AFTER a winter break, the new F1 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain.
Last year's champion, Max Verstappen was simply unstoppable as he blitzed his way to glory while Mercedes' drivers were left dizzy by their bouncing car and Ferrari cocked it up.
But the points totals are reset and with Las Vegas also added to the calendar, here's what The Sun's F1 Correspondent Ben Hunt believes what's in store for 2023…
It is so difficult to look past Verstappen for a handful of reasons.
Sure, Mercedes and Ferrari and the others have had the winter to redesign their cars but there have been relatively few rule changes this time.
That bodes well for Red Bull, whose car was not only reliable last season, but it was quick everywhere.
READ MORE ON MOTORSPORT
Arsenal vs Everton: Bet £5 on the Premier League & Get £20 bonus with Ladbrokes
Hamilton could GIVE UP on F1 if Mercedes car doesn’t perform, says ex-champ
What does that mean? Well, each track has its own unique characteristics; long straights, slow-speed corners, hot weather or even altitude.
But Red Bull designed a car that was suited to all of them.
It makes the refining process over an F1 weekend easier when you start with a good base model each week.
CASINO SPECIAL – BEST NEW CUSTOMER SIGN UP DEALS
Verstappen now has two championship wins – with both titles coming in different circumstances and he will benefit from that.
Most read in Motorsport
What happened to Jules Bianchi?
Hamilton could GIVE UP on F1 if Mercedes car doesn't perform, says ex-champ
F1 are failing to tackle Gulf's sportswashing ahead of season opener in Bahrain
OnlyFans star and ex-racing driver Renee Gracie drives fans wild in bikini snaps
He is more experienced and, let's face it, was the best performer on track last season, with barely any mistakes.
His only potential weakness comes from within his team.
His bitter fall-out with Sergio Perez could see tensions rising between the two team-mates.
Red Bull's win in the constructors' championship last time scratched an itch, and they are determined to retain that trophy after years of Mercedes dominance.
Based on pre-season testing, there is a widely-held opinion that their car again looks the one to beat.
It is hard to disagree but this championship is surely not over before it has even started, and the aforementioned Perez – Verstappen pairing will be interesting.
Aside from that, the rest of the team is a steady ship with no key departures or arrivals over the winter, like at their rivals.
Boosted by Honda's engines and technical partnership with Ford – and despite a reduction in development because of their cost-cap breach – if they get off to a good start, it could be too late for the other to catch up.
It seems slightly ridiculous to suggest that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso would overdeliver for his new team, Aston Martin, but I expect just that.
Aston have spent millions and millions on recruiting the best in the business and now they have one in their star driver, who joins from Alpine.
Alonso has a wonderful ability to overperform in whatever he is given and while I don't wish to speak too much about their second driver, I fully expect Alonso to drag that car as high up the grid as possible.
I am also incredibly interested to see how Brit James Vowles does in his new role as team principal of the Williams team after leaving Mercedes, where he was their chief strategist.
Steadying the ship, and closing the huge gap to the rest of the field, is a big task but I think there is half a chance they can manage it.
The rumblings from McLaren aren't great news if your name is Lando Norris.
The Woking team had hoped to be able to build on last year's improved end to the season.
However, if you judge by the results from pre-season testing – where they were the team that put in the least amount of laps – then it could be another long hard season.
There is no doubt that Norris can deliver wins and even titles but he needs to be given the car to do so, I am not too sure that's going to be this season.
He could find himself hamstrung and that would test the relationship with McLaren, and his deal that stretches to 2025.
The Best of the Rest
Charles Leclerc will welcome the appointment of new Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur, who will make it a priority to eliminate the strategic mistakes which cost the team last season.
If Vasseur can cut out the errors, then Leclerc could find himself in a title battle with Verstappen.
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz could also benefit from Vasseur's stability. Now that the Spaniard has a race win under his belt, I expect him to be more competitive.
Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were left with mixed feelings after testing.
The bouncing looks to have been cured but the problem is, Red Bull, Ferrari and Alpine and Aston Martin all look much quicker.
Both Russell and Hamilton could have their work cut out but Mercedes' strength is their work ethic and it will not be long before they are up to speed. There is potential for wins.
Read More on The Sun
Art Attack’s Neil Buchanan unrecognisable after quitting TV for rock band
New winter sun hotspot 5 hours from UK with 27C heat where TUI is launching hols
Perez will struggle to usurp Verstappen but their relationship will be key to Red Bull's success.
The focus will be on whether the Mexican is again willing to play a supporting role.
Complete F1 2023 race calendar – every Grand Prix from this year
Source: Read Full Article