Formula One season preview: Lots of rookies and a few legends but can anyone catch Max?

Formula One season preview: Lots of rookies and a few legends but can anyone catch Max?
The new F1 season kicks off this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix
The new F1 season kicks off this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix
The Formula One World Championship series has been running regularly since 1950. This year's 74th edition offers plenty of interesting stories. Defending champion Max Verstappen (25) of Red Bull is aiming for a third triumph in a row, while his team's biggest rivals, Ferrari, have a new boss in charge and after many years the series will be returning to Las Vegas.

How will the 10 teams handle the demanding season schedule which, for the first time, has a record 23 legs? How will the American public react to three races in the US? Can seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (38) add another win to his already record 103 victories?

These are just a few of the talking points ahead of the new Formula One season which kicks off this weekend in Bahrain. To get you charged up for all the action, Flashscore brings you this preview of the season ahead with the insight of motorsport expert and commentator Zdenek Mika.

Red Bull in the driver's seat

Get ready for the pursuit of Max Verstappen to continue. Whether anyone can catch Max will be the main theme of this year's season. He has shown strength in the testing already and is expected to be the favourite again.

Maybe this season will be the opposite of last year when Red Bull started poorly but gradually became incredibly dominant. This year, the team is not expected to have problems early on but they may come as the season progresses. Red Bull has a penalty for exceeding the budget cap and will not be able to test as much as a result - who knows, this could come to hurt them.

Verstappen's next milestone

Only four drivers in history have managed to win three consecutive seasons - Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen certainly has the potential to become the fifth driver on that list.

He won 15 out of 22 races last year and Red Bull still has the strongest car on the circuit. But it's also a matter of team support. It could be that things will creak at Red Bull and Sergio Perez (33), who had a big falling out with Verstappen last year, will be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo (33) at some point. He has returned to Red Bull as a reserve driver and is ready to step in at any time he is needed.

Ferrari's chances

Ferari's chances have been a big topic in the off-season. They have brought in Fred Vasseur (54) as the team principal and we know from history that he's a tremendously hard worker and a man of purpose.

Having said that, Ferrari now has someone at the helm who doesn't come directly from inside their environment for the first time in a long time. Since the end of the Schumacher era, the team have always been run by people who have come out of Maranello. Vasseur comes from outside, however, he brings experience from Renault, Sauber and Alfa Romeo.

Ferrari's drivers' positions will certainly be under scrutiny this year. Vasseur claims to have two equally good drivers but how much he will honour them remains to be seen. Carlos Sainz (28) has big ambitions but Vasseur is far closer to Charles Leclerc (25) - they'll be working together for the third time and he's almost like a son to the boss.

Return to Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Grand Prix is definitely a positive addition to the circuit. It brings three races in one season to the USA - something that has never been done before - and is further confirmation that Liberty Media is doing a great job of bringing F1 closer to the American public's consciousness.

Having so many races is going to be logistically challenging for sure. The older ones amongst us remember the days of 15-16 races a year. However, having another race is surely a plus for the fans.

Las Vegas has been done twice in the past - in the '80s the race was called the Caesars Palace Grand Prix after the hotel around which the city circuit was laid out. The riders didn't like it so it'll be different this time, we assume. With three events and thanks to the hugely popular Netflix series Drive to Survivethe American public is sure to fall in love with F1 even more in 2023.

Lewis Hamilton

Whether Hamilton can add any more victories to his 103 wins is another topic of hot debate. In the off-season, there was a lot of noise about whether he would even extend his contract with Mercedes but, on his day, he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Mercedes won only one race last year and it's a question of whether Hamilton will be the one to celebrate if they win another this season. George Russell (25) scored more points for the team last year and Hamilton nonchalantly said he didn't care because he wasn't going for the title anyway. It wouldn't be a big surprise if he left after this season.

Fernando Alonso

He may be the oldest driver but Fernando Alonso (41) was easily in the top 10 last year. This year, he has a chance of even a top-five finish under good circumstances and has the potential to even end up on the podium. He's still got the energy and the desire. He's been given a two-year contract and that's a sign he isn't simply putting off retirement year after year. He's certainly not there just for the sake of it.

Aston Martin is going to be very strong - they look like they're the fifth-fastest team in testing. Together with Alpine, they'll be fighting for fourth place in the Constructors' Cup and with Alonso's driving experience, it's going to be quite a battle.

The rookies

There are three rookie drivers this year and remember that another trio of recent rookies - Lando Norris (23), Alex Albon (26) and Russell - only settled into the competition in 2019.

Oscar Piastri (21) is the pick of the new crop. He has had a fantastic junior career and has been compared to Hamilton in terms of talent.

Nyck De Vries (28) is actually not a complete newcomer. Last year he filled in for a sick Albon and immediately scored two points with a ninth-place finish.

And then there's Logan Sargeant (22). He was groomed by Williams in their academy and even though it's the weakest team at the moment, they're betting on the American coming good.

The fact that Mick Schumacher (23) crashed a lot - which costs the smaller teams a lot of money - also played a role in this year's driver selections. Maybe that's why he hasn't ended up directly involved with a team this year, even with Williams. If Sargeant hadn't scored the necessary points for a super license, Schumacher most likely would have been trusted.

With all these talking points and more, it's shaping up to be another gripping and exciting Formula One season again.


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