Solely 4 groups on the System 1 grid will start the 2023 season with an unchanged line-up from final yr.
The truth that three of these groups had been Pink Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes – the one ones to win a race in 2022 – is proof that stability is a key power in F1.
The adjustments from final season to this carry no scarcity of intrigue, so we’ve put our neck on the road by predicting the winner of every team-mate battle in 2023…
Albon v Sargeant: Albon
His self-confidence restored after having his face rubbed into the mud by Max Verstappen in 2020, Alex Albon was a driver reborn final season.
With 4 factors on the board, he scored 4 extra factors than the wretched FW44 actually merited to convey not less than a bit mild to a Williams crew nonetheless preventing by way of the darkest interval of their historical past.
The crew turned as reliant on him as that they had beforehand been on George Russell, which makes Albon a very robust proposition for rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant.
Regardless of a powerful debut season in System 2 final yr, Williams’ rush to signal the primary American driver of the Liberty age – asserting the 22-year-old in Texas earlier than he even had the required variety of superlicence factors – hinted at a driver being signed to race in F1 earlier than he’s prepared.
A sequence of untidy observe appearances within the closing rounds of 2022 did little to change that first impression, so Albon for the win.
Tsunoda v De Vries: De Vries
Nyck de Vries appeared extra poised in his stand-in look for Williams at Monza final season than Yuki Tsunoda did in his first two seasons at AlphaTauri.
So it follows that, having used his ninth-placed end within the Italian Grand Prix as a springboard to a full-time seat, De Vries will construct on the sturdy basis of his sudden F1 debut in 2023.
If Tsunoda is ever going to make these occasional flashes of potential turn out to be commonplace, now’s the time as he enters the all-important third yr at Pink Bull’s B-team.
However, Champion in System 2 and System E in recent times, De Vries will, we predict, put an finish to the Tsunoda experiment whereas placing himself ahead as a possible future team-mate to fellow Dutchman Verstappen.
Magnussen v Hulkenberg: Hulkenberg
If some groups like a stability to their line-up and pair drivers with contrasting qualities, Haas will successfully have the identical driver in every automotive in 2023.
If there’s moisture within the air earlier than qualifying, as in Brazil final yr, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg will each elevate a finger to the sky and know immediately which set of tyres to suit.
It’s not a lot a query of expertise however intuition, figuring out what to do at any given time, for 2 of probably the most astonishing pure skills – however the largest underachievers – of the fashionable period.
Their similarities makes this probably the most tough battle to name and it’s prone to hinge on whether or not Hulkenberg’s comeback will be as seamless as that of Magnussen in 2022.
His Covid cameos for Racing Level and Aston Martin revealed a plug-in-and-play high quality that ought to see him get again on top of things in a short time within the Haas.
Victory, by the barest of margins, to the Hulk.
Alonso v Stroll: Alonso
Should you had mentioned 5 years in the past that Lance Stroll can be fairly evenly matched with Sebastian Vettel in the identical automotive throughout two full seasons, you’ll have been laughed out of city.
However that in all probability revealed extra about Vettel – a fading pressure even in his late Ferrari days and his focus switching to different issues – than it did about Stroll, who continues to frustrate regardless of indicators of real promise.
Alongside a driver of Fernando Alonso’s evergreen expertise and unflinching ruthlessness, nevertheless? That’s one other matter solely.
Alonso will, as he at all times does, shortly turn out to be the centre of consideration at Aston Martin and doubtlessly add Stroll to his checklist of victims together with Nelson Piquet Jr, Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne.
In signing Alonso, crew proprietor Lawrence Stroll might have inadvertently provided his personal son on a plate to F1’s large dangerous wolf.
Bottas v Zhou: Bottas
No team-mates on the 2023 grid have a relationship fairly like Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou.
If others have rivalries, the Alfa Romeo pair have a partnership – a ‘grasp and apprentice’ dynamic – with the crew coming first.
You would sense it in the way in which Bottas held Zhou’s hand all through his rookie marketing campaign in 2022, congratulating him when he scored factors and even telling him when, the place and even the right way to overtake different drivers because the race was happening round them.
But even a person of Bottas’s generosity wouldn’t be so open, so supportive if he regarded his team-mate as a severe menace.
Solely an unprecedented run of unreliability will stop one other Bottas triumph in 2023.
Fernando Alonso’s ‘PR’ radio messages proof of ‘additional mind capability’ of the greats
Is Netflix’s Drive to Survive nearing the tip of the street?
F1 drivers’ peak and weight: A full rundown of the 2023 grid
Norris v Piastri: Norris
Daniel Ricciardo’s underperformance might have value McLaren a spot within the Constructors’ Championship for 2 years operating, however don’t underestimate the impact of his struggles on Lando Norris’s improvement.
Norris embraced the function of crew chief throughout 2021 and ’22, assured with the burden of being McLaren’s primary (usually solely) hope as he grew earlier than our very eyes into one of many quickest, most dependable drivers in F1.
Is there a hazard that the arrival of Oscar Piastri – a serial winner within the junior classes – might cramp Lando’s model?
Perhaps in the long run, however not whereas the crew stay virtually solely constructed round Norris and Piastri spends his debut season adjusting to the complexities of the McLaren manner of working that left compatriot Ricciardo chasing his tail.
Ocon v Gasly: Ocon
Esteban Ocon has been on this place earlier than, because the easily-overlooked assist act to a driver with a very good story and a contact of star high quality.
And he made it work for him, outscoring Alonso throughout their two seasons at Alpine and even sneaking a victory at Hungary 2021.
As Esteban was all too fast to level out, solely Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button – each World Champions – fared higher when locked in a cage with Alonso.
That have ought to serve him effectively forward of the arrival of his previous good friend Pierre Gasly, who was lengthy seen as good Alpine materials however whose final large transfer – to Pink Bull in 2019 – didn’t finish effectively.
In a battle so evenly matched on paper, Ocon’s earlier three seasons at Enstone should certainly depend for one thing.
Hamilton v Russell: Russell
Consider a crew’s drivers not when the automotive is uncompetitive and vulnerable to porpoising however once they have one thing that’s really value preventing for.
Russell might have claimed the crew’s solely victory of 2022 and completed 35 factors forward of Hamilton, however what did that matter within the midst of Mercedes’ worst season in a decade?
Solely when common wins and a World Championship are up for grabs can an correct judgement be made.
As such, the Mercedes intra-team battle for 2023 hinges greater than another on the standard of the automotive.
If the crew are launched again into title competition – and 2022 is rendered little greater than a nasty dream – there’s each likelihood that Hamilton will re-emerge because the pressure who turned probably the most statistically profitable driver in F1 historical past.
However what if the W14 additionally races in Pink Bull’s shadow, nonetheless solely an occasional victory contender at greatest? Then will come the doubts about Lewis’s motivation to maintain on doing this after the whole lot he’s achieved.
With Pink Bull profitable all however 5 races final yr at the beginning of a brand new guidelines cycle, it’ll require a serious turnaround over the winter for any crew to take the combat to them.
In that eventuality, Russell might sign the tip of an period in 2023.
Leclerc v Sainz: Leclerc
To know the perils of judging drivers when the automotive isn’t able to profitable races, look no additional than Ferrari.
After a productive first season with the crew in 2021, Carlos Sainz – having scored three extra podiums and a handful extra factors than his team-mate – was thought-about a severe menace to Charles Leclerc.
Come the tip of 2022, nevertheless, the pure order had been restored.
As Leclerc soared within the opening rounds of final season, profitable two of the opening three races to determine a wholesome early lead within the Championship, Sainz was uncovered as error-prone and missing the finesse of Ferrari’s golden boy.
He recovered effectively from his early struggles to assert his maiden win at Silverstone, however the pendulum swung thus far in Leclerc’s course final season that it’s tough to envisage Sainz reclaiming even floor.
Particularly now Frederic Vasseur, a long-term ally of Leclerc who’s unafraid of creating large and unpopular choices, is in cost at Ferrari.
Verstappen v Perez: Verstappen
“You simply have to just accept that the driving force subsequent to you is only a bit higher. That’s positive, that may occur.
“You possibly can’t stay in a fairytale world.”
Verstappen was referring to Bottas’s time as Hamilton’s team-mate at Mercedes, however his Information to Life for Quantity Two Drivers might so simply been learn as a warning to Sergio Perez following their controversy in Brazil on the finish of final yr.
With their relationship underneath renewed scrutiny, Verstappen’s view is clearly that Perez ought to know his place having being signed by Pink Bull with the particular goal of being Max’s wingman for 2021.
And if Checo has concepts above his station?
The constant excellence of Verstappen’s performances alone will pressure him to conform.