Divebomb 2023 F1 Predictions: Max Smolarski
Written by Max Smolarski, Edited by Ishani Aziz
With the car launches complete, and pre-season testing already behind us, anticipation for the 2023 Formula One Season is building. The DIVEBOMB correspondents are joining this anticipation and releasing their predictions of the team’s fates for the 2023 season ahead of the opener in Bahrain. Continuing our series is Max Smolarski, member of our writing and Youtube teams.
Last year provided a lot of new ground for many drivers, and had potential for a team to dominate with a well-prepared chassis, which did end up happening with Red Bull’s first double championship since 2013. Last year’s predictions may have been premature, but most of these still hold true. This is particularly true when comparing the impact of the 2022 regulations, that is eerily similar to the effect of the 2009 regulations. In hindsight, there could be even more potential for a 2010-style championship in the second year of the third V6-hybrid era.
Hot take of the year: McLaren bounce back
We’ve already been through pre-season testing and I’m sure there’s a lot of question marks around what happened with the development cycle at McLaren; their pace seems to have dropped off significantly, and they’ve been predicted to be in the lower midfield by many analysts. However, there have been talks of a massive upgrade package that will be ready for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. My controversial opinion is that they will be bouncing back for podium finishes, or even race wins. There is no doubt that Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are both at the level where their talent (or potential talent) can hand them the winners’ trophy.
Flop of the year: AlphaTauri
AlphaTauri have remained in the fight for points in nearly every race for the last few years, finishing consistently in the center of the midfield. However, the development of their car for the 2022 regulations has not been of the same standard; despite collecting 35 points, many of their races have finished way too far behind the cars that finished in the points, with the Austrian weekend being particularly disappointing. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to change this season. Data from their race distance test on Saturday was the poorest of the lower midfield teams (below), and personally, I don’t expect their driver pairing to maximise the potential out of their car.
Surprise of the year: Aston Martin with Fernando Alonso
Testing revealed that the improvement of the Aston Martin AMR23 compared to its predecessor was remarkable. Fernando Alonso (a driver known for his chameleon adaptation to his machinery) may be instrumental to the team’s progress. Their development might fall back compared to Ferrari and Mercedes over the season, but the new dark green machine, spearheaded by ex-Red Bull Head of Aerodynamics Dan Fallows, is now capable of race pace good enough to be in the points in every round.
Most improved driver/constructor: Lance Stroll at Aston Martin
Lance Stroll has proven time and time again that he is capable of podium scoring. 2020 was his most impressive season with a pole position at Istanbul Park and two podiums at Monza and Sakhir. That was also the most competitive car that he has driven in F1 to date, and Aston Martin has built a car that’s strong in both qualifying laps and race pace. If Stroll can get a handle on consistency, he will be able to use the tailored AMR23 to his advantage.
Aston Martin is certainly looking hopeful with Alonso remarking on the team’s progress at a promotional event for the team: “The last day we did a race simulation, […] so we just put fuel for 57 laps, and we did the whole race, with real pit stops [and] changing tyres. At the same time, Ferrari was doing the same programme, […] and we were slightly faster.” It is important to note that Ferrari ran a low downforce rear wing for the majority, if not all, of the 3 days, so this might change at the opening race in Bahrain, but the data from Aston’s test days are still impressive considering the level they were at last year.
2023 World Constructors’ Champion: Ferrari
Last season, Red Bull was the one to beat from the first race. Despite the RBPT (Red Bull Powertrains) engine problems in Bahrain and Australia, it was no secret that they would develop the fastest car throughout the season, and, unsurprisingly, their lead in car development to the other teams grew since Hungary. However, there are a few potential issues at play for Red Bull this season. It’s unclear how much they gained by the improvements implemented onto the RB19 since they had a strong lead by the end of last year.
With their budget and wind tunnel time hampered by a breach of the 2021 cost cap limit, Helmut Marko explained: “There is no room for experimentation or risk.” As a result, I believe that the other teams will close the gap to the RB19, and I expect Ferrari to be the most likely constructor to get ahead of Red Bull by the end of the season. A reshuffle of top level management was put in place by their new team principal, Fred Vasseur, and I believe that, with his tremendous experience, he will push the prancing horses forwards to their first constructors’ title since 2008.
2023 World Drivers’ Champion: Carlos Sainz
The tifosi will be delighted with their first drivers’ championship victory since Kimi Raikkönen in 2007, and I believe Carlos Sainz may be the one to lift the sterling silver Drivers’ Championship trophy at this year’s FIA Prize-Giving Ceremony. Carlos Sainz is a proven fighter and one of the most consistent drivers on this years’ grid. Despite 2022 being his first year in a championship-contending car, he managed to be the third best qualifier in average position and joint-second with Max Verstappen in average gap to pole.
Last year was the first time he experienced starting from pole (Britain, Belgium*, USA), as well as having opportunities to lead races in a race-winning car (Canada, Britain, Belgium). Now, it is crucial that he keeps qualifying on the front two rows (like he has done on 18-19 sessions within his control), and that he irons out his race pace on lower speed tracks like Zandvoort and Singapore. Other than that, Carlos Sainz is a confident and consistent driver, and Ferrari are hopefully ready to put both their drivers in race-winning situations with both the car and the strategy.
Those are my 2023 F1 predictions; let us know what yours are below!