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Max Verstappen and Red Bull have dominated the 2023 Formula 1 season, with both having already clinched their titles, the third for the Dutchman and the sixth for the Austrian manufacturer.
There are still ongoing fights, though, as just four more Grand Prix weekends remain in the season and we will look at the most important ones in detail.
F1 2023 battles: Sergio Perez vs Lewis Hamilton
One of the most unexpected battles as we head to the final few weekends of the season is the one between Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton for second in the drivers’ championship. The Mexican had a clear lead over the Brit earlier on, but his struggles in recent weekends have made this battle much closer.
Perez had a good start in 2023, driving the dominant Red Bull RB19, until a drop in form in the middle part of the season meant he was unable to even challenge for podiums and the seven-time champion closed the gap. Following the Sprint in Qatar, the gap was down to 29 points, but Hamilton’s crash on the opening lap the next day helped Perez, despite him finishing just tenth.
After the last race, in Austin, it looked like Hamilton would be just 19 points behind his opponent after finishing second in both the Sprint and the Grand Prix. However, the plank of his floor failed scrutineering, and he was disqualified. So he will enter Mexico 39 points behind the Red Bull driver.
Hamilton still has time to catch up, although for that to happen he will be hoping Perez continues to struggle, while he will need to avoid mistakes. A victory, his first since 2021, would also help massively in his bid. The Mexican has to secure second place, as rumours about his future – if he misses out – have gotten louder in recent weeks.
F1 2023 battles: Mercedes vs Ferrari
There is a battle for second in the constructors’ championship as well, between Mercedes and Ferrari. In this battle, there was the involvement of Aston Martin early in the season, but its drop in form has meant that it has even fallen to fifth, behind McLaren, which was nowhere in the opening few races.
Mercedes looked like it was in a great situation heading to the summer break, as Ferrari was 56 points back. However, great results for the Scuderia in Monza and Singapore (where they won) more than halved the deficit. Since then, they have been quite evenly matched, both in form and in points.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 17, 2023
Each team saw a car disqualified from the race in Austin, where Hamilton had finished second, while Charles Leclerc was sixth after starting from pole position, a consequence of bad strategy. The gap now stands at just 22 points.
There is plenty at stake here, aside from pride since each team’s payout after the season is based on where they finish in the constructors’ championship. Despite both teams being among the best-funded in the sport, a swing of around 12 million dollars will not be an insignificant amount for either one.
F1 2023 battles: Alfa Romeo vs Haas vs Alpha Tauri
The aforementioned prize money becomes much more important when it comes down to teams which operate with less money. Thus, the battle between Alfa Romeo, Haas and Alpha Tauri, which could also be described as “the battle to avoid last”, is very important to those teams.
Points scoring opportunities for those three teams are few and far between, as is apparent by their point totals: 16 for Alfa Romeo, 12 for Haas and 10 for Alpha Tauri. The Swiss outfit scored six points after a great run in Qatar, while the Italian one came away with a five-point haul in Austin, where Yuki Tsunoda finished eighth and scored the fastest lap.
Haas strength lies in their qualifying form, although the latest big upgrade, brought to the car last time out, may have changed that in a bid to help tyre management. For Alpha Tauri, a very strong outing in Austin will bring them a lot of encouragement, as will its strong pairing in Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo.
Alfa Romeo has been the most consistent of the three teams, but the strong performances required for them to score only come thanks to strategy in Qatar and a surprising qualifying performance in Hungary, where Guanyu Zhou finished fifth, with Valtteri Bottas in seventh.
Last year, tenth place went to Williams, which had scored only eight points and finished the season 27 points behind ninth-placed Alpha Tauri. This season, though, its fortunes have changed dramatically, as it has scored 26 points and is well clear of the battle behind.
F1 2023 battles: Fernando Alonso vs Carlos Sainz vs Lando Norris
Fernando Alonso may be finding himself just 18 points behind Lewis Hamilton. Still, the fact is that Aston Martin’s decline in performance means that the Spaniard is unlikely to challenge for third in the standings.
As a result, he will be looking backwards, as Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris are closing the gap. The Ferrari driver is 12 points behind his compatriot, while the McLaren one is another 12 further back. The three drivers’ forms are opposite to their positions in the standings, and so have been their fortunes in the season.
Alonso started off as the strongest between them, with six podiums in the first eight races, in an unexpected resurrection for him, as Aston Martin produced a great car early in the season. After Canada though, the car’s performance started dropping and the Spaniard has only had a single podium since.
At that point, McLaren brought an upgrade package that has pretty much made it the second-strongest car in the field. Five runner-up finishes in the season indicate how strong Norris has been since Austria, after scoring just twelve points in the first eight races of 2023.
In the meantime, Carlos Sainz has spent most of the season as the second-strongest driver of the three, behind either his compatriot or his former teammate. However, he has been the only driver of the three (and the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez) to win this season, something he achieved in Singapore.
Alonso will be trying his best to prevent losing fourth in the standings, so he cannot afford another disastrous weekend like the one in Austin. On the other hand, Norris is on red hot form, with four podiums in the last four races and is hungry for his first victory. Sainz is in the middle, hoping for his career-best result in the standings.
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