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Formula 1: Explosive team duels in the 2023 season

Six out of ten teams will start the 2023 season with a changed driver pairing. But not only the new duels promise a lot of explosives. We analyze where the most pressure is on the boiler this season.

Red Bull – Verstappen vs. Perez

For a long time it looked like there would be calm in the bull camp. But as soon as Sergio Pérez was able to keep up with top dog Max Verstappen at the beginning of the 2022 season, things suddenly got heated. Even if the official confirmation of those involved is still missing, there is a lot to suggest that Pérez intentionally drove his car into the wall in Monaco qualifying to spoil a possible counterattack for his team-mate. The tactic worked. Pérez won the classic, reducing the gap to the championship leader to just 15 points. He had already signed the contract extension a few days earlier.

In the second half of the season, Verstappen didn't give his team-mate a chance. When the World Cup title was bagged long ago, there was still a chance for a tit-for-tat in Brazil. Perez needed every point to finish runner-up. But Verstappen refused to swap places, which made the cracks in the intact Red Bull world visible. Pérez should now rather play the good water carrier. With Daniel Ricciardo, his possible replacement is already committed.

Ferrari - Leclerc vs. Sainz

Although Ferrari had a winning car for a long time in 2022, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz didn't quarrel. The reason for the harmony in the Scuderia camp was Sainz's weak start to the season, which ensured a clear distribution of roles early on. After the internal defeat in the first year together, Leclerc successfully countered in the stable duel with a 62-point lead. Especially in qualifying, the Monegasque didn't give his garage neighbor a chance. Sainz has to improve here next season if he doesn't want to be labeled number two again.

The change at the top of the team could cause explosiveness. Although Leclerc has been with the Scuderia for much longer, Mattia Binotto never gave privileges. Even when it was clear that it was going to be a world championship duel against Verstappen, directing the stable was not an issue. With Frédéric Vasseur, an old Leclerc friend is now at the helm. Leclerc already drove to the title in Vasseur's GP3 team ART in 2016. In 2018, both met again at Alfa Romeo in Formula 1.

Mercedes - Russell vs. Hamilton

Before the 2022 season, one had to fear that the harmony in the Silver Arrow stable would not last long. After the departure of Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton should feel more resistance for the first time since the Rosberg years. That promised dynamite. But although George Russell heated up the top dog and won the duel in the end, there was no trouble. Instead of attacking each other, both pilots preferred to complain about the technology together.The Silver Arrow was not a winning car for a long time. The motto was development work and not a title fight.

In the second half of the season, however, it was already clear that Russell had to nibble when he lost a few qualifying duels in a row. For his part, Hamilton may not have been thrilled that he had to let his team-mate go first in the only Mercedes victory in São Paulo. Both are not used to losing. If the car drives back to Red Bull level in 2023, the earthquake could still occur a year later.

Alpine – Ocon vs. Gasly

Everything stays the same for the big three teams, but behind them the driver carousel turned at a decent pace. Alpine actually wanted to continue with Fernando Alonso. When the Spaniard fled to Aston Martin, an attempt was made to promote Oscar Piastri. But the Australian had already put out feelers in the direction of McLaren. In the end, those responsible only had the option of buying Pierre Gasly out of his Red Bull contract with Alpha Tauri at a high price. The newcomer must now prove that he is not just a third choice and that he was beaten under Red Bull's B-Team.

With Esteban Ocon, however, Gasly gets an unpleasant opponent who likes to elbow out within the team. The duel between the two Frenchmen also has a long history. Even in the days of karting, there was a lot of noise on and off the track, which even quarreled with the families.

McLaren – Norris vs. Piastri

Andreas Seidl has had a quiet job at McLaren in recent years. The duel between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz was extremely harmonious for two seasons. And Daniel Ricciardo's commitment didn't cause any unrest either. The Australian could never keep up with top dog Norris in sport, so the roles were clearly divided. Norris only caused some resentment when he said that it wasn't his job to help his teammate on the jumps.

The signs have changed for the 2023 season. As Seidl's successor in the position of team boss, Andrea Stella now has to keep the shop together. And for the first time in his Formula 1 career, Norris will have a younger teammate at his side in Oscar Piastri. It will be interesting to see how this changes the dynamic. But real trouble only threatens if the newcomer can challenge the team captain directly. But that is not necessarily to be expected.

Alfa Romeo – Bottas vs. Zhou

Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou continue to occupy the two Alfa cockpits in Hinwil. The long-term Sauber plan actually envisaged replacing the Chinese with homegrown Théo Pourchaire in 2023. But in the end, the paydriver was rewarded for his low error rate and good race pace with a contract extension. However, Pourchaire cannot be put on the bench for the long term.Because it is clear that a cockpit must be free in 2024, things could get a little tougher between Bottas and Zhou from now on.

Last year the mood in the Sauber warehouse was still largely positive. After the last World Cup place before the great technology revolution, nobody could have expected that the C42 would suddenly mutate into a regular contender for points. Only the many technical failures caused the team management to be in a bad mood. Points were also regularly lost due to poor starting laps by Bottas and Zhou's initially weak qualifying pace.

Aston Martin – Stroll vs. Alonso

The four weakest teams from the previous year all changed driver personnel. At Aston Martin, however, you had to involuntarily change your plans when Sebastian Vettel announced his retirement shortly before the summer break. Team boss Mike Krack already had a suitable replacement on the line in Fernando Alonso.

While Vettel maintained a rather harmonious relationship with his teammates in the fall of his career after the turbulent early years at Red Bull, Alonso still clearly enjoys teasing internally. At Alpine, the Spaniard always kept the temperature at boiling point. The technicians got their fat away because of the many defects. And in the duel with Ocon, Alonso always thought of himself as the team captain, although the points table said otherwise. At Aston Martin, however, the double champion cannot shoot around so wildly. With Lance Stroll, the owner's son sits on the other side of the garage, who usually gets the right of way when it comes to upgrades.

Haas – Magnussen vs. Hülkenberg

Mick Schumacher never ran the risk of disrupting team harmony. Even in a duel with hotspur and constant teaser Nikita Mazepin, the youngster always had himself under control. With the signing of Nico Hülkenberg, team boss Günther Steiner is now relying on the experience factor. As far as communication is concerned, "Hülk" is rather direct in the Rhineland.

Ironically, his new teammate Kevin Magnussen already felt it. When Hülkenberg was still with Renault, the two clashed on and off the track. Magnussen dryly countered the accusation of unfair driving at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix with the now legendary sentence: "Suck my balls!" A good five years later, everyone involved can laugh about the incident. Both sides emphasize that the respect is there. Magnussen stated that he has developed into a real team player during his foray into the sports car scene in 2021. With a small racing team like Haas, everyone has to pull together.

Alpha Tauri – Tsunoda vs. De Vries

It's rare for a rookie to join a team and immediately become number one. Exactly this scenario threatens Alpha Tauri in 2023. With Nyck de Vries, no ordinary newcomer joins Red Bull's B-Team.At the age of 27, the Dutchman already has a lot of racing experience. He is highly decorated as a Formula 2 champion and Formula E world champion. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who is almost five years his junior, has covered more kilometers in a Formula 1 car with 42 Grand Prix starts.

There is a lot of explosiveness in this initial situation. Tsunoda is a small volcano that has erupted repeatedly in recent years. And of course the Japanese doesn't want to move back into the second rank immediately after Gasly's departure. In his third year at Alpha Tauri, he is expected to improve. Otherwise the support from Honda doesn't help much anymore. In Formula 2, a lot of talented Red Bull juniors are waiting to be promoted to the premier class.

Williams - Albon vs. Sargeant

At Williams, we don't see any major problems for new team boss James Vowles. It's hard to imagine that team peace is seriously threatened. The roles are too clearly divided for that. Alex Albon took over the role of team leader last season and was rightly rewarded with a multi-year contract for his good performance. Although criticism of his car's deficits in the pre-season should have been more appropriate, the Thai has not been noticed as a great speaker so far.

The successor to the always polite Nicholas Latifi is also considered a quiet fellow. No verbal ricochets are to be feared from Logan Sargeant in his rookie season. After fourth place in the last Formula 2 season, nobody seriously believes that the American can keep up with Albon in terms of sport and is questioning the hierarchy in the team.

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