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F1 2023

Rookie Watch: Where the Class of 2023 need to improve

A handful of races into their Grand Prix careers, RacingNews365 evaluates how the three rookies on the 2023 grid are doing - and where they must improve.

Rookies Piastri Sargeant De Vries
To news overview © XPBimages

One thing is for certain in the 2023 Formula 1 season, rookie of the year won't be as easy to decide as it was in 2022.

Last term, only one driver in Zhou Guanyu made his Grand Prix bow, and has slowly gone onto establish himself as a fine midfield driver, often shading Valtteri Bottas - no mean feat seeing as this is the driver who, on his day, could beat Lewis Hamilton.

This time around, we have three drivers on the grid starting out in F1 - all with wildly different tales to tell: one is the young prodigy who caused shockwaves before he even drove a race, another is carrying his nation's flag and the other is perhaps the most experienced rookie ever.

So, let's get into it, and our ranking of the 2023 rookies begins with that prodigy.

1 - Oscar Piastri

To be a success in 2023, all Oscar Piastri had to do was fit somewhere in the chasm that opened up between Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.

So vast as the gap, that the elder Australian was paid not to race as the 2021 Formula 2 champion got a race seat, having been snared away from Alpine by McLaren - as RacingNews365 exclusively revealed.

And in a historically difficult car to drive, Piastri has excelled alongside Norris - regarded as one of the fastest drivers on the grid.

In qualifying, he got through to Q3 in Saudi Arabia as Norris was forced to sit out after breaking suspension on the Turn 27 wall, lining up eighth, although the race was ruined after early contact with Pierre Gasly.

He broke his points duck with eighth at home in Melbourne after surviving the late race chaos, and is beginning to show flashes of the talent that has earmarked Piastri out from his Formula 3 days.

Where must he improve? The speed is there, but the race-craft needs to improve, which will come with time. Not backing out of being squeezed by Gasly in Saudi was the cause of losing his front wing.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

2 - Logan Sargeant

F1's first full-time American driver since 2006 was dismissed by some as simply being a pay driver promoted by Williams.

But in his short career, Logan Sargeant has rubbished those claims and proven himself to be a capable Grand Prix driver.

He only failed to advance through to Q2 on debut in Bahrain as Norris set their identical time before, while a careless mistake in Jeddah had his fastest time scrubbed.

This would have seen him comfortably through to the second segment, but he spiralled on the later laps, not setting a time within 107%.

As for the races, he committed the biggest violation of the rookies thus far by drop-kicking Nyck de Vries off at Turn 1 on the chaotic Lap 57 restart.

This was attributed to cold brakes and tyres, but was very lucky not to be investigated by the stewards, especially as Carlos Sainz was for making contact with Fernando Alonso.

Where must he improve? Eradicating the mistakes in high-pressure qualifying and start scenarios and chipping away at the gap to Alexander Albon - who was running in the top six in Melbourne.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

3 - Nyck de Vries

F1's best prepared rookie has been dealt a bad hand by joining a team currently in a trough after the peaks of recent years.

AlphaTauri had failed to recapture the form of 2020/21 with the ground effect cars, so much so that boss Franz Tost admitted that he did not "trust" what his engineering team was telling him.

In a difficult car, de Vries has been comfortably out-performed by new team leader Yuki Tsunoda - who has taken a step forward this season.

The Formula 2 and Formula E champion also has experience in WEC and was embedded within Mercedes in 2022, so he is no mug and knows how to pedal a racing car, except finding the limit with the tricky AT04 is proving troublesome.

A pair of 14th place finishes and a 15th in Melbourne are his race results with strategy and sub-par tyre management the root causes of being well behind Tsunoda - who scored a point with 10th in Australia, despite running an older spec floor after damaging his new one in practice.

All in all, a trying start for de Vries, who must find a way of getting closer to Tsunoda or finding himself on the outside looking in once again.

Where must he improve? Whittling away at the gap to Tsunoda and being closer in both qualifying and the race.

Also interesting:

Balve Baines is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the last week in F1.


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