🧮 F1'23: Heavy lifting vs split shifting

Get comfy, here comes the mathy bit...

The 2023 Formula 1 season already seems very distant in the rear view mirrors. The season review will just be a slightly-smiling Dutchman listening to his national anthem, followed by the anthem of his employer, before trading not champagne with literally any other two drivers.

And Oscar Piastri did pretty well too, for a rookie.

But we can look at the points split in a bit more detail. This is not an original idea, nor is it mine, but this was one of the first concepts I wrote about way way back when this was written on Medium of all places. I remember writing this during a Sunday Night NFL game at 3am in the morning because a) I couldn’t sleep and b) I was embarrassed in case my wife found out (she now subscribes).

So embarrassed, in fact, I cannot seem to find the original anymore. Anyway, we move on, and this year, there are some interesting splits to focus on. First of all though, here’s the full grid, with the Alpha Tauri trio counting as one driver, kind of like the secret Pokemon you definitely couldn’t get at the start of the game.

Williams, Haas and Alpha Tauri all finished towards the bottom of the teams’ championship, so it’s not surprising that one driver did a lot of the heavy lifting here.

Alex Albon had a wonderful season, and to me is the big domino in the stupidly silly season F1 fans are due in 2024 - he could go to Ferrari, or Mercedes, or he might fancy a second crack at Red Bull, or he could stay where he is and drag Williams further forward. For Albon, his place on the grid is not the question, it’s who will his 2025 partner be? And where? Logan Sargeant gained just the solitary point and will have to progress.

He was the final driver confirmed on the grid as Williams use continuity as a weapon - but so did the teams around them. Alpha Tauri might yet change their name, but haven’t changed their drivers, with Yuki Tsunoda getting a fourth season at the team and Daniel Ricciardo winning the Royal Rumble for the other seat. Tsunoda scored 17 points for the team, acting as the anchor while the musical chairs played around him.

And perhaps that lack of stability was unhelpful. Alpha Tauri were one of two teams not to score a double-points finish in 2023. In fact, Alpha Tauri have not had a double points finish since Abu Dhabi 2021, which was definitely the most remarkable thing that happened in that race. What?

The other team without both drivers scoring in the same race was Haas, who eventually finished bottom. Kevin Magnussen’s three 10th places losing out to Nico Hulkenberg’s two points finishes (one in the Austrian sprint). Both drivers are probably in their final year with the team and a car that was so harsh on its tyres in a race, preventing any sustainable progress.

The real Gunther Steiner comedy is hopefully not watching them repeat those mistakes from their economical, but fun-sized pitwall.

Aston Martin are the real outliers here. Everyone thought this was going to be a season of change, with Fernando Alonso taking the fight to Red Bull and it would be the green machine up in lights on a few occasions in 2023. Wrong. The development race meant McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari all traded blows with Aston Martin just… being around.

It didn’t help that Alonso outscored Lance Stroll by nearly three points to one. In fact, had Stroll matched his two-time world champion teammate, Aston Martin would have finished second, meaning more prize money and the sponsors that are attracted to being with the best of the rest.

McLaren were a lot of fun to watch in the second half of 2023. Consecutive double podiums in Singapore and Qatar. Piastri winning the Qatar sprint and being overshadowed by Verstappen’s third world title, which in turn overshadowed Lando Norris suddenly being super harsh on himself. Norris was superbly consistent in his McLaren, with a crash in Vegas cutting a scoring streak of 12 races, finishing as runner up six times. Either him or Piastri must surely be the next first-time race winner, and if it’s Piastri, I do fear a little for Norris’ state of mind.

With Alfa Romeo Kick Stake Press Start Roll a Six F1 Racing Team (that’ll pad out the word count), I can’t work out if their 10-6 points split for Valtteri Bottas over Zhou Guanyu is because the Finnish driver is on the downturn of his career or if his younger teammate is on the upswing. Or both. Or neither and it’s just a bad car. The 2024 Sauber will be a pivotal year for them. The team’s best results were eighth, achieved by Bottas were in Bahrain and Qatar, so maybe the car did better when it was warm?

Then there’s Max Verstappen, who would have won the Teams’ Championship on his own with 575 points to his name. It’s a little unfair to compare anyone to Verstappen’s 2023 which must rank as one of the best seasons of all time, and yet Sergio Perez, in the same car, managed around 33% of the points. The argument is either the car is so dominant that Perez should have got closer, or that Max was so dominant, the car was less of a factor.

We end three fairly evenly matched sets of drivers. Mercedes saw a second winless season for Lewis Hamilton, but he outscored George Russell 58-42% on points for Mercedes. Russell took two podium finishes all season - the fewest in the top eight, and his late move in Singapore cost him another.

Crashes were the order of the day at Alpine too. Although Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon disagreed on almost everything, when they didn’t finish, they both didn’t finish. Four double DNFs was comfortably the most of any team. Yes, there were podium finishes for both drivers, but a season of upheaval at Team Enstone was best illustrated with the crash in Melbourne while both drivers were in the points.

And then we have Ferrari and Charles Leclerc outscoring Carlos Sainz by 0.74% - the closest by percentage. It might not seem like it, and there are many publicised reasons and memes why Ferrari’s failures are amplified beyond F1, and it will be seen as a terrible season by Ferrari’s standards, but there are some positives. Both drivers scored 200 or more points, both would be clear number ones at a few teams, and Carlos Sainz was the only man not in a Red Bull machine to win.

But, they scored 150 or so fewer points than 2021, they finished third, and there were clear signs of regression in strategy, with a playbook that seems to go at least to Plan F, and some individual comparisons - in 2022, Leclerc won Bahrain and Australia. In 2023, he retired from both.

2023 was a closer fight for Ferrari than 2022, and up and down the grid, that’s what fans want to see. History has shown that inter-team battles can be the most interesting, and when the title is involved, suddenly every move gets seen under a brightly-shining magnifying glass.

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