Formula 1‘s 2023 season has already been wrapped up with five rounds to go after Red Bull claimed the Constructors’ Championship at the Japanese Grand Prix and Max Verstappen won the Drivers’ Championship at the Qatar GP.
But all is not lost, there is still a lot at stake anywhere else in the standings such as Lewis Hamilton versus Sergio Perez, McLaren‘s quest to catch Ferrari and Fernando Alonso‘s elusive 33rd win.
So what is there to look forwards to in the final five events of F1 2023?
Let’s start at the top of the standings to begin with, had he survived the first corner in Qatar there is a very good chance that Hamilton would trail Perez by just 15 or so points with five rounds to go as he bids to become the first driver since the 1970s to finish as the runner-up without winning a race.
By all means, it should not be a contest considering the pace difference between Mercedes and Red Bull but their contrasting consistencies, with Perez frequently dropping points whilst Hamilton has rarely left anything on the table, has put a big question mark over the Mexican’s ability to finish in second.
Carlos Sainz versus Charles Leclerc has been ongoing throughout 2023, with Sainz even managing to win a race at the Singapore GP. Although it doesn’t appear to be a genuine rivalry with each other, more along the lines of two drivers performing at similar levels, the Spaniard will surely want to beat his Monegasque counterpart and make a statement after a 2022 season where he was soundly outperformed.
Sainz‘s failure to start the Qatar GP has allowed Leclerc to close within eight points of him and with five rounds to go and two Sprint Races, it could eventually turn into a ‘gloves off’ scenario as the pair battle for top dog in the Ferrari hierarchy.
Oscar Piastri has had an exceptional rookie season, even managing to win his first F1 ‘race’ in the Qatar Sprint by fending off George Russell and Verstappen. In just 17 races he has managed to show why McLaren highly rate the youngster as he remains close to Lando Norris‘s pace and in recent races he has managed to beat the Briton in qualifying.
As Piastri continues to learn and gain experience, there is a chance that he could mount the kind of challenge to Norris that many expected Daniel Ricciardo to do when he signed for the team in 2020.
McLaren have been on the charge since their first major upgrades at the Austrian GP in July by recording seven podiums in eight Sunday races, a top-three finish at the Belgian GP Sprint and of course, Piastri‘s victory in Qatar.
Now they are closing on Aston Martin fast, which was an unthinkable idea in the early rounds of the season as they trail their British rivals by just 11 points. Slightly further up the road is Ferrari with 79 points, who Norris believes they can catch although he accepts it is a tall order.
McLaren have given themselves a chance to finish third in the standings with their two main upgrades in Austria and Singapore and with five rounds to go and lots of high-speed tracks where they tend to excel at, the game is on.
Mercedes are a step too far unless a spectacular implosion happens at Brackley, as they are 107 points ahead but the two teams are often fairly close on pace and can give good duels as the season heads into its twilight phase.
At the opposite end of the standings, Williams are clinging on to seventh ahead of Alfa Romeo and Haas, with AlphaTauri cut adrift on five points. Both the Ferrari-powered Alfa and Haas are bringing upgrade packages to the United States GP, which will be hosted at the Circuit of the Americas, and thus could begin to threaten Williams‘ spot which is worth valuable prize money at the bottom of the order.
A new track
The F1 circus is back in Las Vegas after a 41-year absence, although they will not be racing at the Caesars Palace and will instead thunder through the city in the form of a street track.
The race there will be the 1100th in the 73-year history of the sport and features a track that will be incredibly dominant on straight-line speed, despite having 15 corners – just four fewer than the Circuit de Monaco.
The race is currently scheduled for 50 laps, and it will be interesting to see what teams like Red Bull, Williams and Ferrari can do down the Las Vegas Boulevard straight, which is 1.9km long but still not as long as the 2.2km straight at the Azerbaijan GP.
Can Fernando Alonso finally claim the elusive 33rd win of his career that he has been chasing since the 2013 Spanish GP over 10 years ago? I think many suspected that Aston Martin might steal a win in 2023 after seeming to be the second-best package for much of the opener of the season but it has not materialised.
The Spanish driver and the team had a couple of near-misses, at Monaco when a pit-stop error cost him a chance to undercut Verstappen thanks to a smart strategy call at the start of the race, or Canada when they were not too far off Verstappen‘s pace (0.136 average per lap despite managing brake issues) but the top step of the podium evaded him.
Can Alonso claim his 33rd career win? It’s looking like a tall order with Aston Martin seemingly fifth-fastest but F1 is completely random sometimes.
Verstappen has produced a special season in 2023, wrapping up the Drivers’ Championship with five rounds to go despite more races than ever before and leading second place by 109 points with 14 wins to his name.
There are a few records he can claim such as breaking his own 2022 record for most wins in an F1 season, the record for largest points margin to second and if he takes pole position in the remaining five rounds, then he will tie Sebastian Vettel‘s record for the most poles in one season with 15. He can also break his own record for most points in a season.
Furthermore, he can surpass Michael Schumacher‘s record of the highest win percentage in an F1 season with 72.22 percent in 2004. Verstappen‘s currently a good bet in this area as he sits on 82% himself and seems like he has no rivals.