We left off from a serene Suzuka Grand Prix where everything was still up for grabs. Heading towards a race before the end, enjoy the spectacle of the Abu Dhabi desert with Max Verstappen holding more than double the points of the second-placed Sergio Perez and his 3rd world title championship in his showcase. Here F1 recap you needed before the final race of 2023 in Abu Dhabi.
Qatar GP: between prohibitive conditions and celebrations
As we foresaw in our previous article, there was the possibility of Max Verstappen clinching his 3rd world title championship after the Qatar Grand Prix, and he indeed did, although not flawlessly.
The Qatar GP was an intense race; drivers endured the incredible high temperatures inside the cockpit, leading to Logan Sargeant’s inability to finish due to severe dehydration, and Lance Stroll heading straight to the medical car as soon as he stopped the car. In the end, everyone agreed that these conditions were not ideal and should not happen again.
Mercedes experienced one of its lowest moments of the season in Qatar with the contact between its two drivers at the start, forcing Hamilton to retire and George Russell taking the blame in an attempt to rectify the situation.
However, the brightest star was overshadowed, as Oscar Piastri won his first sprint race, placing the McLaren at the forefront on a Saturday for the first time ever. This underscores the surprising growth of the Australian driver from the beginning of the year to now, showcasing the right mindset to reach the top.
USA GP: Leclerc and Hamilton Disqualification
The disqualifications of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc for plank infringements added a unique twist to the narrative, emphasizing the importance of adhering to technical regulations in a sport known for cutting-edge technology. The bumpy nature of the Circuit of the Americas, compounded by high temperatures and fuel loads, led to wear on the rear part of the planks, catching out both Hamilton and Leclerc.
Another wasted pole for the monegasque driver that failed to score his first win this year due to an ill-fated one-stop strategy. On the other part of the garage, Carlos Sainz achieves a peculiar record: that of securing three podiums in Formula 1 without physically stepping onto the podium, as he was promoted post-race.
Mexican GP, Perez defeat
Ferrari experienced an unexpected front-row lockout in qualifying but faced challenges in the race, with a one-stop strategy and difficulties restarting hard tires affecting their pace. Despite these setbacks, team principal Frederic Vasseur highlighted the team’s positive progress after a series of mixed results.
Sergio Perez’s bold attempt to challenge the conventional racing wisdom of “You can’t win a race into Turn 1” created a significant moment. While his strong start was notable, the risky move during his home race could be avoided and give his many fans a day to remember. But it turned into a nightmare.
Lando Norris emerged as a standout performer, displaying resilience after a disappointing qualifying. Starting 17th on the grid, Norris strategically navigated the field, making strategic tire choices and executing brilliant overtaking maneuvers. His moves on Esteban Ocon, George Russell, and Daniel Ricciardo showcased both skillful driving and a deep understanding of race dynamics, earning praise from McLaren’s leadership. The English driver has repeatedly acknowledged the high competitiveness of his teammate and is beginning to feel the pressure to elevate his performance to avoid losing the title of the team’s lead driver.
Representing AlphaTauri, Daniel Ricciardo evoked memories of his Red Bull days with a gutsy drive and we can definetily say that he is back. His performance significantly contributed to AlphaTauri’s strong showing in the midfield battle, positioning them well in the Constructors’ Championship and now, discussions about his possible early return to Red Bull continue to grow.
BRAZIL: Alonso Comeback
In São Paulo Fernando Alonso showcased his exceptional defensive skills. After holding off the rapid Sergio Perez, Alonso demonstrated a combination of tactical cunning and impressive driving performance. His resilience against a faster opponent culminated in a surprising podium finish, marking another milestone in his resurgence in Formula 1 and re-opens championship for 4th place
For Charles Leclerc, another day characterized by misfortune. Reliability issues related to electronics forced the Ferrari driver to retire even before the start of the race. This episode proved to be a bitter disappointment for Leclerc, who seemed to be in competitive form after a series of fluctuating results.
Meanwhile, the Mercedes team experienced a challenging and unexpected day. Although Lewis Hamilton initially gained positions, the team’s competitiveness dwindled rapidly. The decision to maintain a higher setup led to tire management issues and a loss of performance, with Hamilton unable to effectively fend off opponents’ attacks. The day concluded with George Russell retiring due to oil temperature level problems.
LAS VEGAS GP: Among glitter and VIPs there was also a great race
The conclusion of the last 5 races for the top position remained unchanged, with the Dutch driver recording a modest figure of 53 victories in F1, equaling Sebastian Vettel and securing the 3rd spot in the ranking behind only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. With almost 100 fewer appearances, Max proved unstoppable, navigating through both car performances and others’ misfortunes. Record after record crumbled under the consistency of Red Bull, leaving nothing to chance.
The weekend started in the worst way possible with a controversy. The pre-weekend build-up, featuring a dazzling show with drone displays and celebrity appearances, received mixed reviews from drivers, with opinions ranging from enthusiasm to skepticism. And Ferrari asked for a compensation for Carlos Sainz crash in FP1 due to a loose manhole cover, putting in shade FIA and Las Vegas promoters.
The race exceeded expectations, with Max Verstappen, despite starting from behind, making a comeback and winning, once again preventing Charles Leclerc, who started from pole position, from clinching victory. Leclerc, while expressing disappointment, gave it his all, showcasing an impressive performance and battling until the last lap.
Indeed, the Dutch driver, who was controversial throughout the weekend with his remarks during press conferences, seems particularly excited at the end of the Grand Prix.
The Last Dance: Abu Dhabi GP
In conclusion on the eve of the last GP, the podium of the top three drivers in the championship is concluded. That leaves the challenge for 4th place between Carlos Sainz who is tied on points by alonso and Norris only 5 points behind after the Las Vegas DNF. All three are in a good moment, with the latter seeking redemption from his bad performance. Who will finish ahead? Even more compelling is also the challenge for second place in the constructors’ championship between Ferrari and Mercedes , which are only 4 points apart. A lot of money is up for grabs and everything is left to the challenge in Abu Dhabi!