F1 Roundtable: End-of-season reflections
The 2023 F1 season - the longest campaign in the history of the sport - is over. Now that the dust has settled on Max Verstappen's historic third straight championship, let's take stock of what racing fans witnessed this year.
Which of the records Verstappen set this season was most impressive?
10 wins in a row: There have been a lot of dominant drivers operating top machinery throughout F1 history. None of them managed to string together 10 wins in a row before 2023. That's because even great drivers, cars, and teams are prone to a stroke of bad luck, an unforeseen reliability issue, or a senseless mistake. It's a testament to Verstappen's almost robotic consistency and Red Bull's world-class quick thinking that the three-time world champion managed the feat no matter what was thrown at him. - Daniel Valente
1,003 laps led: Wire to wire. Verstappen is the only driver in Formula 1 history to lead more than 1,000 laps in a single season. You can win races in a variety of ways. Other drivers, or their machines, falter. Weather changes dramatically at just the right time. An opportune safety car. Superior strategy. Luck plays a big role. But to lead the pack across the line, lap after lap - often by massive margins - is a true sign of pure dominance. He was inevitable all season long. The flying Dutchman was in front for an absurd 75.7% of all laps this season, a figure that would have most teams over the moon, let alone an individual driver. - Gianluca Nesci
Win percentage: Rate statistics are routinely most impressive, particularly as cumulative stats become a bit watered down by F1's ever-extending calendar. Verstappen setting the new benchmark for win percentage and snapping a 70-year-old record is the real accomplishment. The previous best rate was set by the legendary Alberto Ascari, who won 75% of the 1952 season - when there were eight races. Even if this season ended at its eighth circuit, Verstappen would've tied that record. Instead, he used the extra 14 races - a gauntlet by 1950s standards - to easily eclipse everyone, winning 86.4% of the time. That'll never be beaten. - Michael Bradburn
Who was the most impressive driver not named Verstappen?
Fernando Alonso: It's got to be the Spaniard. Alonso reminded everyone why he's one of the best drivers on the grid during Aston Martin's resurgence to start the year. Despite Aston Martin falling off a cliff around the midway point, Alonso managed to hang on to fourth in the drivers' championship, his best finish in a decade. He may have gone winless - thanks to a questionable Monaco strategy call - but his natural ability to extract maximum pace from his machinery was always on full display. No driver made more Q3 appearances than Alonso, while his eight podiums were also the most out of all non-Red Bull drivers. - Valente
Lando Norris: Don't let his sixth-placed finish on the campaign fool you. Norris' MCL60 was a boat in the opening months of the season, significantly holding back his immense talent. Once McLaren righted the ship, though, the 24-year-old thrived. Over the final 14 races of the year, when his papaya-clad car was competitive with those around him at the front of the grid, Norris scored 193 points. Only Verstappen secured more in that time. The affable Briton also nabbed seven podiums in that stretch, with a memorable second-placed finish in Silverstone one of six occasions in which he came within one place of his first F1 victory. At this point, it's only a matter of time. - Nesci
Oscar Piastri: Let's go with Norris' teammate, who enjoyed the best rookie season since Lewis Hamilton's in 2007. The 22-year-old Aussie wound up a modest ninth in the constructors' standings but ahead of Lance Stroll as well as both Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon. That's an incredibly impressive feat. Piastri also happened to win a race. Mind you, it was a sprint race, but it's still one more victory than Norris has in his entire F1 career. He qualified as high as P2 this year and followed up that podium performance in Japan by finishing second in the Qatar GP the very next race week. In a season dominated by Verstappen, that's as good as it gets for just about anyone, let alone a rookie. - Bradburn
Which driver or team was most disappointing?
Sergio Perez: Checo got a lot of flak this season, even though on paper, it was the most successful campaign of his career. A lot of criticism stems from what he could've been - someone to challenge Verstappen. The Verstappen-Perez back-and-forth to start the season was rivaling the 2016 Nico Rosberg-Hamilton title battle until Monaco, where the Mexican's downward trend started. Perez drove one of the most dominant cars in F1 history yet only solidified P2 in the drivers' championship in the second-last race. With qualifying struggles and confidence issues piled on top of it all, Perez's season felt lackluster. - Sarah Wallace
George Russell: After getting his first career F1 win in Sao Paulo in the penultimate race of the 2022 season, Russell looked to be entering 2023 with some serious momentum. Of course, all that optimism quickly faded. He scored just two podiums (third-place finishes in Spain and Abu Dhabi) and finished eighth in the drivers' standings, 100 points back of his 2022 output. Mercedes had its fair share of struggles with the car this year, but Russell finished 59 points behind his teammate and lost to Hamilton in 14 of 22 races. - Brandon Wile
Alpine: Let's face it, the French manufacturer endured a nightmare year. Dating back to Alonso ditching the team and Piastri publicly jilting Alpine before joining McLaren - all of which likely led to Otmar Szafnauer's ouster during this season - it's been a rough go. Even though it was well back of the top three last year, Alpine established itself as the class of the midfield entering 2023. Not only did it lose over 50 points this year, it also slipped behind both McLaren and Aston Martin - the teams that poached Piastri and Alonso. Plus, both Gasly and Ocon finished outside the top 10 in the drivers' standings. More changes might be needed. - Bradburn
What was your favorite race of the season?
Las Vegas GP: We had our doubts. Formula 1 invested heavily to make its newest event a rousing success, so you can imagine the consternation when the weekend got off to a diabolical and, frankly, humiliating start thanks to a loose drain cover. Everything could have unraveled from there. But the race itself was spectacular and exactly as advertised. The circuit allowed for intoxicating wheel-to-wheel racing, with drivers able to make daring dives while battling multiple rivals at once, and the action looked resplendent under the lights along the Strip. There was late drama on the track, some surprising results inside the points, and lots of skeptics who became believers. F1 has a new tentpole event in the United States. - Nesci
Dutch GP: There wasn't a race all season that rivaled the Dutch Grand Prix in terms of chaos and drama. It rained not once but twice during the race as the skies opened up on Lap 1 and then again later on in the event. Cars piled into the barriers at Turn 1 on the second rainfall, while the first downpour threw the starting grid into disarray. The changing conditions produced an all-time-high 186 overtakes, but that wasn't even the most historic feat. In front of his home crowd, Verstappen had to fight back from fourth after the Lap 1 rainfall and then survive all the carnage to capture a record-tying ninth victory in a row. - Valente
Italian GP: Monza was a defensive masterclass. It was one of Carlos Sainz's hardest-fought podiums, going tooth and nail with Verstappen for P1 in the opening 15 laps. Alex Albon managed to overtake Piastri in Lap 2 and held off Norris and Alonso to finish P7, his joint-highest finish of the year. Charles Leclerc was scrappy with Sainz in the closing laps, attempting multiple overtakes before the Spaniard solidified P3 on Lap 51. With Verstappen sealing his historic 10th straight win, it was refreshing to see consequential battles for the podium. - Wallace
What was your favorite moment of the 2023 season?
Sainz snaps Red Bull streak: As impressive as Verstappen and Red Bull were the season, it was damn nice to see someone else win a race. Sainz's victory in Singapore - just the second of his career - snapped a 13-race winning streak for Red Bull and marked Ferrari's first victory since Austria in July 2022. Watching Sainz keep Norris in DRS range to prevent a charging Hamilton was incredible strategy and enabled him to hold on to the win despite driving on dead tires. The Sainz, Norris, Hamilton top three was the only time a Red Bull didn't finish on the podium all season. - Wile
Alonso vs. Perez in Brazil: What a battle. As one driver decimated the field more emphatically than we've ever seen before, we spent much of the year looking elsewhere on the grid for thrilling on-track scraps. The Spanish legend and decorated Mexican gave us exactly that at Interlagos, fighting it out over the final laps in a tight, but fair, encounter. Alonso, initially overtaken by Perez, used a stunning move to recapture third place before winning a drag race to the finish line by a minuscule 0.05 seconds. It was a literal photo finish, with the Aston Martin coming out on top against the superior Red Bull machine. - Nesci
Monaco's qualifying thriller: Three drivers - all from different teams - claimed provisional pole in the closing minutes of Saturday's nail-biting Q3 session. First Ocon, then Leclerc before finally Alonso, who was all but ready to claim his first pole since 2012. There was only one man who could deny him: Verstappen. Though the Dutchman built a reputation of being inevitable, the odds were stacked against him. He trailed the Spaniard by over two-tenths after two sectors. And then it happened. In the final and shortest sector of the circuit, Verstappen left absolutely nothing between himself and the wall as he snatched three-tenths over Alonso to take pole position and cap off the season's most electric session. - Valente
What's one change you'd like to see in 2024?
More competition: Look, we can enjoy Verstappen's dominance and also acknowledge that the longest F1 season ever certainly felt like the longest, most interminable season ever. As the sport enters its cost-cap era, fans were promised more parity just to watch Verstappen basically act like the safety car out there, winning 19 of 22 races and standing on the podium in two others. Good riddance to Mercedes' W14 and Ferrari's SF-23. Bring us some competitive racing next year. - Bradburn
Better sprint format: Next season will mark four years since Formula 1 introduced the sprint format, and we're seemingly headed for another format change. That'll make it four different formats in four years. Whether you hate it or love it, those in charge clearly won't give up on the gimmick. And that's fine, but can they at least figure out a format that doesn't ruin the flow of the weekend or spoil Sunday's race? How about moving the shootout and sprint race in front of qualifying and reopening parc ferme after the sprint events? That might be a good start. - Valente
Increasing regionalization: The 2024 season will be the longest ever, spanning 24 races over 40 weeks. While the sport's global accessibility is strengthening, this can lead to a potential sacrifice in the races' quality and increasing physical and mental strain on teams. The FIA emphasized that 2024's changes are for logistical and climate purposes, moving races like Japan earlier in the schedule. Although that's a good first step, the organization should go further next year when it builds the 2025 schedule - say, moving Miami and Canada closer together - to get the most out of its races and drivers. Less whiplash for personnel means healthier paddocks and stronger race showings. - Wallace
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