The strength in depth of the 2023 Formula 1 grid is excellent, no matter who you like or dislike in this year’s field, with plenty of young talent and multiple champions in Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Just four teams have kept the same driver pairing from last year for 2023 as the driver market had a big shake-up following confirmation of Sebastian Vettel‘s retirement, which triggered a series of moves.
Three rookies have joined the F1 field, Oscar Piastri, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant, so which team has the best driver line-up?
10) Williams: Alex Albon – Logan Sargeant
Ranking 10th to seventh is very difficult but it’s so difficult to say how good Alex Albon‘s 2022 campaign was against a really poor Nicholas Latifi.
Looking at Albon‘s time at Toro Rosso and Red Bull, he’s probably in the middle of the grid at best in terms of quality.
Throw in the unknown of debutante Sargeant, who somewhat fell over the line to secure a super licence in the second half of the Formula 2 season, and Williams narrowly take the wooden spoon.
9) Alfa Romeo: Valtteri Bottas – Zhou Guanyu
Zhou Guanyu earned his right to be on the grid, but he needs to step up his game and the signs from 2022 suggested that might not happen.
Arguably, his debut at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix was his best weekend performance and his spell in F2 also indicated he doesn’t improve over time.
Valtteri Bottas can be very good over one lap, it’s just his race pace and racecraft which can let him down.
Knowing the tricks of the trade to follow a car in front whilst managing your tyres is pivotal when racing in the midfield, which is a weakness of Bottas.
8) AlphaTauri: Yuki Tsunoda – Nyck de Vries
The toughest line-up to rate is AlphaTauri. Yuki Tsunoda showed so much promise as a junior and there is a huge if as to whether 2023 will finally see him make a breakthrough in F1.
Tsunoda could find himself in the running for a Red Bull seat, or be out of F1 altogether, that’s how big this year is for him.
Nyck de Vries was very impressive in his one-off appearance for Williams at the Italian GP in September, but can he perform week in, week out?
Both are vulnerable to mistakes too so it could be a rollercoaster season at AlphaTauri.
7) Haas: Kevin Magnussen – Nico Hulkenberg
Conversely, we have Haas next who, in theory, have a much safer pair of hands. Kevin Magnussen didn’t exactly shine against Mick Schumacher in the second half of 2022 though and Nico Hulkenberg is surely past his best.
When Hulkenberg made substitute appearances at Racing Point in 2020 and Aston Martin in 2022, he was excellent.
However, he will be expected to at least match Magnussen this year to show Haas made the right choice by signing him. Experience puts this line-up in the middle of the midfield.
6) Alpine: Esteban Ocon – Pierre Gasly
Alpine have two one-time race winners and a pairing which might not get on, even though they both say their feud is now something of the past.
Ocon was not as good as Fernando Alonso during their time as teammates, suggesting he’s not in the elite crop of drivers.
Gasly is in the same boat, so it’s a case of two very good, but not amazing, drivers at Alpine.
5) Aston Martin: Lance Stroll – Fernando Alonso
Why is Aston Martin ranked higher than Alpine you ask? The difference between the Alpine pair and Alonso, who is better than both, is bigger than the deficit Stroll has to Gasly and Ocon. Make sense? Hopefully it does.
That’s a matter of opinion of course, but Alonso is just so good on race days and was a match for Ocon last year in qualifying too.
Stroll is very inconsistent and will almost certainly have same days when he is a long way off Alonso, then a few performances which set the world alight.
4) McLaren: Lando Norris – Oscar Piastri
McLaren have a very exciting line-up in Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, which could even be ranked a bit higher by the end of 2023.
Norris has been outstanding over the last two years, completely dominating Daniel Ricciardo in every department.
Meanwhile, Piastri is the most exciting rookie to join F1 since George Russell and has been tipped to be a future world champion after consecutive junior single-seater promotions in F3, F2 and into F1.
3) Ferrari: Charles Leclerc – Carlos Sainz
Charles Leclerc is the driver to beat over one lap on his day with his stunning speed and ability to find the limit of the car when it matters in qualifying.
He has improved his race pace significantly too, although has a mistake in him when the pressure is at its highest on a weekend.
Carlos Sainz doesn’t quite have the same consistency as Leclerc and probably lacks an edge when it comes to pure pace which is why Ferrari are third on the list.
2) Red Bull: Max Verstappen – Sergio Perez
Max Verstappen is the best driver in F1 at the moment for reasons you can read about in an article here, after he wrapped up his second world title at the Japanese GP last year.
Similarly to the Aston Martin and Alpine comparison, Verstappen‘s advantage over the Ferrari drivers is bigger than what Sergio Perez lacks to Leclerc and Sainz.
Perez is a handy driver to have on Sundays, but is the weak link out of F1‘s big three teams. Most drivers would look average against Verstappen though to be fair.
1) Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton – George Russell
No questions about which team is at number one. You have Lewis Hamilton, who is considered by many as the greatest F1 driver of all-time, along with a brilliant, proven talent in George Russell.
Crucially, Hamilton has showed no indications of slowing down and is still seen as the favourite to come out on top in a battle between the Mercedes pair, even though Russell finished ahead in the 2022 standings.
Russell demonstrated he is more than worthy of a top seat with a very impressive first campaign at Mercedes.
Don’t be surprised to see this head-to-head get very dramatic in 2023…