Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The last great challenge of Fernando Alonso

The wait is over. This Friday starts in bahrain a new season of Formula 1, – the 74th since the world championship was inaugurated in 1950 -, which will reach a historical record of 23 grand prix, including a third in US territory, in the lavish setting of the city of Las Vegas. One week after the pre-season tests held at the circuit of sakhir all indications project a script similar to last year, with overwhelming dominance by Red Bull and its two-time champion max verstappenwhich at first glance seems unapproachable, while Ferrari and Mercedes start again as the most direct competition for those of Milton Keynes. The surprise of the tests was carried out by Fernando Alonso and Aston Martinthat if they confirm the good impression of its official premiere, they could be fighting regularly in the ‘top six’ and even aspire to more in certain circuits.

Alonso and Sainz raise the bar

Last year F1 faced one of the most drastic revisions to its sports regulations and although a priori this year should serve to consolidate these regulations, significant developments are also expected, both at a technical level, as well as in the calendar and in the line-ups of the equipment. For Spanish fans, one of the great incentives is the new adventure that begins alonsoat 41 years old, in the ranks of Aston Martin. The Asturian grabs headlines but Carlos Sainz does not lag behind. if the new Ferrari is as powerful as it is presumed and manages to mitigate his degradation problems, the driver from Madrid will have a real opportunity to fight for the title. During the only three days of preseason rehearsals in Bahrain, Red Bull managed to once again intimidate his rivals, but in Maranello They are still focused to try to catch up with them: “The car of Max it looks very good, they are the fastest, they already were and perhaps they have gone one step further, but our goal is to be at their level”, he assured Sainzwho at 28 years old is facing his ninth year in F1 and the third dressed in red.

The simulation of the last day of testing in Bahrain left Aston Martin as the fourth best team, threatening the third of Mercedes. Even alonsovery cautious in the presentation of his new car, changed registration and dared to ‘inflate the balloon’ after the pre-season, pointing out that “in the race simulation and under the same conditions we were faster than Ferrari”.

Fernando, the oldest driver on the grid, is also the one who has contested the most grand prizes (355). About to start his 20th season in F1, he maintains the illusion of a ‘rookie’ and has managed to spread his desire and motivation to the Aston Martin staff, conveying a message of hope to his fans, who have already made the ‘viral’ 33′ (for the 32 victories that Fernando has so far)

The actual ‘photo’

The test times give us a rough estimate, a ‘photo’ that could change when the lights go out in the opening race this Sunday. In the last few hours, boxes with tons of material and new parts for the equipment have not stopped arriving. Mercedes It was one of the teams that sowed the most doubts in the tests. They started with a hydraulic failure in the car of George Russell, although they finished with lewis hamilton perched in second place on the time table, less than four tenths off the best time of Sergio Perez with the RB19.

After eight consecutive constructor titles in the hybrid era, those of the star did not find the ‘key’ in 2022. Now they are looking to recover their status with their new W14 single-seater, which if we stick to the words of their technical director Mike Elliott, It will be one of the most updated with respect to what was seen in preseason “It will not be a solution copied from others, it will be our own improved version”, he promises.

technical changes

Aerodynamics was redefined last year with the drastic rule change, bringing cars back to ground effect for the first time since 1982 in a bid to eliminate the ‘dirty air’ that made it difficult for drivers to keep up with rivals. that preceded it and enhance the ‘hand-to-hand’ battles. The 18-inch wheels also returned and the DRS remained, keeping a close eye on the teams’ budget ceiling.

Despite all the changes the cars were overall only a second slower than in 2021 and there were still significant performance gaps between the big teams on the grid and the smaller teams. What’s more, from the splendid pulse that they maintained Verstappen and hamilton two years ago and that was decided, with controversy, in the last lap of the last race in Abu Dhabi, It passed in 2022 to a total hegemony of the Dutchman, who won his second crown with four grand prizes early and a record of 15 victories in 22 races.

As if that were not enough, the teams had many difficulties to solve the so-called ‘porpoising’ or rebound derived from ground effect, which forced the FIA ​​to introduce changes to try to solve the problem. Continuing in this direction, the cars are raised 15 millimeters and the ends of the flat bottom are reinforced to prevent oscillations. There are also small modifications when it comes to the anti-roll system and the front wings. The minimum weight of the single-seaters is set at 798 kilos, that of the engine and Pirelli tires increases.

renovated grill

The grill also presents outstanding innovations. Pierre Gasley arrives at Alpine to form a one hundred percent French duo with Esteban Ocon after goodbye Fernando Alonsowhich faces a major and motivating challenge in Aston Martin. Gasly’s seat in AlphaTauri lor occupies nyck devrieswho finally fulfills his dream of playing a full season in F1 after his successful debut williams at Monza in 2022.

To all this we must add the goodbye of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo (now a reserve at Red Bull), in addition to the march of Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher, who has found refuge as a Mercedes tester while his seat at Haas is occupied by the veteran Nico Hulkenberg.

Among the novelties stands out the arrival of the most talented ‘rookie’ of the anteroom categories, champion in F3 and F2, the Australian Oscar Piastri, which opens in McLaren to form a new and young duo with Lando Norris. Another rookie is logan sergeantwho inaugurates his stage in Williams and becomes the only American driver in the current F1, in full expansion of the championship in American territory.

This is the grid of F1 2023

Alfa Romeo: Valtteri-Bottas Guanyu Zhou

Alpine: Esteban Ocon-Pierre Gasly

alpha: Tauri Nyck de Vries-Yuki Tsunoda

Aston-Martin: Lance Stroll-Fernando Alonso

Ferrari Charles Leclerc-Carlos Sainz

Haas. Kevin Magnussen-Nico Hulkenberg

McLaren: Lando Norris-Oscar Piastri

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton-George Russell

Red Bull: Max Verstappen-Checo Perez

Williams: Alex Albon-Logan Sargeant

The three ‘big’ keep their lineup: Ferrari they still have Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz; Mercedes, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton; and the champions Red Bull, they continue with the duo that has returned the constructors’ crown to them, with the two-time champion Max Verstappen and the Mexican Sergio Pérez.

Winter has also left important changes on the walls. Mattia Binotto‘father’ of the Ferrari with which Leclerc and Sainz they will try to challenge the champions Verstappen and Red Bull, left his position at the helm of the Scuderia, which he now directs Frederic Vasseur, former Alfa Romeo. The French engineer was one of the promoters of the Monegasque driver’s career, who in 2022 finished as runner-up. the reputed Andreas Seild happens to succeed Vasseur in Alfa Romeo-Sauber and in turn has been relieved in McLaren by Andrea Stella.

record schedule

The 2023 Formula 1 calendar is the longest in history, with a total of 23 races scheduled compared to 22 for the 2022 season. Chinese GP It was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions and will finally have no replacement this season, so the forecast of reaching 24 races will have to wait. the circuit of Losail in Qatar he returns to the World Cup, although the most ‘noted’ incorporation is that of Las Vegas Grand Prix, which brings the appointments in the United States to three this year and promises to be even more spectacular than the premiere in Miami in 2022. The sprint races will also rise to six (100 km, on Saturdays to establish the grid for Sunday), which will be will dispute in Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, Austin and Brazil.

All the 2023 Grands Prix

Bahrain GP (Sakhir) March 5; Saudi Arabian GP (Jeddah) March 19; Australian GP (Albert Park Melbourne) April 2; Azerbaijan GP (Baku) April 30

Miami GP (Miami) May 7; Emilia Romagna GP (Imola) May 21; Monaco GP (Monaco) May 28; Spanish GP (Barcelona) June 4; Canadian GP (Montreal-Gilles Villeneuve) June 18; Austrian GP (Red Bull Ring-Spielberg) July 2; British GP (Silverstone) July 9; Hungarian GP (Hungaroring-Budapest) July 23; Belgian GP (Spa-Francorchamps) July 30; Dutch GP (Zandvoort) August 27; Italian GP (Monza) September 3; Singapore GP (Marina Bay) September 17; Japan GP (Suzuka) September 24; Qatar GP (Losail) October 8; United States GP (Austin) Oct. 22; Mexican GP (Rodríguez brothers) October 29; Brazilian GP (Interlagos) November 5; Las Vegas GP (Las Vegas) November 18; Abu Dhabi GP (Yas Marina) November 26


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