Formula 1

Looking Forward and Predicting the 2024 Formula 1 Season – Can Verstappen Be Denied Title Four?

6 Mins read
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

It can be fair to say that Max Verstappen was pretty much unbeatable in 2023, with the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver taking victory in nineteen of the twenty-two races, there is hope that the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will be more closely contested.  However, pre-season testing and the evolution/revolution of the RB19 into the RB20 may scupper those hopes.

Taking at least some inspiration from the failed aerodynamic package from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team that the Brackley/Banbury based team discarded midway through last year, Red Bull’s design appears to have moved them forward.  Apparently twenty-one wins out of twenty-two is just not enough for Adrian Newey and his design team, and they want to be just as dominant in 2024 than last year.

Verstappen’s imperious form last year had a dramatic effect on his team-mate Sergio Perez, and the Mexican, although he brought Red Bull their first ever one-two championship finish in 2023, will need to get closer to his Dutch team-mate this season if he has any real hope of staying with the team beyond this year.  He has both Daniel Ricciardo and the ever-improving Yuki Tsunoda breathing down his neck in the sister Visa CashApp RB Team, formerly known as Scuderia AlphaTauri.

Taking of VCARB, their new car appears to be a dramatic step forward compared to last year’s AT04, mainly down to a lot of its design appearing to be seemingly copied from the dominant RB19. Of course, it’s not identical, but the team will be hoping that the struggles they had just breaking into the top ten last year have been at least lessened, although it will still be difficult with several other teams appearing to have made significant steps forward themselves.

One of those is Scuderia Ferrari, the only other team aside from Red Bull to win a race last year when Carlos Sainz Jr. won in Singapore.  Sainz already knows 2024 will be his final year at the Maranello-based team after the shock news that Lewis Hamilton will join Charles Leclerc in red next season.

Ferrari turned a few heads during pre-season testing by setting the pace on two of the three days, however this was on the softer C4 tyre compared to the C3 running put in by Red Bull, a tyre that will not be used in the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.  Their long run pace looks at least competitive, but if they have enough to compete with Red Bull is yet to be seen.

Charles Leclerc and Scuderia Ferrari are hoping to take the fight to Red Bull in 2024 – Credit: Florent Gooden / DPPI

The same can be said of Mercedes, with the team coming into 2024 on the back of their first winless season since hybrid technology was brought into Formula 1 back in 2014.  Hamilton and George Russell were towards the sharp end of the times and often looked good on track, but whether they’ve made enough gains to be at the sharp end when it matters will only be evident when practice and qualifying gets underway later this month.

The other two teams that will be looking to make gains after promising 2023 seasons are the McLaren F1 Team and Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team.  McLaren started last year struggling towards the back of the pack, but after the departure of James Key and a change in design around the Austrian Grand Prix, everything began to fall into place, and Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were often challenging for podiums thereafter.

Aston Martin started the year strongly but faded when their own updates appeared to take them in the wrong direction, meaning the hope of a first race win since forever for Fernando Alonso disappeared.  Alonso at least had the measure of team-mate Lance Stroll once again, and will likely again as the Canadian clings on to his seat thanks to his father Lawrence owning the team.

Both teams had new designs ahead of the 2024 season and will be hoping to be fighting for podiums straightaway.  However, they may have a big task ahead of them, particularly if Red Bull and Ferrari look as strong – and reliable – as they do.

Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin are looking to build on their positive 2023 season this year – Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team

Fighting at the Back?

Reliability during pre-season testing is usually strained, but aside from a stoppage by Williams Racing’s Alexander Albon on day one and a few niggles here and there, it was a very productive testing programme for all ten teams.  Every team exceeded one hundred laps on the final day, and only Williams on Day one and McLaren on Day two failed to do so on the other two days. 

Talking of Williams, their 2024 challenger was late to arrive in Bahrain but was dramatically different in appearance than its predecessor, giving hope that they will no longer be the perennial backmarkers.  Albon will be looking to build on his impressive 2023 season with another year fighting for points, while Logan Sargeant will need to eliminate the silly mistakes that affected him last year if he wants to continue in Formula 1 beyond this year.  Particularly with a number of young drivers coming through the ranks who are being linked to his seat already!

A team that appeared to struggle for performance during the Bahrain tests were the BWT Alpine F1 Team, with neither Esteban Ocon nor Pierre Gasly appearing to find a set-up that made their A524 less of a handful.  Hopefully a team of Alpine’s nature can find the sweet spot with their new car, but after spending 2023 seemingly in no-mans land in the Constructors’ Championship, they’ve not made the gains to join in the battle at the front and may even find themselves brought into the scrap for picking up just minor points.

The MoneyGram Haas F1 Team completed the most laps of any team across the three days, but neither Kevin Magnussen nor Nico Hülkenberg set any lap times of note that stood out.  What Haas, minus the departed Guenther Steiner and now under the leadership of Ayao Komatsu, need is to overcome their tyre degradation wore that often saw them fall from promising positions to well outside of the points last year, and early comments from within the team indicate they have focused a lot of their efforts on doing just that.

The last team on the grid is the newly renamed Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber outfit, with Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu both fighting to stay on the grid beyond 2024.  The C44 car, with a striking new fluorescent green livery – is a definite improvement from last year’s C43 – but there remain doubts it can bring itself up the pecking order after finishing ninth in the standings last year, which could have a negative effect on the chances of a 2025 seat for the drivers.

The newly-named Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber outfit could be in for a difficult 2024 season – Credit: Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Predictions

Early predictions would indicate Red Bull are the pre-season favourites and will walk to both championships, however, Ferrari and Mercedes in particular will want to be fighting for those race wins.  I believe it will be closer this year than last, but I’m in agreement that Verstappen will become the latest four-time World Champion with Red Bull adding another Constructors’ Championship to their already impressive tally.

Yes, I can see race wins for Ferrari, Mercedes and even perhaps McLaren – I would be overjoyed if Norris finally sees the chequered flag first – but Red Bull appear to have the early edge, and only a fool would bet against them at this time.

Aston Martin will be there or thereabouts fighting for podiums and top six finishes, but I feel those who will struggle for points will be Williams, Stake, Haas and perhaps even Alpine, with VCARB being the team in-between those at the front and back. 

Drivers’ Championship Predictions:

1Max Verstappen11Lance Stroll
2Sergio Perez12Yuki Tsunoda
3Charles Leclerc13Pierre Gasly
4Lewis Hamilton14Esteban Ocon
5Carlos Sainz Jr.15Alexander Albon
6Lando Norris16Valtteri Bottas
7George Russell17Nico Hülkenberg
8Oscar Piastri18Kevin Magnussen
9Fernando Alonso19Zhou Guanyu
10Daniel Ricciardo20Logan Sargeant

Constructors’ Championship Predictions:

1Oracle Red Bull Racing6Visa CashApp RB
2Scuderia Ferrari7BWT Alpine F1 Team
3Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team8Williams Racing
4McLaren F1 Team9Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber
5Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team10MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

It will also be good to see the Chinese Grand Prix for the first time since before the COVID-19 outbreak begun, with the season now set to run at twenty-four races, with an additional six sprint races on top. 

But the best thing is that racing resumes this weekend for the first race of the year in Bahrain.  Let the entertainment begin!

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Long time motorsport fanatic, covering Formula 1 and the occassional other series. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter at @Paul11MSport.
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