Divebomb’s 2023 Formula 1 Predictions: Vyas Ponnuri
Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Simran Kanthi
With car launches completed and pre-season testing around the corner, the hype for the 2023 Formula One season is building and the DIVEBOMB team will release their predictions day by day until the Bahrain Grand Prix. Continuing our series is our Feeder Series correspondent at Divebomb, Vyas Ponnuri.
Being an avid follower of the Rosso Corsa club, I have always hoped for a driver wearing red to come out on top. Having got into F1 in the early 2010s, I have seen the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel stand a strong chance of winning, only to fall short. Last year, we were expected to be treated to a battle for the ages between the rising stars from Ferrari and Red Bull - Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, witnessing some sensational battles very early in the season. Unfortunately, the season went pear-shaped for the team from Maranello, and Verstappen displayed sheer class and consistency to romp to a second consecutive world championship.
Amidst the all-too-common saying “This year is our year” by followers of the Scuderia, I expect this year to actually be the year of Ferrari. Their performance in 2022 was largely marred by reliability issues and strategy blunders, but with the engine freeze accounting for reliability fixes to be made, I expect Ferrari to come out all guns blazing in 2023 and very well take the fight to Red Bull and Mercedes. Add to this two highly-motivated drivers looking to prove themselves after tough seasons and a team principal who is already voicing his intentions, it all starts to point towards a year of success for the Prancing Horse.
In addition, I predict a three-way battle for the Drivers championship, at the very least. This battle will carry on until the final round at Abu Dhabi, with Charles Leclerc coming out on top after a protracted battle and bringing home the elusive Drivers Championship and plenty of joy and happiness to the Tifosi.
In this facet, I expect Ferrari to come out on top and take their first constructors' title in almost 15 years. While I expect Leclerc and Verstappen to battle fiercely to be crowned world champion, the battle for the Constructors will come down to the drivers in the second seats: Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez. While the Mexican showed flashes of pace last year, with two strong drives that saw him clinch victory at Monaco and Singapore, along with numerous podiums, he still lacked that out-and-out pace to his rivals across the season, often being overtaken by the Spaniard and both Mercedes drivers on track. He will have to up his game to compete with a rejuvenated Sainz in 2023.
And in the case of the Spaniard, he was at the receiving end of reliability issues and mistakes across the season, along with a dose of poor luck. 2022 was Sainz’s first season competing in a car capable of contending for race wins every weekend and he experienced a massive learning curve last season. I expect him to come out in full flow in 2023, scoring big points consistently.
For the Constructors title, I predict a three-way fight between Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes, another that will carry on till the last round of the season at Abu Dhabi.
Flop of the year
Simply put, I will say Lance Stroll. His involvement in various incidents across qualifying and races took the sheen of his high points of the season. Despite taking a season-best of sixth and numerous tenth-place finishes across the season, his incidents at Australia, Baku, Austin, and Brazil didn’t help further his cause and shrug off his “Pay driver” tag. His incident-prone nature will eventually hamper his pursuit of regular points this season, and he will also struggle to match his new veteran teammate Fernando Alonso across the year. Knowing how good a qualifier and racer Alonso is, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see both British Racing Green cars at different ends on the track at various rounds this year.
Surprise of the year
In what will be another tight midfield battle, I expect Haas to surprise many and emulate their strong performance from 2018 when they finished fifth in the constructors’ standings. A cash injection from their new title sponsor MoneyGram will help them get ever closer to the budget cap, and in Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, they have two veteran drivers who boast of a wealth of experience in the sport. And Haas need experienced drivers capable of getting the best out of the machinery to finish high in the standings, after all, remember how they finished fifth in 2018! And 2022 also provides a solid baseline for the American team to learn from and introduce upgrades to the car. I also expect the strategists down at Haas to improve their form as the season goes on, and make key calls to help Magnussen and Hulkenberg get consistent points finishes.
Most improved Driver/Constructor
While Kevin Magnussen had a remarkable year with his former team after being called up last minute to replace Nikita Mazepin, I believe he still has some improvement to make, as he has much more potential than his points tally shows. Yes, he did finish fifth in his first race back in F1 in Bahrain and take his maiden pole position at Sao Paulo, but his points tally of 25 undermines what could have been a massive comeback season for the Dane.
For one, his tendency to get too aggressive on lap one has cost him on numerous occasions last year: Spain, Canada, Hungary, and Singapore. In all these races, Magnussen found himself neither in the points nor on the fringes of it and was forced to make a pit stop early, hampering his progress in the race. While his qualifying record was sublime, his race record against Mick Schumacher stood at 7-8 last season, when both drivers made it to the chequered flag, and Magnussen will have to up his game to match Hulkenberg, a proven contestant in the F1 midfield.
In the case of improved constructors, one of them would be the aforementioned Haas, who will make a big improvement and leap up the grid. Another improved constructor would be Mercedes, who, despite keeping their expectations in check, will be battling with Red Bull and Ferrari for race wins regularly, a marked step up from their up-and-down 2022 season.
Hot take of the year
As hot and as shocking as it can get, I expect drivers from at least six teams to finish on the podium in 2023. Last season, only one driver from outside the trio of the Red Bull/Mercedes/Ferrari drivers finished on the podium and that was McLaren’s Lando Norris, taking a second consecutive podium at the mighty Imola circuit. However, in 2023, I predict the midfield to be as competitive as ever, and in a race of attrition, it will be an unlikely contender to grab a rare rostrum appearance in the season. I wouldn’t specify the track; rather, it can happen at any race, be it the season opener or the finale.
And my rationale behind this is simple. Drivers such as Norris, Magnussen, Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, and Pierre Gasly all have shown pace capable of challenging for a shock podium, in a race of attrition in the past. I expect one of them to get an unlikely podium finish on a day when the attrition rate is high.
And these are my 2023 F1 predictions, let us know what yours are below!