We’re getting to the very pointy end of the 2023 F1 season, as another round is in the books.
There may have been no surprises as to who the winner was in both races this weekend, but is the field getting closer despite the continued Red Bull dominance?
Let’s find out that and more in our latest edition of F1 talking points.
A close, strategic and entertaining race
Have to say, that was a weirdly enjoyable race.
Sure, there weren’t massive on track battles or surprise results and Max Verstappen winning isn’t a shock at all, but it was calculated and tense and had some elements to it that were just engaging to watch.
The early lead by Lando Norris was exciting (despite this Ferrari fan once again being disappointed that the pole went to waste in a matter of metres) and then the strategic battles that ensued afterwards between Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren made it captivating to watch. As did the lower field battles, with multiple teams trying out differing strategies to a variety of different results.
I’ve said multiple times in this column that you don’t always need a ding dong overtaking battle in Formula 1 to produce an exciting race. Sometimes you simply need some interesting strategy and drivers doing what they can to live up to it in order to really provide a good race.
It made getting up very early on a Monday morning worth it.
Norris so close, yet so far
Oh Lando. Once again the win was there, and once again it wasn’t to be.
A great start by Norris off the line to take the lead before leading 21 of the 65 laps was a great effort by him, as initially it looked like he could retain that lead with Verstappen not making his way through the field as quickly as many people anticipated.
Of course that ultimately didn’t hold true, with Max taking the lead on lap 28, before the pacy Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton also reeled in Norris.
And while his third on the track would turn into a second place after the disqualification of Hamilton, Norris still was somewhat happy but somewhat disappointed with his result that could’ve finally see him breakthrough for that elusive win in his 100th race.
It will come. There is no questioning that. He is far too good of a talent to not leave Formula 1 as a race winner. And perhaps more. Who knows. But given the rapid ascent of McLaren in the second half off this season, there is every chance it could come this year, or if not and the form of the team continues, early into the next season.
Sadly for Norris the two times McLaren have won a race since his tenure at the team, they have both come in the hands of an Aussie teammate. So perhaps he needs to worry about the nationality in the other side of the garage before finally being able to breakthrough for the win.
Verstappen’s historic season continues
Max Verstappen’s win in Austin made him a member of a very exclusive club: the 50 race win club.
With his 50th win in the sport he joins Alain Prost (51), Sebastian Vettel (53), Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103) as the only drivers to ever reach that milestone, a truly incredible feat that simply can’t be overlooked.
He also took his 15th win of the season, equalling his record from last year for most wins in a single season. With four rounds remaining, he will no doubt set a new benchmark for wins in a season which will be mighty hard to beat.
The disappointing fact of his historic win came from the chorus of boos from the Texas crowd as he accepted his trophy. Sure, people are annoyed at the dominance of one driver who constantly keeps winning, but they are witnessing history and greatness and only showcases the naivety and short mindedness of many modern F1 fans who can’t truly grasp the history they are witnessing and are expecting flashy, Netflix style action that simply isn’t what the sport is about.
Think about all of the amazing ‘GOAT’ conversation athletes we have in other sports over the last few years: Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Serena Williams, Sam Kerr, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Cristiano Ronaldo. Did any of these athletes ever get booed for simply doing what they do best and win and dominate? No. Well, maybe Novak but that’s for different reasons. The point being, only in F1 will you see fans boo greatness, which really is a blight on the sport.
In another record breaking win for the Dutchman we should be celebrating his achievements, and hopefully that time will come.
Sargeant finally breaks through
It took him 18 races to achieve but Logan Sargeant has finally scored his first points in F1.
A solid race by the American saw him finish 12th on the track, which ultimately became 10th after the disqualification for plank infringements of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.
In doing so, Sargeant became the first American to score points in Formula 1 since Michael Andretti finished third at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix. To make it even sweeter, it was done at one of his three home races.
While Sargeant is yet to be confirmed for 2024 and the jury is still out over just how his performance has been across the season, it’s a great achievement and result for the American who will be hoping it’s just the start of things to come.
Stroll shines, but wheres the plaudits?
Have to close out with a mention of F1’s poster boy for fan vitriol, Lance Stroll.
Stroll, alongside teammate Fernando Alonso, weren’t looking like they were going to have a great weekend with the new upgrades to their Aston Martin’s not providing them with improvements they hoped for.
To counter this, Alonso reverted back to the old spec Aston while Stroll kept the new upgrades, with Alonso seemingly better off for it.
Come race day though, both made their way through the field after starting from the pits, each on differing strategies to help them make it through the field.
While Alonso would ultimately retire with an undertray issue on lap 49, Stroll made steady progress to find himself deep in the hunt for points late in the race, and even fighting behind Pierre Gasly for at the time what was eighth place before finishing ninth on track and seventh after the Hamilton & Leclerc disqualifications.
It was a great drive by Stroll who navigated his way through the race to bring some solid points home for him and his team.
But of course, did anybody notice? Of course not.
This is always the frustration that comes with fans and Lance Stroll. He does something that is remotely perceived as bad, he is ripped into as the devil incarnate of F1 who is only there because his daddy owns a team. Does something good which proves his skillset and why he is thoroughly deserving of a spot in F1, absolute radio silence.
Stroll is a driver who is never going to win driver of the day no matter what he does, but I guarantee you had any other driver started in the pit lane and then finished in seventh, they would’ve taken that award, not Norris.
It’s okay Lance, there are some people out there who do notice. You’re welcome.
Round 18 F1 team power rankings: The closeness continues
The team power rankings in the F1 world continue to get interesting. Not for top spot, but for every other spot below it. How will this be shown this week after the US Grand Prix? We’re about to find out.
Quick disclaimer as always. With any power rankings, these are subjective and based purely on opinion mixed with results. Are these 100 per cent accurate? Inside my mind, yes! Outside of it, no. But it’s a nice way to spark some discussion, showcase some form and allow a conversation that brings F1 fans closer together – and maybe also further apart at the same time.
Are these 100 per cent accurate? Inside my mind, yes! Outside of it, no. But it’s a nice way to spark some discussion, showcase some form and allow a conversation that brings F1 fans closer together – and maybe also further apart at the same time. Fun, right? Always!
Now that’s over with, let’s get to the rankings.
5. Alpine (-)
Solid points for the team from Gasly in both the sprint and the main race help maintain their position in fifth place.
4. Ferrari (-1)
Feels harsh to drop them a spot given they got a pole position and two third places over the weekend but it’s also hard not to when both McLaren and Mercedes seemingly had the measure of them all weekend. Continues to show just how close the three teams behind Red Bull are right now.
3. McLaren (-1)
Lando was on fire all weekend while Oscar had so many things go against him that it was just never going to work out for him. Still, another podium for the team makes it four races in a row they’ve tasted champagne.
2. Mercedes (+1)
Had there been a couple more laps of the race, Mercedes would’ve won the United States Grand Prix. Sure, it would’ve been a win that would’ve been ultimately taken from them, but it was still a strong showing by the team which can only give them hope that there is more to come.
1. Red Bull (-)
Even when they start back in the pack and have technical issues, they win. Lock them in for this spot for the remainder of the year.
Round 18 F1 driver power rankings: Sir Lewis ascends once more
Now that the team rankings are done, it’s time to get to the driver power rankings after the US Grand Prix. And just like the team rankings, there’s plenty of interesting movement behind the obvious number one.
As always, disclaimer time. With any power rankings, these are subjective and based purely on opinion mixed with results. Are these 100 per cent accurate? Inside my mind, yes! Outside of it, no. But it’s a nice way to spark some discussion, showcase some form and allow a conversation that brings F1 fans closer together – and maybe also further apart at the same time. Fun, right? Always!
To make it extra interesting on the drivers front, rather than rank all 20 drivers on the grid, I have made it more streamlined and easier by simply bringing the top 5 drivers.
Now that’s over with, let’s get to the rankings.
5. George Russell (-1)
George didn’t have a bad weekend, his teammate just had a much better one. He was still able to get points though and help the team stay ahead of Ferrari, which is where the fight lies right now.
4. Charles Leclerc (+1)
For both Charles and Lewis their disqualifications don’t affect their finishing positions here. For Charles, it was a solid weekend. Another pole position and a sixth before the DQ were decent, and although he continues to be frustrated over not being able to turn the poles into wins, he still is showcasing his skill and talent and what he is capable of.
3. Lando Norris (-)
Another great weekend from Lando. That win is so close he can taste it. The good news for him that in his 100th race, he still has 90 more to go before he breaks the record for longest time in F1 until their first win! So he’s got time!
2. Lewis Hamilton (+5)
A great weekend by Sir Lewis. So close to that breakthrough win to break the drought, which would’ve come had there been a few more laps (and the floor was legal). By far his best weekend all season.
1. Max Verstappen (-)
Damage his car, make him frustrated and angry, and he will still win. If only the crowd at Austin could appreciate his achievements.
What do you think of these rankings? Do you agree with the positions? Let me know what you think in the comments below.