F1 2023 season preview: what to look out for | CAR Magazine

F1 2023 season preview: what to look out for

Published: 03 March 2023 Updated: 03 March 2023

► New F1 cars being revealed
► What to expect from 2023
► Season starts in Bahrain

The start of the 2023 Formula One season is here – and it’s shaping up to be one of the most interesting we’ve seen in a while.

The new aerodynamic regulations introduced in 2022 didn’t shuffle the pecking order that much, but there are still huge gains to be had as teams get to grips with the new rules. Throw in a serious shake-up in team personnel this year – from drivers to team principals – and nobody is sure what 2023 might hold. 

Will Mercedes return to the top? Will Ferrari finally get its act together? Or will Red Bull overcome the sanctions put in place for its 2021 cost-cap breach? We’ll know once the chequered flag drops on the final race at Abu Dhabi in November.

Until then, though, here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 grid, and the order it could be finishing in.

Alpine A523

Alpine revealed its new car at a star-studded event at Printworks London. Last year, the Enstone-based team finished a quiet fourth in the championship, pipping to McLaren by 14 points, and finishing around 350 behind Mercedes. This year the team hopes to get close the gulf to the top three.

Called the A523, the French outfit’s latest challenger is an evolution over last year’s – but keeps the same principles and solutions we’ve seen before. Alongside other improved elements, Alpine’s technical director Matt Harman also revealed that the A523 is underweight – something that will bring an immediate improvement to lap times.

Alpine managed to lose double-world champion Fernando Alonso last year after not giving him the contract he wanted, and subsequently lost his replacement Oscar Piastri to McLaren – for not giving him the contract he wanted either. Still, Alpine’s front office did at least work quickly to get a replacement: this year Esteban Ocon will be driving the Alpine A523 alongside long time rival and occasional mortal enemy Pierre Gasly.

Once again, Renault are the only PU maker supplying just one team; Alpine says this means less data, but more time to work on their own engine issues. We shall we see how that plays out…

How are they looking after testing?

Not amazing, but they don’t seem to mind. Alpine had a relatively quiet test, with the car not looking particularly good to its midfield rivals. Still, both Gasly and Ocon seemed happy with the A523, with the new boy describing it as the smoothest, most impressive test of his career so far. Technical director Matt Harman was equally happy, while also mentioning that the A523 should have a handsome upgrade in time for the race. Alpine’s target of fourth seemed conversative a few weeks ago, but impressive testing programs throughout the midfield mean that could be a more challenging goal. 

Mercedes W14

Mercedes is back for 2023 with a point to prove. Launched at Silverstone before an initial shakedown on track, the new car looks very different to last year’s W13 – but is best thought of an evolution of the 2022 challenger.

Left mainly unpainted in order to save weight, the W14 swaps silver for black. It’s the modern version of the Silver Arrows origin story; back then, white paint was scraped away to save weight revealing aluminium, and in 2023 silver paint makes way for naked carbonfibre weave. It’s certainly a crowdpleaser, and it’s already contributed a small amount to performance.

The line-up of seven WDC Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ticks over into its second year, but in 2023 they’re joined by Mick Schumacher who takes the role of third driver. A new signing from Haas, the German will do much of the sim and development work, and will also stand-in if Hamilton or Russell are unable to race. On the way out is chief strategist James Vowles, who now joins Williams F1 as team principal. 

How are they looking after testing?

Better than last year, that’s for sure. Rather than the crisis of the 2022 Bahrain test, this year the Mercedes team had a quiet, and largely uneventful three days – aside from a hydraulic failure on day two. Noises from the team suggest they’re not quite in the same league as the top two yet, but they’re okay with it. Data correlation is even more of a priority in 2023 because of the tricky W13, and the team is waiting to check its aero working before introducing aggressive updates in around five races time. But they might need to be looking behind as well as ahead for the first five races.

Read more about the Mercedes W14 here

Ferrari SF23

Ferrari SF23

Ferrari has revealed the SF23, that car that it hopes will clinch its first drivers’ championship since 2007, and its first constructors’ title since 2008. And rather than show us a render of the 2022 car or a show car, Maranello revealed the SF23 in all its glory before putting it on track. Cars on track at a launch? Surely this is the best car reveal we’ll see this year.

The driver line-up of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc remains the same for 2023, though there has been a change at the top. Mattia Binotto is out, replaced by no-nonsense ex-Sauber boss, Frédéric Vasseur. Maranello will be hoping that Vasseur’s strict approach will be the secret ingredient it’s been missing all this time – with any luck he’s a new Jean Todt. 

The car itself appears to be a stunning evolution of last year’s car, and keeps the same ‘soup bowl’ side pods as the 2022 car – albeit in a more extreme form. There’s also a more pronounced undercut area under the side pods, as engineers further refine their packaging solutions. And like most other cars this year, patches of carbonfibre have also crept in as teams look to remove paint and save weight.

Will it win? We don’t know yet. The outgoing car wasn’t exactly slow, but operational, technical and driver errors meant the Scuderia’s title challenge folded spectacularly with several races to go. We’ll have to wait for a while before we know just how serious the SF23 and Vasseur’s Ferrari are.

How are they looking after testing?

Good, but not great. Testing didn’t go badly for the Scuderia, and it was clear the car is there or thereabouts on pace to Red Bull – at least over a single lap. Straight-line speed also looks to be better too, as Ferrari have worked to chip away at the top speed deficient to Red Bull last year. Of more concern is tyre degradation; the Ferrari again looks quick over a single lap but could well be taking more from its tyres than its rivals from Milton Keynes and Brackley. Over long, the Ferrari looked to be harder on its rubber – though we have no idea how much fuel or downforce the SF-23 was running. 

Aston Martin AMR23

Aston Martin has revealed its new car for 2023 – and even in launch form it’s a significant evolution over last year’s challenger. Remember it’s likely be even more complex come the first test in Bahrain in a few weeks’ time. 

Revealed at the team’s brand-new factory in Silverstone, the AMR23 will be driven by Land Stroll and new marquee signing Fernando Alonso, who replaces Sebastien Vettel. 

‘The design team was adamant that it wanted to tackle these regulations without compromise. We want to move up the grid and start challenging the teams at the front – and you can’t do that by sitting back and being conservative,’ said technical director Dan Fallows.

‘AMR23 is a significant development of the car we refined in the latter half of 2022 – and we have improved it in every critical area. It optimises the solutions we felt would offer us the most performance, and it embodies the joint vision we have embraced and have built together over the recent months.’  

New factory, new car and a double-world champion: Aston Martin will be targeting something much higher than their 7th place finishing position last year. 

How are they looking after testing?

Very good. Aston Martin’s highly developed AMR23 was one of the main talking points of testing, and for good reasons. Times aside the 2023 Aston looked compliant whatever the fuel load or engine mode. In the hands of new arrival Fernando Alonso it looked very quick too, and that’s on both long runs and short runs too. We’ll find out just how fast Aston Martin is on Saturday evening, but it’s undoubtedly been an encouraging test for the Silverstone-based team. 

Read more about the AMR23 here

McLaren MCL60

McLaren has revealed its 2023 challenger at its Woking HQ. Called the MCL60, it’s finished in the same papaya orange colour scheme we’ve seen for the last few years – though now with added carbonfibre patches to reduce overall weight. 

The new car will be driven by Lando Norris and new teammate Oscar Piastri – who replaces fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo. The latter takes his seat at McLaren after a drawn-out contract saga involving Fernando Alonso and the Alpine F1 team – though everything is clearly in order now. Ricciardo on the other hand, has returned to Red Bull in a third driver role.

McLaren finished 5th in the constructors last year after narrowly missing out on the ‘best of the rest’ title to the Alpine F1 team. It’s tough to say whether McLaren will be able to go one better beat the French team in 2023; while McLaren certainly has youth on its side, Alpine has both youth and experience in the form of Gasly and Ocon. 

How are they looking after testing

The Woking team goes in to 2023 after narrowly missing out on fourth place to Alpine – but that’s mainly down to the French team’s poor reliability. 2022 wasn’t the best year for McLaren, and 2023 is already looking difficult: the MCL60 looked a handful in testing, and team boss Zak Brown has already admitted the team didn’t hit its off-season development goals. It’s very possible Lando Norris will be able to drive around the car’s problems – just like he did last year – but things will be trickier for new signing Oscar Piastri. 

Alpha Tauri AT04

Alpha Tauri 2023 car

Alpha Tauri showcased its 2023 car in New York; the same place as its sister team Red Bull. More a repainted version of the AT03 right now than an all-new car, the AT04 launched alongside a new collection from the Alpha Tauri clothing brand. We’ll have a better idea of what the car is like come pre-season testing in Bahrain. 

The Red Bull junior team finished a distant 9th in the 2022 constructors’ championship and will draw on the talents of Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck De Vries to get the car in the points. While Tsunoda is settled into the team, it’ll be interesting to see the team dynamic with De Vries; the latter is already a Formula E champion and comes with a great reputation – especially after impressing in a stand-in drive at Williams last year. 

How are they looking after testing?

Alpha Tauri had a solid test, completing a total of 456 laps of the Bahrain circuit. The pace of the AT04 is still unknown – with some rumours suggesting that the car is still within the bottom three – but the reliability alone has to be promising for Red Bull’s B team.

Alfa Romeo C43

Alfa Romeo 2023 car

Alfa Romeo has taken the wraps of its 2023 challenger, and incredibly it appears to be an accurate representation of this year’s car. Although probably not at the spec we’ll see when testing starts in Bahrain, the C43 shown in renders does at least adhere to the new 2023 regulations – notice the larger wing mirrors for safety. There’s also far more aerodynamic details in Alfa’s render than other cars. 

The driver line-up is unchanged, but Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu will have a new boss; Frédéric Vasseur is now heading up Ferrari’s challenge, while Andreas Seidel is in from McLaren as the team prepares to become Audi in 2026. 

How are they looking after testing?

Valterri Bottas and Zhou Guanyo had a promising test in a car that looks to be a step above the one raced last year. The Alfa looks solid, but did suffer from a few reliability issues – one of which was traced back to its Ferrari power unit. 

Williams FW45

New Williams 2023 F1 car

Williams begins 2023 with a refreshed driver line-up and a new team principal. Nicholas Latifi is out, while the new American prospect Logan Sergeant is in. Alex Albon also remains at Williams for a second year, and will lead the team alongside his new rookie teammate. 

Off track, Jose Capito is out and Mercedes’ James Vowles is in as team principal. Vowles is best known for his strategy decisions and mid-race radio calls at Mercedes, so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with a significant step up in job title – albeit much further down the grid. 

Like other teams, Williams didn’t really reveal a true representation of its 2023 FW45 racer, but we do know the new car will feature sponsorship from Gulf. It’s muted right now, but the possibility of further ‘activations’ throughout the season mean we might get to see more of that iconic blue and orange livery. 

How are they looking after testing?

Remember when Williams couldn’t even put together a car on time? Things have certainly improved since then, with the Grove-based team clocking up 439 laps without too many issues. The FW45 is said to be a substantial improvement over what came before, though that still means Williams be fighting hard to be anywhere near the top ten. 

Red Bull RB19

The reigning drivers’ and constructors’ champions return to 2023 with the RB19. However, we haven’t yet seen the team’s real car – the one in the picture is just a mock-up. Instead, Red Bull used its launch event to reveal a new partnership with Ford which will start in 2026 and see the Red Bull Powertrains division work with the Blue Oval on hybrid and sustainable tech. 

Red Bull’s driver line-up hasn’t changed for 2023, although Daniel Ricciardo has now re-joined the team as test driver. Alongside the usual silver and red competition, Red Bull’s breach of the budget cap in 2021 means it’ll also have to contend with additional wind tunnel time restrictions. Those are in addition to the sliding, performance-based restriction already applied to teams every year. 

How are they looking after testing?

Ominous, in a word. Testing was the first we truly got to see the RB19 in action, and although it’s not a huge departure over last year’s car, it really doesn’t need to be. The car Newey has presented this year looks to be a handsome evolution of the one before – and things looked like business as usual in testing. Whatever the fuel load, the engine mode or the amount of downforce – these things change all the time in testing – the RB19 looked incredibly settled, and quick with it. Verstappen goes into the season as favourite.  

Haas VF-23

Haas F1 car

Haas is back with the VF-23 and a new driver line-up that puts mortal enemies Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg in the same garage. Experience is in, but Mick Schumacher is out. However, he’s now taken up a test-driving role at Mercedes-AMG, so it’s not all bad news.

The VF-23 sports a new, rather fetching black and red livery this year and acres of branding from sponsor MoneyGram (no relation to Moneytron). However, the show car revealed at launch offers little clues as to the work done in the off-season. The team clinched 8th place in the constructors’ championship and will have its eyes on the Aston Martins and Alfa Romeos as it enters the 2023 season. 

How are they looking after testing?

The secretive nature of testing means it’s hard to really know where some teams are – and this makes it even harder to determine the ranking of the midfield teams. Still, the Haas looked to be solid throughout the lap, and both Hulkenberg and Magnussen were able to circulate without issues. 

The 2023 season begins on the 3rd March in Bahrain. Here’s how to watch it

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes