In a first instalment of a new feature, RaceFans’ regular contributors have their say on the world of motorsport.
From the political to the personal, from Formula 1 to junior series, this regular feature will see RaceFans writers say how they passionately feel about the world of motorsport. First up, a look ahead to the exciting new season of F1 that awaits us all in 2023.
We all know about the drivers, the teams and the circuits they will be racing on this season, but what are RaceFans’ writers hoping to see from the year ahead – both on and off the track?
More free-to-air races
As a Britain-based reporter, I rue the fact that we only get one F1 race per year on free-to-air television. But it’s the British Grand Prix, which tends to be one of the more exciting ones for race action.
However in 2021 we got to also see the farcical title decider in Abu Dhabi between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for free, so the potential is there for the live TV rights holder Sky Sports to agree a deal with free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4 to do something similar again.
F1 fans are probably not going to be treated to a season-long title fight in 2023, but the world championship is really pushing the idea that the penultimate races of the season – the new Las Vegas Grand Prix – is going to be the spectacle of a lifetime. It will have a 6am start time in the UK, meaning a live broadcast on C4 would only be pushing out repeats of old sitcoms, and judging whether the event can successfully capture the interest of casual viewers or non-F1 fans outside of the city will be far more useful for the promoter if it shown free-to-air rather than on specialist subscription channels aimed specifically at F1 fans.
Other candidates for a second free-to-air race would be the Bahrain season opener, because that is the best time of the season to remind people that F1 is happening, or the Australian Grand Prix because it is also has an early morning start time that would not disrupt any of C4’s original programming, and Albert Park is one of the most visually appealing grand prix venues to see on TV.
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Piastri’s time to shine
Among the many iconic opening bars that hip-hop legend Jay Z wrote over the years, few have been as memorable as “allow me to reintroduce myself” on his iconic Black Album in 2003.
Oscar Piastri may have been only two years old when that line was first recorded, but reintroducing himself to the motorsport world is exactly what the 21-year-old needs to do in his debut season in Formula 1 this year.
Never forget just how on-fire Piastri was at the end of 2021. Aged just 20, he had completed a hattrick of back-to-back-to-back single seater titles across three years: Formula Renault Eurocup champion in 2019, FIA F3 title at first attempt in 2020, then winning the F2 championship the next year. There was literally no other human being on the planet who was more deserving of an opportunity in Formula 1 than Piastri. Such is his potential, McLaren put huge effort into poaching Piastri right out from the very heart of Alpine with a very cheeky but valid contract offer.
Daniel Ricciardo kicked to the kerb, us Australians need someone to cheer on. Who better than Piastri – the brightest prospect since George Russell or Charles Leclerc – to come in and get amongst it in his debut season?
It’s going to be bloody tough. Rarely has Formula 1 been blessed with such a talented pool of drivers under thirty. And McLaren can expect a brutal battle in an unforgiving midfield. But while Piastri’s likely to get his ‘welcome to F1’ moment at some point this year, a strong debut year will establish him as a major star of the future.
The post-pandemic period hasn’t exactly produced the most outstanding crop of rookies to date. Time for Piastri to reintroduce himself to the world of motorsport with a bang in 2023.
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A closer title fight
As we started the long journey back to some normality after the world changed forever due to Covid-19, Formula 1 gave us the showdown we had all desperately craved while stuck in our houses. We were treated to some of the best battles in the history of the sport. A new rivalry was born as Lewis Hamilton, one of the all-time greats, and Max Verstappen, F1’s rising superstar, went wheel-to-wheel and quenched our thirst after years of dominance from Mercedes, and before that Red Bull.
It was only natural then that 2022 was overly hyped up, and when we quickly realised Mercedes weren’t up to the challenge after constant issues with porpoising and speed, we desperately clung on to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to challenge Verstappen. Ferrari, however, kept stumbling at the hurdles, and the untouchable Red Bull and Verstappen clinched the title with four races to go.
A few changes come into play however for 2023, with the hope of closing the field again and to make the racing closer. Not only has the troublesome porpoising been addressed with a sensory system included to monitor it, but floor edges have also been raised by an additional 15mm, with the diffuser throat heightened.
The cars will also be marginally lighter, have better mirrors for driver’s visibility and there are various tweaks to the gearbox.
Also, F1 have included three more sprint races, which they believe adds to the drama of the weekend, and gives fans a new and exciting concept to get behind. All in all, F1 has realised 2022 didn’t quite live up to expectations, especially as the sport enters a new era of technical regulations, and something needed to be done. However, will we see a resurgence from Mercedes? Will Ferrari manage to get it together under new boss Frederic Vasseur? That’s something only time will tell.
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Save our Spa
The unnecessary and unexciting sprint race format has got to go, and so does that scourge of proper racing known as the Drag Reduction System. But it feels futile to hope that those running F1 will see the light and kick out the gimmicks. So I’d prefer to channel my energies into something more positive.
Had it not been for a late deal last season, the 2023 F1 calendar would not feature the Belgian Grand Prix at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps. That’s a sad thought for anyone who appreciates circuits which allows modern Formula 1 cars to demonstrate the full spectrum of their extraordinary capabilities.
But Spa only earned a stay of execution for a single season, not a long-term deal. This year’s grand prix has been squeezed in at the end of July, forcing a date change for the Six Hours of Spa sportscar race.
Doubt hangs over the future of an event which is rightly regarded as one of the highlights of the season, notwithstanding its (exceptionally) damp squib in 2021. Make no mistake, had geopolitical events unfolded differently the 2023 schedule might well have featured 24 rounds, including visits to China and Russia, but not Belgium.
Those in charge of F1 have often said the series needs to combine races on modern tracks in new places – which happen to be the most lucrative – with heritage events which link back to its rich past. Spa’s race is unquestionably one of the latter, besides being a simply wonderful place to watch the world’s best drivers compete.
I hope that in 2023 we see Spa gain a place on future calendars, even if only on alternate years. Is that any more realistic than hoping F1 will wean itself off push-button passes? Probably not, but I’m rooting for it anyway.
Over to you
What do you most want to see from the 2023 F1 season? And what do you make of our choices?
Have your say in the comments.
2023 F1 season
- Alpine’s third choice narrowly out-scores Ocon in his first season at team
- Stroll reaches 100 qualifying defeats in 136 starts at hands of latest team mate
- F1 needs quality events, not “races for the sake of doing them” – Perez
- Why have Williams kept the faith in Sargeant after heavy defeat to Albon?
- Alonso’s strong start, Norris’s late surge: Which F1 drivers beat their 2022 scores?