Formula One is set for another record-breaking season in 2023, with 24 races planned, double the amount of sprint races compared to last year and an all-new grand prix in Las Vegas.
For the second year in a row, Max Verstappen enters the season as the defending champion, with his Red Bull team looking to hold off renewed challenges from rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
The first car launches are already on the horizon next month, with the lights out at the first race in Bahrain in early March. Here’s everything you need to know to prepare for the new season.
When will we see the cars for the first time?
The car launch dates confirmed are listed below:
Red Bull: TBC
Ferrari: February 14
Alpine: February 16
McLaren: February 13
Alfa Romeo: TBC
Aston Martin: February 13
AlphaTauri: February 11
Bahrain, Sakhir – February 23-5
There will only be one three-day test this year and it will take place in Bahrain one week ahead of the opening race. Testing gives teams the chance to debug their new cars and start to understand how to extract the maximum performance from them. Last year, testing was split over two separate events, but now that the teams are in their second year of F1’s latest regulations, pre-season track time has been cut in half. It should provide an early indicator as to whether any one has cut the gap to Red Bull.
What does this record-breaking season look like?
The 2023 season promises to have more races than any other in F1’s history, although it’s still not clear where one of them will take place. The fourth round of the season was scheduled to take place in China on April 16 but was cancelled towards the end of last year due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
The majority of those travel restrictions have now been lifted, but F1 has shown little interest in reinstating the race and has instead held talks with Portgual’s Portimao circuit to host the event. Assuming a race does take place on April 16, this year’s calendar will have 24 races – two more than there was in 2022.
The most high-profile addition to the F1 schedule this year is the Las Vegas Grand Prix. The new street circuit will go down the famous Strip in Las Vegas, passing the city’s famous landmarks and casinos. The hype for the event is off the scale, exceeding that ahead of the Miami Grand Prix this time last year, with the most expensive suite packages costing up to $5 million.
2023 race schedule
March 5 – Bahrain Grand Prix
March 19 – Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
April 2 – Australian Grand Prix
April 16 – TBC
April 30 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix
May 7 – Miami Grand Prix
May 21 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
May 28 – Monaco Grand Prix
June 4 – Spanish Grand Prix
June 18 – Canadian Grand Prix
July 2 – Austrian Grand Prix
July 9 – British Grand Prix
July 23 – Hungarian Grand Prix
July 30 – Belgian Grand Prix
August 27 – Dutch Grand Prix
September 3 – Italian Grand Prix
September 17 – Singapore Grand Prix
September 24 – Japanese Grand Prix
October 8 – Qatar Grand Prix
October 22 – U.S. Grand Prix
October 29 – Mexican Grand Prix
November 5 – Brazilian Grand Prix
November 18 – Las Vegas Grand Prix
November 26 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Are sprint races still a thing?
Very much so. After the last two seasons featured three sprint races, F1 has increased that number to six for 2023.
Sprint weekends offer more competitive on-track action, with qualifying held on Friday setting a grid for a shortened race on Saturday that sets the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.
The venues for the sprint races this year are Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, United States and Brazil.
What else is new?
There have been a number of driver switches over the winter as well as some high-profile management changes.
Alonso to Aston Martin
After making his return to F1 with Alpine two seasons ago, two-time champion Fernando Alonso decided to switch things up for 2023 and move to Aston Martin. The news, which was announced the day after last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, caught Alpine by surprise and set in motion a number of other changes up and down the grid. Alonso joins Aston Martin ahead of the team’s move to its new factory in May, which it hopes will help close the gap the to the front of the grid.
Ricciardo becomes Red Bull’s third driver
Once all of the drama of F1’s driver market had played out, Daniel Ricciardo was the biggest name without a seat on the grid for 2023. After starting the 2022 season in the second year of a seemingly air-tight three-year contract with McLaren, poor results and the emergence of Oscar Piastri as a potential replacement saw him agree to an early termination of the deal at the end of the year. Options elsewhere were slim and he opted not to explore the possibility of a move to Haas, instead returning to his old team Red Bull where he will take on marketing and test driver responsibilities. He hopes to return to the grid in 2024, although it is not yet clear where he will slot in.
Oscar Piastri joins McLaren
Piastri has long been recognised as the most exciting young driver outside F1, and it was always a matter of time until he joined the grid. As an Alpine junior the main blockage in his career progression had been the team’s two race drivers, Alonso and Esteban Ocon, who appeared to be committed to Alpine until Alonso announced his plans to move to Aston Martin in the summer. By that time, however, Piastri and his manager Mark Webber were already fed up of waiting on a more permanent deal and had signed with McLaren for Piastri to replace Ricciardo. Expectations are set high after such a turbulent entry into F1, but Piastri’s record suggests he has the talent to meet and exceed them.
An American on the grid
F1’s seven-year wait for an American driver is finally over with Logan Sargeant joining Williams this year. Initially it looked like Colton Herta would be America’s breakthrough star but his performance in IndyCar meant he wasn’t eligible for a superlicence, which blocked a move to AlphaTauri. Meanwhile, Sargeant, who finished fourth in Formula 2 last year, was impressing Williams in his development driver role and was announced as Nicholas Latifi’s replacement and Alex Albon’s teammate for 2023.
Gasly to Alpine and de Vries to AlphaTauri
Pierre Gasly emerged as Alpine’s top pick to replace Alonso once it lost Piastri to McLaren, but the Frenchman had a contract to race for AlphaTauri in 2023. However, a well-timed super-sub performance by Dutchman Nyck de Vries at Williams — standing in for Albon in Italy when the Thai driver had appendicitis — convinced AlphaTauri to release Gasly and sign up the former Formula E champion. The switch sees Gasly join Esteban Ocon in an all-French lineup at Alpine and de Vries partner Yuki Tsunoda at AlphaTauri.
Binotto out at Ferrari, Vasseur in
It wasn’t just drivers switching teams, a number of key management personnel have also left or moved roles over the winter. The trigger was Mattia Binotto resigning from the top spot at Ferrari after a long-awaited title campaign failed to materialise in 2022. Binotto had denied stories he would leave the team right up to until the final round of the year, but just weeks after the chequered flag fell in Abu Dhabi he was out of the job. Alfa Romeo’s Fred Vasseur was lined up to take Binotto’s place and had his first day in charge at the start of the second week of January.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl was released from his role shortly after to head up Audi’s entry to F1 in 2026, which will see the German brand take over the Sauber team currently running under the Alfa Romeo name. Seidl will be replaced by Andrea Stella at McLaren, who was previously the team’s sporting director and is highly-rated by CEO Zak Brown.
Elsewhere, Jost Capito left Williams along with the team’s technical director FX Demaison. No replacement has been announced for either.
After the complete overhaul of Formula One’s technical regulations for 2022, the changes this season are relatively minor. Tweaks have been made to the regulations around the floor of the cars — raising the throat of the diffuser in height and introducing more stringent flexibility tests — to reduce their sensitivity and decrease the propensity for the ‘porpoising’ seen at the start of last year. The FIA will also continue to monitor the car’s oscillations on track and disqualify any car that is bouncing at a rate deemed dangerous to the driver.