RaceFans’ writers name their favourite motorsport moments of 2023

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Coming to the end of 2023, it may not be a year that many Formula 1 fans will necessarily look back on as an all-time classic.

As stunning a job as Max Verstappen and Red Bull did over the most dominant season ever seen in the sport, the lack of a championship battle meant there were few of those magical moments that will live long in the memory for years to come.

However, there were plenty of other moments that will. For the final Round Table of the year, RaceFans’ writers look back at what they will remember most from 2023.

Street tracks, Spa and Alonso at his best

I wouldn’t like to see F1 put on 24 Las Vegas Grands Prix per year, but I do want it to be successful. While the hype was excessive the backlash was predictable and often premature. So I was genuinely pleased the event turned out to be largely successful.

For its faults, Vegas was still a success
Speaking of new races, IndyCar’s return to downtown Detroit looked like a terrible idea on paper, and I won’t pretend to be a fan of the angular circuit, but there’s no denying this race proved better than many – myself included – expected.

Early in the year we picked what we most wanted to see from the 2023 F1 season. I’m pleased to note mine came true: Spa-Francorchamps’ deal to host the Belgian Grand Prix was extended.

Among the drives I enjoyed most this year was Frederik Vesti’s performance in the Formula 2 season finale in Abu Dhabi. His hopes of beating Theo Pourchaire always looked slim, but he gave it everything with two battling drives, and kept his cool when Zane Maloney nearly took him out on the final lap.

Luke Browning’s controlled performance in the Macau Grand Prix was one to savour, too. But what I enjoyed most about that weekend was F3 cars returning to the Guia circuit (hopefully next year someone has the sense to switch off the Drag Reduction System which is especially unnecessary on the huge run to Lisboa).

Finally, when Fernando Alonso returned to Formula 1 as a near-40-year-old in 2021, I found a lot of what was written about his age lazy and presumptuous. What a joy it was to see him revelling in a competitive machine, putting clear daylight between himself and his much younger team mate, and demonstrating in no uncertain terms that he has many competitive years left in him.

Any suggestion I’m biased in favour of a fellow forty-something is… undeniably accurate.

Keith Collantine

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Underdog success

Being denied the chance to step up to Formula 1 last year as the reigning Formula 2 champion was unfair on Oscar Piastri, so when McLaren came calling for 2023 it provided him the opportunity to really rub it in the faces of his former backers Alpine that he had more than what it took to be an F1 driver.

Boschung became a Formula 2 winner at long last
He made Q3 on his second attempt in Saudi Arabia, but the true standout moment for proving his place on the grid came at the Belgian Grand Prix where second in practice was followed by sixth place in qualifying, second in sprint race qualifying and then the best bit: second in the sprint race itself. Piastri’s podium appearance, one place ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly no less, opened the doors for even more starring drives and trophies during the Asian flyaway races.

While Piastri found success very early in F1, Ralph Boschung had to wait 96 races before he became a winner in Formula 2 and he finally managed the feat in the Bahrain season opener. He was nowhere near the front for the rest of the year’s races, so his Bahrain victory really was a moment to savour.

Another feel-good win was Taylor Barnard’s in the Formula 3 sprint race at Spa. Nailing the strategy and the wet conditions was key to winning from tenth on the grid for a Jenzer team that had last tasted victory in 2019.

It’s hard to choose which of the key moments in Linus Lundqvist’s career which took place in 2023 was my favourite. Was it the July announcement that he would be making his IndyCar debut as substitute for Meyer Shank Racing’s injured Simon Pagenaud (having failed to land a full-time ride after winning the 2022 Indy Nxt title), was it the Music City Grand Prix itself where he qualified 11th at the first attempt and set the race’s fastest lap, or Chip Ganassi’s swoop at the end of August to sign Lundqvist on a multi-year deal?

The last of those three is probably my favourite, because being headhunted by a title-winning team is the ultimate reward for the patience Lundqvist had shown up to that point. A bit like Piastri.

Ida Wood

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Singapore surprise

A single moment stands out about all for me: Carlos Sainz Jnr breaking Red Bull’s domination of 2023 by winning the Singapore Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Singapore, 2023
Sainz delivered a badly-needed reprieve from Red Bull domination
The Ferrari driver deployed his wits and intelligence to great effect. It was a result which also gave hope for the future of Formula 1’s competitiveness. For me, it served as a reminder of why I love this sport so much.

There was already a buzz in the air heading into the sweltering hot and humid race on Sunday after Max Verstappen had been knocked out of qualifying after Q2, meaning he started outside the top 10. As the race got underway, it was clear we were settling down to watch something special.

Of course, on any given weekend no one can discount Red Bull, but this one felt different. Red Bull were not sandbagging, they were genuinely struggling and for the first time that season, I was optimistic we may have another race winner.

As the nail-biting race unfolded, we were offered a glimpse of this much-anticipated future for both Ferrari and Formula 1, and showed us how far Sainz had come as a driver.

His quick thinking and clever strategy included ensuring second-placed Lando Norris was within DRS range in the closing stages so the McLaren could keen the fast Mercedes cars at bay behind. His clever tactics not only won him the race and stopped Red Bull winning every single race of the 2023 season.

This was before a gripping finale that saw George Russell throw away a podium position whilst hunting down Norris, heartbreakingly crashing on the final lap.

For me, the Singapore Grand Prix was easily the best race of the season. It was the much-needed breath of fresh air we all needed. I didn’t even mind getting sprayed by champagne during the team picture.

Claire Cottingham

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NASCAR at Le Mans and a classic year for Kiwis

As fun as it was to discuss the prospects of the Philadelphia Eagles in the upcoming Super Bowl with rookie Logan Sargeant at Williams’ Grove factory, plenty more highlights from 2023 come to mind.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 Le Mans entry thrilled fans
In the 100th anniversary of Le Mans, it was a joy to watch – and hear – NASCAR sending a modified Cup car to the world’s most famous endurance race. A unique use of the Garage 56 entry that was the perfect celebration of two amazing forms of motor racing – and which earned full respect for finishing the race. Everyone involved should be commended for making it happen.

As an Australian, it takes a lot to admit that 2023 should also be remembered as the year New Zealand showed the motorsport world what a giant it is for such a modest nation. From the Formula E championship featuring two Kiwis in Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans in the fight for the title to rookie Liam Lawson making an excellent first impression in Formula 1, standing in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo. All while Brendon Hartley took his fourth World Endurance Championship drivers crown with Toyota team mates Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.

The promotion of Alex Jacques to the role of Formula 1’s de facto world feed lead commentator was a joy for the ears this season as he brought his electrifyingly exuberant, eloquent and enlightening commentary style from the Channel 4 booth to more F1 fans than ever before. Former IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe’s punditry was also world class, whether the microphone in his hand belonged to NBC or FOM.

Anyone who is an enthusiast for eccentric racing driver podcasts will no doubt have cheered on Screaming Meals co-host Clement Novalak taking his first and only Formula 2 victory in “the old” feature race at Zandvoort. Especially as good friend and co-host James Blair was there in parc ferme to celebrate with the Trident team.

Simracer Ronhaar took his revenge on the biggest stage
But the final moment has to be Thomas Ronhaar’s sensational, critic-silencing victory in the opening race of the F1 Sim Racing championship. After a year of innuendo and accusations painting the 18-year-old as a cheater – although without any formal allegations made in F1’s esports series – Ronhaar dominated the season opening in Bahrain.

From pole, the Alfa Romeo esports racer pulled away to win by five seconds from his fiercest rival – Mercedes’ Jarno Opmeer, a two-times champion. Taking the flag, Ronhaar stared directly down the camera – a finger pressed firmly to his lips. Opmeer shook his hand and later publicly admitted his rival had “proven everyone wrong – including me”. As F1’s Sim Racing championship devolves into shambles, that single race may well be the last action the series ever sees. But what a memorable moment to end on.

Will Wood

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Over to you

Which of our writers do you agree or disagree with? What were your favourite motorsport moments of the year? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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20 comments on “RaceFans’ writers name their favourite motorsport moments of 2023”

  1. My favourite motorsport moment of last year was passing my MOT with a 7 year old Peugeot 107 that needs a new exhaust :)

  2. The KZ Masters (i.e the old boys from back in the day). Fore Vs Manetti separated by like half a tenth at the line. Nothing really came close tot hat all year. Two of the best drivers of all time going at it one more time.. and the needle between them added an extra later of spice.

    It’s a shame more people don’t tune in. Real multi-manufacturer racing, no spec nonsense for the most part other than tyres. NO DRS… no BoP… the best drivers you can ever imagine.

  3. I think that is an excellent list. For me the best race in any series was the wet/dry F3 feature race that Taylor Barnard won. A lot of F1 website may not dig that deep into the junior series, so well done for spotting that!

    I remember the whole thing being on a knife edge – would the dry runners start to catch up? That sense of anticipation, that it could be any lap now. I think the cross over point came in the last two laps, but it was too late; Barnard was well ahead, but an under-rated drive by Caio Collet on the dry tyres saw him overtake two cars on the last lap!

    Also, I agree with the Singapore Grand Prix being the best Formula 1 grand prix; again, knife edge, sense of anticipation, with Sainz and Norris being chased down hard by the two Mercedes. What about Liam Lawson’s stout defending? It took Sergio Perez a fair while to get past, and he didn’t give a free pass to Max Verstappen either!

    I know this website doesn’t cover Formula Regional, however the last FRECA race, when the teams title was decided by an overtake on the last lap, I wanted to mention that. There’s no DRS in FRECA so passing isn’t guaranteed, that’s an unforgettable moment from 2023.

  4. Ferrari winning Le Mans on their comeback was the biggest moment for me.

  5. Totally agree with Will Wood that NASCAR at Le Mans was a celebration of everything cool about motorsport. The dedication of these guys to make this happen, and do well in the process, was great to see. As was their willingness to share their journey online, giving viewers a great look at what it took to bring that car to the track.

    It also stood in stark contrast to Toyota’s beancounter mentality at the same race. They’ve enjoyed many years of unrivaled success, and while they deserve some credit for sticking with the series when others quit, it was very disappointing to see them attempt to divert attention away from their own very messy race week at La Sarthe with a drawn out public moan about minor changes to the BoP. A BoP scheme that they’ve benefited enormously from, and helped them dominate the entire WEC season.

    That Ferrari won was great, but it was even better to see every major manufacturer lead the race on merit, swap fastest laps, and be in contention at different points in the race. It showed that for all the reasonable gripes people might have with BoP as a concept, there’s far more to endurance racing than just the speed of the car, and a team that wants to win has to deliver on all those fronts.

    It was also refreshing to see the last 18 hours run without any safety cars at all*, proving once and for all that safety cars are simply no longer necessary. Today’s technology makes localized VSC/Slow Zones possible, even on Grade 2 tracks with 60+ cars in different classes. (*I know this was only done because the new procedure was a total failure, and was effectively ‘scrapped’ during the race)

    As always, Le Mans proved the highlight of the motorsport season. And it seems the FIA/ACO struck gold for this anniversary edition, as subsequent races proved there is still much work to be done to replicate that competitiveness at other venues. It’ll only become harder as more manufacturers join the Hypercar class, but hopefully it’s a challenge they can meet, because there just isn’t any other race even remotely like the Le Mans 24h.

    1. MichaelN, Toyota did have some rather legitimate reasons to complain about the way that the FIA and the ACO handled the BoP change before the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

      Prior to the season, the competition director of the ACO had promised all of the teams that they would not make rushed adjustments to the BoP, and it was therefore written into the formal agreements between the teams and the ACO that the BoP would not be adjusted until after Le Mans.

      When the ACO and FIA changed the BoP unilaterally 4 days before Le Mans, the ACO and FIA broke their own regulations in introducing that change. According to their own regulations, the ACO and FIA were required to consult the manufacturers about the changes they were making and then gain their consent to make a change in the BoP outside of the window when they were allowed to change the BoP.

      Neither the FIA nor the ACO complied with their own regulations, with the required consultation not taking place with the manufacturers prior to the change. In fact, it seems that the President of the ACO didn’t even bother consulting the rest of the ACO – the allegation is that Pierre Fillon and Richard Mille, the FIA’s Endurance Commission’s leader, forced the decision through themselves.

      It also didn’t help that, ten days before the change took place, Pierre Fillon had also visited Toyota to discuss the potential for alternative technologies to be used at Le Mans, during which time he also appears to have reassured Toyota that there wouldn’t be any changes to the BoP before Le Mans.

      It’s not so much the change itself, but the fact that the ACO and the FIA forced the change through in a very deceitful, and arguably illegal, manner that really angered Toyota.

      1. This is true, and I understand they weren’t well pleased and I see why others would agree with that view, but – especially as a spectator – I’d much rather see the governing body correct bad decisions than stick to them. Starting a season with so many new cars, both in the WEC and IMSA, and then not changing the BoP for the only race that really matters was a bad decision. They were never going to get the BoP right pre-season.

        Given the enormous benefit Toyota has enjoyed for years, and still enjoys to some extent, it wasn’t a good look to see them complain so much. Especially since Toyota was perfectly able to win the race at Le Mans had they not had such a messy race. The BoP was very good for Le Mans.

        1. MichaelN, I get the impression that you do not seem to understand that there is also a significant cultural difference here. From a Japanese perspective, the way in which the FIA and the ACO acted was in a way that they considered to be especially insulting and almost designed to cause offence.

          Even if you want to argue that the race justified the decision, it still doesn’t excuse the ACO from acting in the way that it did. Considering that part of the justification by the ACO for the move to the LMH and LMDh rule set was increased transparency from them about the decision making process behind the BoP, it doesn’t really build confidence for them to have been so opaque about introducing sudden performance changes.

          Indeed, to some extent, the mistrust that was built up then is hurting the ACO now – they were talking about making further changes to the way that the BoP is implemented in future seasons, but it seems that the way that they’d handled changes in the BoP during the 2023 season cost them the support they needed from the manufacturers to introduce the reforms they wanted to for 2024.

          It also doesn’t help that it’s created a bit of a perception that the ACO can use the BoP to get the results it wants at Le Mans (the 2016 race comes to mind for many people in that situation). People have been annoyed about the ACO abusing the BoP rules, and often also abusing the homologation rules when it’s for a friendly manufacturer, and it doesn’t help quieten down those complaints when surprise changes are announced.

  6. In spite of all the records broken by Max there will be very little to remember about his races this year. Watching F1 since 1968, I have seen no driver so consistently perfect. Only Alain Prost came close, but he used to be a poor driver in the wet. However, the two most memorable moments in f1 this season for me have a Spanish tinge:
    Singapore, the only non-RBR dominated Grand Prix, with a stonking performance by Carlos Sainz, and a nail-biting finale defending from both faster Mercedes, even using Lando a bit as a barrier.
    Brazil with the best battle of the year between Checo and Fernando, who says that is was useless to defend from faster cars when they can just breeze away with DRS? Meanwhile a forgotten Max was winning the race well ahead but nobody cared.

  7. One of my favourite storyline from the season (which culminated with one of my favourite moments) was the success of the Iron Dames. To see them constantly fighting at the top end of the field in WEC, taking second in the standings, and winning the last race of the GTE era was, in my opinion, a great story to follow. I have to say, I personally (and I’m aware I’m approaching this as a relatively well-off, white male) believe that the Dames programme is a far better approach to getting women into motorsport than something like F1 Academy.

    1. Absolutely, it’s been great to see them develop of the past few years.

      I agree that this is the better way, and this myopic obsession with F1 is not doing female participation any good because it’s an almost impossible level to achieve. Not just for women, for everyone. F1 is for the weirdos, the complete outliers. And even with ‘just’ 20 cars everyone can name a few F1 drivers that cause them to frown and ponder; really, this guy is in F1?

      There just aren’t that many people who can race in F1, and that’s fine. But expecting to find one or two from the much, much smaller pool of female talent is not fair to those women. Growing that pool is much more important, and facilitating participation in the way that Iron Lynx/Iron Dames is doing seems more effective and, because of the much lower costs, more sustainable as well.

    2. It’s sad this is the first I’m hearing of this awesome story.

  8. Ferrari Le Mans win for me even though BoP was a bit sus.

    Feel like the Singapore win is getting overrated fantastically. It’s Singapore and impossible to pass without a significant delta as evidenced by Hamilton being quicker than Russell yet unable to pass.

    The Ferrari driver deployed his wits and intelligence to great effect.

    Have to disagree. Him keeping Lando in DRS in fact emphasizes Singapore’s fundamental issue: It is just impossible to pass. Quali is mostly everything. Sainz drove a good race. Perez was the slowest at Monaco 2022 amongst the top 4 and still won the race.

    showed us how far Sainz had come as a driver

    Fundamentally I would find it more impressive if Sainz did it in a race where overtaking was possible and was also driving at the pace that the cars are capable of even while managing tires. While Singapore was his first win on merit, it was also still aided by plenty of factors. Driving more than a second off pace is not how you win races usually and the race was let’s be honest terribly boring before the final VSC. To me Sainz, Lando and many others are still to prove that they can win a race on pure pace. In this grid only Verstappen, Russell (Brazil 2022), Hamilton, Leclerc, Alonso and Perez (Baku 2023) have shown that.

    So unless Sainz does that I don’t think one can judge how far he has come as a driver. Only thing that makes him look better than he is, like Ricciardo next to Verstappen in 2017, and early 2018 is Leclerc’s unnecessary crashes and terrible luck very similar to Verstappen’s bad luck in 2017 and crashes in early 2018.

    1. Norris absolutely proved he can win a race on pure pace, russia 2021, even with a faster car behind pressuring him! He only didn’t win because of the weather and mclaren’s predictions being inaccurate, that the rain would ease down, instead of increasing.

    2. Also I think sainz deserved the singapore 2023 win, and that if that was aided by external factors, so was russel’s brazil 2022, since hamilton was taken out by verstappen.

      1. Hamilton and Verstappen’s crash didn’t affect Hamilton’s race and lol at Verstappen taking Hamilton out. Hamilton didnt put a good first quali lap in and as per Merc debrief didnt lose any time because of his crash. Hamilton drove into Verstappen more like given the latter was alongside going into both corners. Like Monza 2021, two stewarding decisions that I fail to understand till date.

        That said, I never said Sainz 2023 wasn’t deserved. It wasn’t on pure pace. There’s a huge difference there.

        And Re Norris 2021: in the end you have to finish first to win a race. Norris has pace but he drops the ball everytime he has the car to do something. That still means he hasn’t shown he can win a race on pure pace. The longer it goes the less unlikely it’ll become simply because his teammate with grow and Norris’ errors will only compound as I don’t think he’s capable of dealing with high pressure situations consistently.

  9. Definitely disagreeing with the Alex Jacques one.
    I find his squeaky voiced over-the-top schoolboyish exuberance extremely irritating.
    I’m sure he’s a nice chap though.

  10. Highlight for me was from NASCAR with Shane Van Gisbergen and garage91 taking a win on debut in Chicago.

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