car concept, Vettel’s performance improved, and he scored points in back-to-back races in Monaco and Azerbaijan. The British Grand Prix is scheduled for the following weekend, and Krack was anxious to use this as additional evidence to Vettel that it was progressing.
Barcelona, in my opinion, was the first step toward improving the car, as we have always stated, according to Krack.
“I’d want to show him one more thing, and then we can chat, maybe then I can and his motivation to do it is a little bit better,” she said.
If you talk about feelings, you can get disappointed, Krack said in response to the question of whether he had a gut feeling about what Vettel would chose to do.
“No, no, we looked at what we did here, we put in a lot of effort for Silverstone, and then we looked at where we were,” the respondent said.
It is drastically understated how difficult it is to have sustained success in Formula 1. And both teams and drivers are subject to this.
Mercedes has achieved unprecedented glory since the V6 turbo-hybrid era began, winning eight constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships. When it comes to racing weekends, there have been moments when victory has seemed simple. It has often appeared to be so simple.
After 2022 F1 troubles, Mercedes increases aero testing. More info
But achieving that level of performance consistently through numerous rule revisions and an entire year is not simple. That has been demonstrated by what James Allison, chief technology officer at Mercedes and one of the company’s primary contributors to success, refers to as the car having “fallen down a hole” this year.
Yes, making things less predictable is a good thing in any sport. Whether you are a Silver Arrows fan, a “hater,” or one of the majority sprinkled throughout the spectrum between those two extremes, variation is a good thing after eight years of watching the team win race after race. That much is clear.
The benefit of being reminded of how challenging such domination is is somewhat intangible. For the first time in Formula One history, a team maintained its position at the top during the switch to wider, high-downforce cars in 2017 thanks to a significant modification in the chassis rules.
While the set of aerodynamic adjustments that swung the pendulum against the low-rake car idea in 2021 merely hindered, rather than eliminating, its supremacy, there were lesser changes in 2019 that had an impact on the front wing, which it also withstood.
And all of them came after Mercedes, which won 16 out of 19 races, surged to the front at the start of the 1.6-liter V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014. That marked the start of a dominating streak that seemed unstoppable.
Mercedes’ inability to meet the demands of the 2022 ground effect regulations is evidence that no triumph is assured. Although they are a requirement for success, resources—including funds, employees, and facilities—do not ensure it. Just consider Ferrari over the previous ten years.
There is the caveat that this is no ordinary season, given the destabilising impact of big teams such as Mercedes having to adapt to the impact of the cost cap, aerodynamic testing restrictions and, of course, the biggest set of chassis rule changes in F1 history. But it remains a team with tremendous technical depth, good leadership and outstanding driver line-up – yet for all that, it has failed.
No team fully comprehends every aspect of how its cars function, as Gary Anderson, The Race’s technical guru, frequently notes. Rule changes have always risked exposing hidden weaknesses, while they also challenge teams to look at new regulations and comprehend the key areas for delivering performance.
There are also myriad external factors lying in wait to trip over teams, as Red Bull found out when its first era of F1 supremacy came to a juddering halt in 2014 – primarily as a result of Renault’s struggles with the new engine regulations.
This is why watching Mercedes grapple with its serious problems with porpoising – a situation ameliorated by its Spanish Grand Prix upgrade last month – bouncing and all-round rough ride has been so fascinating. In real time, we get to witness a grand prix team working to come to terms with serious problems with its car, faced the two-fold test of whether it can extract the maximum from the Mercedes W13 and whether, already with the 2023 car, it shift away from the problematic assumptions that have put it in strife.
It could strike back quickly or it might just be at the start of a long fallow period – nothing is preordained.
All of the F1 teams do remarkable things to design, develop, understand and race these prototype cars and in modern F1 even those at the back are doing what is objectively a good job even if it is bad when viewed through the more subjective lens of competition.
For Mercedes to remind the watching world how easy it is to tumble down from the precarious peak is every bit as valuable as the freshness of seeing a different battle at the front.
It emphasises that even though F1 can sometimes look very easy, it’s anything but.
Mercedes has tried a number of set-up experiments during practice at the first nine grand prix in an effort to try to unlock extra performance despite the porpoising and bouncing troubles that have dogged its W13 vehicle thus far this season.
Due to his greater expertise compared to rookie teammate George Russell, who is just in his fourth complete F1 season, Hamilton has frequently taken the lead on Mercedes’ setup experimentation this year.
On Friday morning in Canada, Hamilton declared that as part of his experimental role, he was going to conduct “something quite radical” in practice. However, he later claimed that the experiment was a “failure.” In the end, the seven-time world champion placed third on Sunday, matching his best performance thus far in the 2022 campaign.
Hamilton joked that “maybe in the second part of the season, George can do the tests” when asked by Autosport about his “guinea pig” role thus far this year.
Nevertheless, he anticipated that moving forward the studies would be more cautious in order to prevent significantly compromising his racing weekend.
Following the Canadian race, Hamilton commented, “Moving forward, I believe we’ll be a little bit more cautious on performing too many experiments as it really does hinder you through the weekend, especially if you just have practice one and two in the dry and don’t get an FP3, for example.”
We can get a lot out of this weekend in terms of lessons learned and future improvements.
However, “you know, [there was] really excellent pace on Sunday, and it’s really nice to see, it’s not always been the case I’ve had with this vehicle so it’s nice to have a bit of a good tussle with her today”
Mercedes-AMG, Lewis Hamilton Andy Hone/Motorsport Images provided the image.
In order for Mercedes to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the front, Hamilton was optimistic that his home grand prix at Silverstone the following weekend would provide a same kind of move ahead.
Hamilton said of fellow podium finishers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, “I simply want to be in a battle with these guys.
“The dream was if I can keep in that struggle with them and find a solution, but they were speedy. That was at the end there when the safety car came in and we started again. But eventually, we shall arrive.