Who Can Challenge Max Verstappen for the F1 World Championship?
Anyone who engages in sports betting and had wagered on Lewis Hamilton to lift the championship trophy will be disappointed. The Brit is not having a good season at all. His best finish has been second, which he achieved at the Australian Grand Prix in April and picked up 18 points. Some have speculated he might leave Mercedes, since he didn’t have a good 2022 season either, but Hamilton has denied this will be the case.
Right now, Max Verstappen is pulling away from the rest of the drivers in the standings and is looking unstoppable. Does anyone have a realistic chance of demolishing his title hopes? Below is a look at some of the drivers who might be able to catch him and turn the standings around.
Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s colleague in Red Bull, is the driver who can threaten the Dutchman’s title hopes most severely. The Mexican is second in the standings but still trails Verstappen by more than 10 points.
Perez believes he can take the title as well after his victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, in which he won the race and the sprint. If he hadn’t had such misfortune in the Australian Grand Prix and gone crashing out, he believes he would have been on course for the title. Unfortunately for Perez, placing second in the Miami Grand Prix stopped him from ramping up the pressure on his teammate even further.
Last season, Perez struggled with the weight of the car, which Red Bull kept reducing, and the development benefited Verstappen, whereas Perez felt less comfortable as the season went on. Since then, he’s been working on his issues with the construction team and feels he’s been able to take the team in a new direction. Whatever he’s identified and been working, his performance suggests Red Bull have been listening and improved the configuration more to Perez’s tastes.
Fernando Alonso, driving for Aston Martin, has a mountain to climb if he’s to clinch the championship from the clutches of Verstappen. The Spaniard sits in third place in the standings and trails by more than almost 40 points.
Alonso informed the press he hadn’t given up hopes of laying his hands on the World Championship a third time after placing on the podium in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bahrain. Whether he hopes to do that this season is something about which he has been more ambiguous. He has, however, acknowledged that he doesn’t expect close to the record of seven world titles set by Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton.
Alonso has a good car, and this is something he felt in the preseason. Testing had gone well and gave him reason to be cautiously optimistic about its capabilities.
Some bloggers have written, however, that it’s not all over yet for Aston Martin. The teams are locked in a development war, and the rules allow Aston Martin to perform more testing than Red Bull. This is something Aston Martin hope to use to their advantage and allow them to push harder for the title.
Hamilton sits fourth in the standings and trails Verstappen by more than 50 points, so there’s a major gulf between him and the leader. The reporting of the tensions in 2021 between the two by the media won’t have done anything to take away his F1 misery this season. Both drivers have tried to play down the animosity and rivalry between them, which occurred in the heat of the title battle.
Placing second at the Australian Grand Prix felt like a triumph for Hamilton, but he knows the team have a lot of work to do. He’s always maintained a sense of calm and direction in tough times, but that’s been easier because he’s had a better car then. As Mercedes went into the 2023 season, the team had hit its design targets, and manufacture and preparation had gone smoothly. The car had been steadily improving in 2022 and had been expected to experience further refinement, ready for 2023, and be even better. However, Mercedes were already aware of the car’s limits.
A complete redesign is necessary, and soon the world is likely to see the outcome of this work. It will have a major impact on the rest of the season, and Mercedes may hit the ground running and mount a realistic challenge to Red Bull in 2024.
It’s early in the season, but already Red Bull are starting to assert their dominance over the standings, with main man Max Verstappen beginning to pull away from the other drivers. Whether anyone can mount a challenge remains to be seen, but anything can happen in Formula 1, so let’s see how the rest of the season unfolds.