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The areas each team must address ahead of 2023 F1 development war



The downtime on track belies the team that is working hard to sign the upgrades and have them manufactured and shipped to Azerbaijan.

Since holes in the calendar mean there are fewer races at this time of year, any new parts can be installed sooner and improve performance for a longer period of time. Combined with a cost cap that prevents expensive shipments of excess items to the Middle East, Australia or Miami, it means expect a slew of new parts to be unveiled in Baku this weekend.

Here are the key areas each squad will need to focus on as the 2023 development wars kick off.

Alex Albon, Williams Racing FW45

Alex Albon, Williams Racing FW45

Photography: Williams


Chronic underinvestment does not happen overnight. As such, Williams is focused on the long term, so development of the FW45 will likely be abandoned early, with resources dedicated to 2024. There is still no permanent technical director to dictate a clear upgrade path, which makes this all the more likely.

In any case, the behavior of the car when entering low-speed corners must be addressed. In this regard, the unstable FW44 has made progress, but there is still room for improvement. A wayward balance erodes driver confidence as they either approach too tentatively or lock up the front tires too often.

The GPS data also showed that the Williams driver was slower to get back on the accelerator to point to the twitching rear axle than the Mercedes-powered McLaren team. The car also lacks overall downforce. The result is a design that is very efficient in a straight line. But when things get twisty, too much time is wasted.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool


Although tied with Williams by one point, an analysis of pit stop times for races using the same tire compound showed that the AlphaTauri was undoubtedly the slowest in the field. The Faenza team is keenly aware of its shortcomings, as evidenced by the already redesigned floor in Australia.

This results in higher top speeds and a gain of one-tenth, as the AT04’s poor low-speed cornering habits are partially resolved. The team attributes the messy handling to the high rear ride height. This causes aerodynamic loads to drop under braking, creating an unstable rear axle.

Using the same Honda powertrain as Red Bull’s failure to match its sister team in speed traps also suggested too much drag. Both areas will be exposed by the divisive personality of the Baku layout, marked by a staccato first half to the final lap and the final lap sprint to the finish line.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

alfa romeo

After losing the 2022 development race for not having enough cash to hit the budget cap, Audi’s major new investment should keep Sauber in the game for longer. Therefore, it will have the capacity to address the straight-line deficit.

So far the C43 has proven to outperform its closest competitor, the Haas, in terms of braking, and enjoys decent mid-range acceleration – a trend reflected in the first three races. However, it consistently lags above 165mph as too much air resistance begins to differentiate the two Ferrari-powered squads.

This must be improved for the Alfa to be competitive in speed traps. In this era of ground effect, increasing the downforce generated underneath the car could theoretically allow teams to fit smaller front and rear wings to cut through the air more efficiently.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Photography: Lionel Ng / motorsport pictures


In the mini head-to-head with Alfa Romeo, Haas lost the race by one lap in the slowest corners, especially in the main stages of acceleration. From these characteristics, it is reasonable to suggest that the VF-23 is heavier or that its suspension setup is not well optimized.

During the race, although the abrasive Bahrain pitch was an anomaly, Haas was hampered by difficulties managing the Pirelli.

Things weren’t so serious in Saudi Arabia until Australia’s red flags muddied the waters. During the stoppage, Haas maintained strong straight-line performance and enjoyed a clearly strong DRS advantage. This should carry over well to the high-speed final sector in Baku. While overall downforce is less inspiring, Haas will wait until Spain to introduce the upgrade.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

high mountain

Alpine initially failed to achieve its goal of going straight back to fourth. But it can still deliver on its promise, outpacing all other teams with an impressive track record of successful car updates in 2022 (which correlates strongly with wind tunnel simulations).

The current Challenger has so far proven more reliable than its points-wasting predecessor. But in terms of seasonal development, the A523 will benefit from superior peak downforce. So far, it has proven to be a jack of all trades, but a jack of all trades.

Some of its wide operating window may be sacrificed for a higher performance ceiling in favor of star performer Aston Martin. This was underscored by the fact that the Alps were faster in a straight line and ended up losing out to Fernando Alonso’s new employers in the more tortuous middle section of Bahrain and Australia.

McLaren MCL60's Lando Norris leads McLaren MCL60's Oscar Piastri and Ferrari SF-23's Carlos Sainz

McLaren MCL60’s Lando Norris leads McLaren MCL60’s Oscar Piastri and Ferrari SF-23’s Carlos Sainz

Photography: Jack Grant / motorsport pictures


Baku is vital for McLaren. Hopes have been pinned on a major upgrade in Azerbaijan to revive fortunes since management stressed the need for a “realistic” winter car launch. The language has been toned down recently, as the team now says several software packages are required, and due to the particular nature of the street circuit, the changes may not yield immediate improvements.

Cornering balance must be improved as the MCL60 still suffers from the same unpredictable behavior as the 2022 car, causing the driver to lose confidence and be inconsistent.

Expect major floor changes. These should help address the overall downforce deficit that has left the McLaren trailing Mercedes-engined customer Aston Martin in most mid-to-high speed corners so far.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photography: Ferrari


The unreliability of knocking out Charles Leclerc in Bahrain, the two-car straight-line loss in Saudi Arabia and the failed strategy of qualifying in Australia suggest that Ferrari has still not addressed its major operational flaws from last season. But specific to the SF-23 is the lack of downforce.

Ferrari hopes to close the gap with Red Bull in a straight line at the end of 2022. It does this through the winter by sacrificing peak cornering performance.

This results in a car that’s every bit as twitchy as its capricious predecessor. But last year’s machine was particularly troublesome for Carlos Sainz in controlling the rear axle, and this time around, both drivers struggled to manage a lazy front end. Bahrain’s rough pavement exacerbated the understeer.

A tweaked floor with raised edges and revised front wing end panels broke cover in Saudi Arabia. The early introductions combined with Ferrari’s good feeling for Baku mean there will be no updates this weekend, with arrivals expected in Miami, Imola and Barcelona instead.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

mercedes benz

Mercedes will have to wait until the Emilia Romagna GP for a series of potentially game-changing updates. While it’s easy to get sucked into talk of new car concepts that pave the way for the sidepod’s return, cost caps and crash-test constraints start with a completely blank sheet of paper.

This means that Lewis Hamilton will continue to feel “disconnected” from the cockpit being too far forward relative to the front axle. The seating position – dictated by a novel exposed crash structure, zero-scale sidepods and engine cooling package – is highly unlikely to change before 2024.

So to address complaints of basic handling imbalances caused by the car being too far forward, Mercedes will have to improve rear-end stability in the short term. Revised suspension components are already in the works to improve mechanical grip, and the next step to keep the rear more planted is to bring more downforce to the rear of the W14.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

aston martin

Key to Aston Martin’s stellar start to the campaign is its low-speed performance. Few can match how late Fernando Alonso was able to hit the brakes, then quickly hit the gas and start accelerating out of tight corners. This is the case from Bahrain all the way to Australia.

But the AMR23 did suffer a lot in the straight line, although Alonso didn’t stray far from third, despite the very different characteristics of the three circuits. During one lap of the fluid Jeddah street circuit, Red Bull’s 9 mph gap was seen at three different points.

Aston is a drag car, suggesting rear height and improving the top aerodynamic surface should be the main areas of focus for the Silverstone team. However, Mercedes’ enduring struggle with the 2022 W13 shows that high drag may be at the heart of the design philosophy, and it’s harder to eliminate.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

red bull

When it came to passing team-mate Sergio Perez for the fastest lap in Saudi Arabia, Max Verstappen shaved around two seconds off his time in the final Tour race. This, and a quick eight-second advantage in Australia ahead of the tempo-holding station, showed Red Bull had the pace to spare. Once it has its pit windows covered, attention turns to maintaining the Pirelli and protecting the car.

The distorted picture and RB19’s impeccable qualifying and victory record made it difficult to spot weaknesses. It had the advantage on Saturday and then played well in terms of pace of play. Good car balance helps keep the tyres alive, allowing Red Bull to stay strong towards the end of the race without significant drops in lap times.

Much better in a straight line than sister team and Honda engine rider AlphaTauri, which also speaks to aerodynamic efficiency.

While it’s not part of a traditional seasonal development arms race, Red Bull is vulnerable to unreliability. Verstappen’s Q2 exit in Saudi Arabia with gearbox failure was the saddest of all, although the two-time champion has been complaining about having to deal with various downshifts in practice and the Grand Prix.


Vandoorne to drive Aston Martin F1 car in Pirelli tyre test at Spa




Aston reserve driver Vandoorne will share driving duties with team principal Lance Stroll, while Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will each drive a day for McLaren.

It will be the Belgian’s first time driving an active F1 car on track since December 2020 when he represented Mercedes in Abu Dhabi testing.

While the Spa test will focus on Pirelli’s no-carpet tyres, it will give Vandoorne a valuable opportunity to sample the 2023 car, helping him correlate with Aston Martin’s simulator work.

If either Stroll or Fernando Alonso were unwell at any point for the rest of the season, his life would also be made easier.

The 31-year-old shared the Aston substitute with defending Formula Two champion Felipe Drugovich, and the two took turns on call.

Dubovic drove the AMR23 for two days during the Bahrain test in February, when Stroll was not present, and he had the opportunity to test drive the AMR23. Since then, the Brazilian has continued to rack up more miles in private testing of the 2021 car.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

As well as his role at Aston, Vandoorne is one of McLaren’s backup drivers and his performance at Spa will also make it easier for him to step into the MCL60 should the need arise.

As well as giving him a general feel for downforce levels for 2023, the two cars share the Mercedes powerplant and thus have similar settings on their respective steering wheels.

Also read:

Vandoorne made his F1 debut for McLaren in Bahrain in 2016, replacing current Aston team-mate Alonso.

He then completed two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first with Honda power and the second with Renault. He finished 16th at the World Championships in both seasons, with a best finish of seventh.

He was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2018, but has since rebuilt his career in Formula E, winning the 2021-22 championship for Mercedes and serving as an F1 substitute.

He currently drives for the DS Penske Formula E team and is also a substitute for the Peugeot WEC team.

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McLaren “true contenders” for F1 best of the rest tag




McLaren has only scored one point after three rounds in 2023 as it struggles to find the car competitive.

But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have seen plenty of upgrades in recent races, allowing the former to finish second in a row, while Piastri has finished in the top five in each of his past two races.

Despite being 136 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Russell believes McLaren is a real threat for the remainder of the race behind leaders Red Bull.

“Obviously they’re a real contender for second fastest team,” Russell said of Woking.

“Oddly enough, Aston Martin was clearly second at the start of the year.

“And they don’t seem to be that competitive now. Ferrari haven’t made much progress. McLaren has made huge progress.

“So without McLaren we’d be very, very happy with the progress we’ve made. Leading the midfield, widening the gap and closing in on Red Bull.

“McLaren has just fully embraced it. But that makes you optimistic that bigger strides are possible.

“I believe in my team. I think it gives us the confidence and optimism to take this step towards Red Bull.

“We’re not too focused on McLaren, Aston or Ferrari. We’re focused on Red Bull. We’re trying to make that big step.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

Russell fought his way back from 18th on the grid at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, jumping to sixth at the checkered flag after Mercedes strategists told him 11th was his favorite.

Russell was pleased with the final result, but felt it was “proof” of a “missed opportunity” for Hungary.

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“The strategy tells me that if we maximize everything, the P11 is the most realistic, the P7 is the most realistic,” Russell told Autosport.

“Sixth place without a safety car, without a VSC, it’s a really great result.

“But it also proved that this weekend could be a missed opportunity. I believe I could have gone there with Lewis yesterday, it’s one of my favorite circuits and the car always does well here.

“When you have two cars out there, fighting for second gives you more options, and Lewis is also very strong. If things turned out a little differently, he would also be P2.

“So as a missed opportunity we will learn from it. But the positive side is we are leading Aston and Ferrari.”

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Top speed, car sizes, race weekends and more compared




Formula 1 has relied on junior classes to develop the next generation of drivers, and its teams are eager to snag their brightest talent.

The ‘old’ Formula 2 car was a ruleset rather than its own separate entity, sometimes sharing the grid with F1, and later rule changes made the two cars separate championships.

The second class was renamed the F3000 in 1985 as the series switched to a naturally aspirated engine formula and extended the life of the earlier Cosworth DFV lineage. Throughout the life of the F3000, different engine and chassis suppliers came and went, with companies including Reynard, Lola, Ralt and March among them, all producing cars before the championship became a single specification.

When the F3000 championship began to fade due to declining team interest and declining track quality, the second level of racing was reborn in 2005. Bernie Ecclestone tried to bring the junior championship to F1’s bottom line and, along with Flavio Briatore and Bruno Michel, helped build the GP2 series.

GP2 became the FIA ​​Formula Two Championship in 2017, but many key hallmarks of GP2’s early series have stood the test of time. The GP3 series, a third-tier category designed to compete with the myriad Formula 3 championships around it, was added to the F1 Act in 2010 and became FIA ​​Formula 3 in 2019.

There are major differences in the way F2 is run compared to F1, there are subtle changes in form and there are big differences in the overall performance of the cars. The following are the key areas of comparison between F1 and F2.

F1 vs. F2 – key differences


Formula 1

Formula Two

top speed

220+ mph

208 mph

Minimum weight including driver

798 kg

788 kg




engine size

1.6 liter V6

3.4 liter V6

Approximate Power

1,000 horsepower

620 hp

car size

5.63m x 2m x 0.95m

5.22m x 1.9m x 1.09m

tire size

18 inches

18 inches

game every weekend

One (two for sprint weekends)

Two (one sprint, one feature)

game length

305 km/190 miles

Sprint – 120 km/74.5 miles

Features – 170 km/105.6 miles






twenty two

2023 Pole Times – Red Bull Ring

1 point 04.391

1 meter 14,643

2023 Pole Times – Monaco

1 meter 11.365

1 meter 21.053

2023 Pole Times – Silverstone

1 meter 26.720

1 meter 39,832

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

What is the difference between F1 and F2 racing?

In F1, each team designs its own chassis according to a set of well-defined technical regulations laid down by the FIA. For the 2022 ruleset, the FIA ​​has updated the wording of the rules to better define the bounding box within which bodies can be developed and build a system more in line with the proliferation of available CAD products.

It features a range of safety systems such as a roll cage, halo and anti-intrusion panels mounted around the monocoque. There are also anti-collision structures on the side, front and rear of the car to minimize the impact on the driver in the car.

F2 is a single-spec series with all teams using the Dallara F2 2018 model. The car and driver must weigh a minimum of 788kg and feature F1 standard safety features such as the aforementioned crash structures and halos. Use only parts supplied by Dallara, Hewland or sold by F2 promoters.

F2 cars use floor venturi tunnels, which F1 adopts in 2022, 40 years after banning ground-effect aerodynamics. These designs aren’t as extreme as those in F1, but they work on the same principle, and the car is also enhanced with front and rear wings to create downforce. Like F1, F2 cars are fitted with a Drag Reduction System (DRS), which operates on the same parameters as its parent series.

While F1 cars typically reach speeds in excess of 220 mph during a race, with DRS switched on, an F2 car could theoretically hit 208 mph at full low downforce.

What is the difference between F1 and F2 tires?

Pirelli supplies all championships on the official F1 ladder, and F2 and F3 also use the Italian company’s rubber.

F2 started using 18-inch tires in 2020, two years before entering F1. F2 tires are slightly narrower than F1 tires and generally have less grip because of the naturally lower speeds of the junior series cars.

There are four dry-weather tire compounds for the F2: hard, medium, soft and supersoft – with the first three using the same white, yellow and red color coding as the F1. Extra soft textures are indicated by purple text on the side walls. Each car is supplied with five sets of dry weather tires per wheel, consisting of two of the prescribed compounds, with a set of “premium” tires to be returned after practice. Three sets of wet tires are also available – the F2 has no intermediate compound.

Tire blankets are banned in F2, meaning drivers must warm up their tires naturally. This often creates a larger offset during the pit stops, with drivers leaving the pits vulnerable to those who have already completed laps in the new group.

The “primary” and “option” compounds (harder tires are the main tires and softer tires are the options) must be used during featured races, and pit stops are required to replace them. Tire parking is allowed during a sprint, but not mandatory. Since only two dry compounds are used each weekend, Pirelli and F2 decide which tire to use before the weekend. There may be a single step in the compound (for example, medium and soft), or there may be a larger step for greater excursions (for example, medium and extra soft).

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

Photography: Sutton Images

What is the difference between F1 and F2 powertrains?

F1 has used a turbo-hybrid system since 2014, with a turbocharger and a motor-generator set on the rear axle to form a hybrid package. The internal combustion engine is a 1.6-liter V6. By 2022, F1 engines run on E10 fuel, where 10% of the fuel composition consists of combustibles of biosourced origin.

The MGU-K in an F1 car can produce up to 160bhp for a total power output of around 1000bhp. Figures for F1’s current four powertrain manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Powertrain) vary but are all believed to have efficiencies in excess of 50%.

F2’s single-spec powertrain is produced by French manufacturer Mecachrome, which briefly participated in F1 in 1998 and 1999, and took over Renault’s engine program. The Mecachrome unit was a 3.4-litre V6 engine, virtually the same one used in the F3, but with a modified turbocharger from Van der Lee. It produces around 620bhp and is driven by a six-speed Hewland gearbox.

To ensure fairness in powertrain supply, Mecachrome units are randomly assigned to teams, as there may be minor differences in overall power output.

F2 is currently being used as a test bed to assist F1 in developing more sustainable fuel, using Aramco-produced fuel with 55% of its content from sustainable bio-sources, with the aim of increasing this figure to 100% by 2026/27. The Saudi oil brand replaced longtime supplier Elf as the sole producer of the F2 fuel.

How much does F1 cost compared to F2?

In recent years, Formula 1 has been constrained by a cost cap of about $135 million through 2023, with some minor adjustments for inflation and other ancillary costs. The cost cap covers most development and operating costs, but excludes driver salaries, salaries of the team’s three highest-paid employees, travel costs and marketing expenses. As Red Bull found out in 2022, violating this cap carries a range of penalties depending on the extent of the overrun.

The bulk of this budget comes from the FIA’s prize money, investment and sponsorship mix. Some teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, are self-sufficient in terms of bonuses and sponsors and do not require direct input from their ownership structures.

F2 teams have much smaller budgets, and with the series’ fairly limited reach, teams will rarely start the season with a full sponsor portfolio ready to fund every race. As such, drivers should pay for their rides through their own sponsors or a driver academy.

Depending on the team, the budget of an F2 driver can vary from 2 million to 3 million euros, and can even exceed this budget to get a seat in a better team. To keep costs down, F2 limited the number of employees working on each car on race weekends and designed the cars to be relatively cheap. A team can buy a complete F2 car, without the engine, for around 500,000 euros.

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

How do drivers get from F2 to F1?

To compete in F2, drivers must hold an A or B international FIA license. They cannot conduct private tests on F2 machines, only the group tests offered by the series. There are also restrictions on the single-seater cars that drivers can test in private, and if a driver is double-duty in another category, they must commit to racing in F2 in the event of any conflict.

Depending on a driver’s final standing at the end of the F2 season, they may receive Superlicense points to help qualify for F1. To obtain a super license to compete in F1, a driver needs to earn 40 points.

The distribution of Super License points is:

end of season position

SL points

first place


second place


third place


fourth place


the fifth place


sixth place


Number 7


number 8




No. 10


These can be applied cumulatively over the course of three seasons.

F1 VS F2 weekend format

F1 has been running in the same basic format for years, with FP1 and FP2 taking place on Fridays, each one hour long. FP3 races are also one hour long and take place on the Saturday before the three-stage qualifying format in place since 2006. F1 races must be at least 305 kilometers in length (excluding Monaco) and must not exceed two hours in duration, with a three-hour window if any red flags are raised.

However, sprint weekends are different and that changes for 2023. The only practice session kicked off with Friday’s race, followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Sprint qualifying and the race are both held on Saturdays, with 2023 seeing six sprint weekends for added variety.

F2 has a practice session lasting 45 minutes on Friday, with a half-hour qualifying session later in the day. It’s effectively a time trial and drivers just need to maintain the fastest lap at the end of the race to secure pole for Sunday’s race.

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

The sprint race takes place on Saturday, using the same grid as qualifying, but with the top ten swapped. The number of laps “equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 120 km (100 km in Monaco)”, according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, the score is finally dropped to eighth place, and the fastest lap points are awarded to the top 10 competitors.

The F2 weekend’s featured race “should be equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 170km (140km in Monaco, 160km in Budapest)”. It features mandatory pit stops where drivers must use both primary and optional compounds during the race. If a driver pits before completing the sixth lap, the mandatory stop does not count. This information is also not recorded if a driver stops under the Virtual Safety Car unless they are already in the pits when the VSC is triggered.

F2 attempted three weekend races in 2021, but the practice was generally unpopular and canceled for 2022 due to gaps left on the calendar. Prior to this, the main race was held on Saturday, and the starting position of the sprint race was determined by the results and the reversal of the top eight.

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