The Year in Review: Three things we learned from the 2023 Formula One season

File picutre: Mark Thompson / Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool.

File picutre: Mark Thompson / Getty Images via Red Bull Content Pool.

Published Dec 31, 2023


A season of 21 wins in 22 races proved that Red Bull were, and will probably remain, the dominant standard-setters in Formula One following Max Verstappen’s record-breaking victory in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

His 54th career triumph left rivals comparing the task of catching him with climbing Mount Everest.

AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the 2023 season:

Red Bull design advantage

“This car will go down in history, for a considerable period, as the most successful in Formula One history,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner after completing Sunday’s race with an avalanche of records for Verstappen and his team.

“To win 21 out of 22 is insanity and for Max to have led more than 1,000 laps, won 19 races,” he added, before listing the statistical achievements after a year of unprecedented hegemony by one marque.

But a key man was omitted from the fanfares – Red Bull’s technical boss and chief designer Adrian Newey, an engineer whose feats in F1 have made him not only a ‘godfather of ground effect’ but a legendary guru of the sport.

His flair and excellence, as expressed in the RB19 machine, almost guarantees more sustained success with the RB20 in Verstappen’s hands next year.

His career speaks for itself: in the last 30 years, with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, his cars have won 12 drivers’ and 11 constructors’ titles – and Red Bull have won 38 of 43 races since the return of ‘ground effect’ last season.

With Verstappen at the wheel, Red Bull will look unbeatable again as Newey, who wrote his university thesis on ground effect aerodynamics, delivers a revised car.

McLaren likeliest challengers

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff compared the size of the task to climbing Everest, but it could have been anyone from Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes or Aston Martin assessing the challenge of catching Red Bull.

Only Ferrari, with a Carlos Sainz victory in Singapore, were able to break the Milton Keynes team’s stranglehold this year but, like the rest, they could not mount a sustained run of form to build a challenge.

A rejuvenated two-time champion Fernando Alonso brought early-season hope to Aston Martin and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton swung from despondent to dreamy in Mercedes’ capricious W14.

Only McLaren, with a surge of form following a mid-season upgrade, offered real resistance though Ferrari also improved in the closing months.

"Red Bull started with these regulations in 2022 with a massive advantage and were able to maintain it," said Wolff. “You have to respect their achievements on the engineering side and the driver – so beating them under these regulations is against the odds.”

But he promised his team’s return to the drawing board would "come up with something new".

“There is a key to unlock dramatically better performance,” he said in the hope that Mercedes engineers can locate both lock and key.

After a first winless season for 12 years and two years after Hamilton’s last victory, Mercedes finished 413 points behind Red Bull who began work on their 2024 car in August or earlier.

Respect for cunning fox Alonso

At the age of 42, Fernando Alonso showed boyish enthusiasm on Sunday as he secured fourth place in the drivers’ championship with a crafty drive including a slowdown trick that left Hamilton bemused.

“Lewis obviously is very clever, understands the sport really, really good and has a lot of experience,” said the Spaniard. “But I have more!”

His trick earned him an advantage that carried him to seventh as Hamilton, who will be 39 in January, finished ninth. But both proved worthy of a place on a grid filled with much younger men.

Agence France-Presse