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Formula 1

The ifs, buts, and maybes of the 2023 F1 season

No absolutes here, as RacingNews365 takes a look at some ifs, buts and maybes from the Formula 1 season just gone.

Sainz Ricciardo Abu Dhabi
Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

So now the reflection begins on what was the single most dominant season ever seen in Grand Prix racing and one of the best by any athlete in any sport, ever.

All told, Max Verstappen walked away with 19 records throughout the season from the headline grabbing most wins and points ever in a season to equalling Jenson Button's six pitstops in the Dutch Grand Prix for the most visits through the pits by a race winner.

Dominance on this scale will perhaps never be seen again on this scale in F1, after Mercedes and Ferrari surely can't be as bad as they were in 2023 next term.

In case they are and neither McLaren or Aston Martin can't step up, then Red Bull's run is likely to stretch not just into 2024, but also 2025 as there will be massive carry-over between the cars.

Obviously, in 2025, most of the attention will be switching towards the regulation reset coming in for 2026. It's better to put all your chips on a fresh set of regulations and hope to make a step forward than forge ahead with a lost cause.

Mercedes are a team firmly in transition with the departures of a number of technical leaders over the past few seasons, culminating with Chief Technical Officer Mike Elliott departing in October.

As for Ferrari, it made genuine steps forward after the summer break, and probably should have finished second. Crucially, the Scuderia's technical team will remain relatively settled going into 2024, and as Mercedes and then Red Bull have proved, stability is key.

No-one could have foreseen the dominance of Red Bull this season, even after it hit the ground running in pre-season testing in Bahrain, but that is not to say it was a bad season in the non-Verstappen class.

Every team, with the exception of Red Bull and Alpine, were fighting for something at Yas Marina, and as such, RacingNews365 has decided to take a look at some of the nearly stories of the year.

The ifs

He hasn't got the credit he deserved, perhaps overshadowed by Daniel Ricciardo in the other car, but Yuki Tsunoda's late-season form carried AlphaTauri from bottom after Qatar to the cusp of seventh by Abu Dhabi.

Expectations were for Ricciardo to come in and lead the team forward as ties with Red Bull grew even deeper, and his engineering input certainly did help the Faenza engineers, with the United States upgrade providing a solid platform from which to launch an attack.

This was where Ricciardo returned from his hand injury, but the run to seventh aside, it was a low-key return as Tsunoda stepped up.

His clumsy overtaking attempt on Oscar Piastri in Mexico ultimately cost AlphaTauri seventh in the standings as he dropped out the points - but if Williams' Alex Albon didn't throw the FW45 at a barrier in Australia, then it wouldn't have mattered.

Albon was running a strong sixth in Melbourne in the third race of the year, with the car enjoying the long straight that makes up the second sector. Running sixth, Albon crashed heavily early on and likely cost the team a sizeable haul of points, that late race chaos notwithstanding.

In a similar camp to AlphaTauri, is Aston Martin who just narrowly missed out on fourth in the standings, being beaten by 22 points by a resurgent McLaren.

Given Fernando Alonso just about finished fourth in the standings, Lance Stroll's 10th place was a major disappointment.

He scored just 74 points to Alonso's 206, but in fairness was recovering from injury when the car was at its strongest and devoid of confidence when things started to go awry with the AMR23.

There was a late surge, with 27 points in the final five races, but this was firmly a case of if Stroll snapped out of his funk sooner, Aston could have finished fourth.

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

The buts

Mercedes finished second on 409 points to Ferrari's 406, but was extremely lucky to do so.

After the initial promise of the US floor upgrade, the team stumbled over the finish line, as Ferrari steadily whittled away at its points.

In Qatar, Lewis Hamilton tried, and failed, to win the race at the first corner and took himself out, but Carlos Sainz didn't even start after a fuel leak.

Add that to the points lost in Brazil when Leclerc suffered a hydraulic failure on the formation lap and those points alone add up. The Monegasque also lost 15 points and an easy podium in the Bahrain opener when the SF-23 conked out.

This is countered by the 15 points George Russell lost after his last lap Singapore crash.

But, as the oldest cliche in the motor racing book says, to finish first (or, in this case, second), first you must finish.

Incidents and reliability concerns will tend to even themselves out over a season, but Mercedes was fortunate to finish a distant second in the end.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

The maybes

Maybe, in another universe, Verstappen completed the clean-sweep and scored every Grand Prix win this season (Sprints not included).

Had it not been for a driveshaft failure in Saudi Arabia qualifying, Nyck de Vries triggering an untimely Safety Car in Azerbaijan and the team forgetting to pick the set-up guide book up as it left Milton Keynes for Singapore, there is the distinct possibility Verstappen would have swept the season.

He rallied to second in both Jeddah and Baku and climbed to fifth in Marina Bay, having been caught out by a Safety Car, but a win was possible, even from 11th on the grid.

Had Verstappen done the impossible and swept the season, it would have been the greatest sporting achievement of all-time.

That, of course, is open to subjection, but the current consensus is that it belongs to the great Australian batter Sir Donald Bradman's Test average of 99.94.

To win every race in a Formula 1 season, as an individual, with all the variables that can be thrown at you, would eclipse Bradman.

But alas, as it is, we will have to wait another 12 months to maybe find that out...

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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