New Players for F1's 2023 Season
Formula 1's 2023 season represents as much of a change as we saw in 2022. But while the most significant and visible differences last season came with the sweeping new regulations, it's a different story in 2023. The driver market turned upside down with one of the craziest 'silly seasons in recent times, only to be matched by the Team Principals chopping and changing over winter. As a result, there's a lot to catch up on, so here's everything you need to know about the new-look F1 2023 lineup.
Three full-time rookies are on the grid for the new season; Oscar Piastri, Nyck de Vries, and Logan Sargeant, and each has a distinct story. It's a far cry from Charles Leclerc, George Russell, and Mick Schumacher, who each simply won Formula 2 and earned a promotion to the top tier.
Piastri's journey perhaps most closely aligns with the standard progression through the ranks. The Australian excelled in the junior series, winning three consecutive championships as a rookie.
Unfortunately, the 21-year-old racer had ties to the Alpine Academy program. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were unmovable from their Alpine F1 seats last year, and Piastri had nowhere to go after his F2 title in 2021. A season on the sidelines is no reward for being the Formula 2 champion, but a mid-season opening appeared as Sebastian Vettel retired from Aston Martin, where Fernando Alonso headed.
The story about what happened next between Alpine and McLaren is well documented. The fact that two of F1's top-half midfielders fought over a driver who hasn't turned one corner of a Grand Prix tells you everything you need to know about his reputation. In Piastri, McLaren could be swapping one fading Australian star, Daniel Ricciardo, with an even brighter one.
Like Piastri, de Vries didn't reach F1 after an F2 title win. His 2019 triumph represented the Dutchman's third year in the series, something people quickly lament as though it's a less-worthy win. However, de Vries proved those critics wrong when he went electric and won Formula E in only his second season.
Yet, even that accolade didn't net 'Quick Nyck' an F1 drive. But it did raise his stock enough for Williams, Mercedes, and Aston Martin to put de Vries in their cars for FP1 outings in 2022. He then deputized for an ill Alex Albon at Williams in Italy, scoring an impressive P9 in his debut F1 race.
Albon's appendicitis seemed to be the lucky break de Vries needed. He was suddenly linked to multiple seats. Thanks to some Dutch pride at Red Bull with a certain driver called Max Verstappen, Red Bull's sister team AlphaTauri replaced the Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly with the Formula E star.
Relative to his fellow rookies, Logan Sargeant's journey is a little more conventional, albeit without any championship wins. Over the years, he ascended the junior series until he reached F1 as 2022's top rookie in F2.
The whole story is a little less straightforward, and America's first full-time F1 racer since 2007 was close to quitting his F1 dream just two years ago. That potential other path came after Sargeant narrowly lost to Piastri in the 2020 Formula 3 championship and was close to returning stateside for an IndyCar campaign.
That never came to pass, and he instead was picked up by Williams for their academy program in 2021, graduating to F2 in 2022. The dream finally came true with outgoing Nicholas Latifi's services no longer required coinciding with Sargeant's impressive mid-season wins and podiums.
The fourth new name on the 2023 F1 entry list that didn't feature in 2022 is a familiar name for fans. Nico Hulkenberg represents Haas's second unlikely comeback in as many years, following in the footsteps of new teammate Kevin Magnussen last season.
While Magnussen's return was a last-minute decision after Nikita Mazepin's late non-entry to the 2022 grid, Haas planned Hulkenberg's recruitment. Unfortunately, Mick Schumacher's F1 journey didn't go the way the German racer hoped. The expensive errors (read: crashes) and deficit to his veteran teammate meant boss Guenther Steiner sought his replacement before the season's conclusion.
Of course, Hulkenberg has thrice deputized for unavailable drivers to earn a reputation of being an F1 super substitute. But, while those came for Racing Point/Aston Martin, Haas is a brand-new adventure for the 35-year-old.
All eyes are on how the season unfolds with Hulkenberg and his stablemate Magnussen. The two had a fractious relationship in F1 before, and pairing the two is a bit of a gamble. To double up on the drama, Alpine's Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon lineup has almost as much bad blood — 2023 will get spicy.
If you thought there was enough going on in F1's driver market, you'd be thinking the same as me. Yet there's even more personnel movement ahead of 2023, and most of them got done while regular people were readying up for the holiday season.
The Team Principal market underwent a silly season – the first one I can remember. The highest-profile domino fell first at Maranello, where Ferrari handed Mattia Binotto his marching orders. Although the Scuderia leaped forwards in 2022, the frequency of errors from the Italian team meant someone had to answer, and the outfit felt the problem was at the top.
In Binotto's place will be Frederic Vasseur, Sauber and Alfa Romeo's long-standing head. Vasseur is known for nurturing and identifying young talent, and Charles Leclerc is one such graduate. The pair's relationship could open a door for better communication between the driver and team in 2023.
Of course, Vasseur's exit meant Alfa Romeo had an open position. Andreas Seidl has left McLaren to fill that void. The move represents a promotion for Seidl, who goes from Team Principal to CEO at Sauber. McLaren expected the move to happen in 2025 in anticipation of Audi joining the sport, but it seems Binotto's departure accelerated the process. Seidl's replacement comes internally, with Executive Director Andrea Stella stepping up as McLaren Team Principal.
The final piece of the 2023 puzzle sees a move from the front to the back, with Mercedes' Chief Strategist James Vowles replacing Jost Capito as Team Principal. It's a giant step for Vowles, and the task facing him is mammoth, with Williams long languishing as a backmarker. Vowles has won half of the championships since 2009 between Brawn GP and Mercedes, and that winning feeling hasn't hit Williams for many years. Correcting that will be a tall order, but he may be the best man for the job.
So, while the cars and liveries look the same, there's plenty new in Formula 1 for 2023. New names, some familiar ones, and the longest-ever calendar await us.