At the end of 2023, many F1 fans were gearing up for a fairly dull 2024. Max Verstappen in his Red Bull had completely dominated the season, and with none of the teams or drivers changing this year, surely it will be the same old story again?
Well, yes, probably. But away from the racing, there’s a tonne of stuff to keep you interested in The World’s Fastest Motorsport That Involves Actual Corners. Here are just six angles to whet your appetite.
The driver market is about to get very silly
This year is the first in F1 history where all the drivers starting are the same as the previous season. But before racing has even got underway in 2024, a bombshell was dropped – seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton surprised just about everyone by announcing that he would leave Mercedes and join Ferrari for 2025.
This sets in motion all manner of manoeuvring to fill his vacant seat at Mercedes. Sure, the team hasn’t been quite the force it was a few years ago, but many drivers will want that seat – both those already in F1 and those knocking at the door. Expect to see speculation galore, much wrangling and drivers even more determined to make themselves look spectacular compared to their teammates, by whatever means necessary. And of course, when one person starts moving around, more seats open up and then even more silliness results.
Hamilton is serving his notice
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have had an excellent and very successful relationship over the years, but he’s now in the weird position of working for a whole year with people who know he’s leaving them. How will they react, knowing that he had seat fitting for their 2024 car and promptly decided to leave for one of their biggest rivals? Sure, they’re all top professionals, but they’re also only human. Could it be maybe just a little bit massively awkward?
Will Ferrari actually be any good?
Ferrari looked, towards the end of 2023, to be finally getting their act together. After more than a decade of underachievement, Fred Vasseur took over the team principal role last year and is gradually knocking things into shape. Everyone – not least Lewis Hamilton – will be keeping a close eye on the Scuderia and hoping that they’ve kicked the inconsistencies, the baffling decisions and the political nonsense into a corner, so that when Hamilton arrives in 2025 they can mount a serious challenge against Red Bull. And if not then, then when the next big rule change arrives in 2026.
George Russell wants it all, but will he get it?
With Hamilton off, George Russell will see a chance to grab the de facto number one title at Mercedes. But is he good enough? He’s been strong, but not outstanding at Mercedes thus far, so will Mercedes allow him to take over the team alongside a number two, or will they be looking to replace Hamilton with another top-tier driver – say, Fernando Alonso, who will surely be tempted to stick two fingers up to the Stroll family and jump ship?
Mercedes also has a new hotshot on its books in the form of Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The 17-year-old makes his debut in Formula 2 this year, and is very inexperienced, but has blitzed every series he’s taken part in so far, and has some serious hype behind him. Then there’s the soon-to-be unemployed Carlos Sainz, who is leaving Ferrari when Hamilton arrives, and Alex Albon who’s proved himself very adept over recent seasons at Williams.
Sergio Perez is hanging on by his fingertips
Max Verstappen proved the dominance of the Red Bull RB19 last year, but his teammate Sergio Perez only just managed to take second in the driver’s championship. It was a very distant second indeed for the Mexican, and he’ll be under pressure to improve his performances in 2023. This will only be intensified by the prospect of serious seat-shuffling in the wake of Hamilton’s move, and there are plenty who’ll be seeking to convince Red Bull management that they deserve Perez’s seat. Can Checo get himself together and provide at the very least a reliable number two service to Verstappen?
Could McLaren Spoil The Party?
While everyone focuses on Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, don’t forget that at the end of 2023, the second-best team, and the team on a serious upward trajectory, was McLaren. Lando Norris has just signed a new contract to stay with the team, Oscar Piastri has finished a very impressive rookie season, and if the car continues to develop then the Woking team could conceivably challenge Red Bull’s dominance.