Max Verstappen
Wikimedia Commons/ Morio

Verstappen flying, Aston Martin declining – what happened in the first half of the Formula 1 season?

The first half of the F1 season has come to an end, and now the drivers, engineers, and all those behind the scenes have gone on their summer break. Max Verstappen is currently leading the Driver’s Championship with 314 points; Red Bull top the Constructors Championship with 503 points. So, without further ado, here are the main talking points of the F1 year to date.

The 2023 season opened in Bahrain where Max Verstappen claimed both pole position in qualifying and P1 in the race, making a solid start to the season. Meanwhile his teammate Sergio Pérez, having qualified second, finished the race as the runner-up, marking the beginning of what’s been a very impressive season to follow so far for the Red Bull team.

Bahrain also saw former F1 legend Fernando Alonso finish third in the race, bringing hope to Aston Martin fans. While Alonso and teammate Lance Stroll began the season well (Alonso notably surpassed the landmark of 100 career podiums), their success would soon take a dive with poor qualifying results, crashes, and lower-than-expected race finishing positions –consequently resulting in fewer points.

McLaren however began the season poorly with rookie Oscar Piastri not finishing the first race and teammate Lando Norris only finishing 17th. Nonetheless, their luck changed in Spain when Norris managed to qualify third which was backed up with a fourth-placed finish in Austria a month later.

Saturday ‘Sprint Shootout’ has been introduced as a separate qualifying for the sprint race later in the day.

The Papaya team shone during the British Grand Prix following upgrades to the car as both drivers qualified P2 and P3 respectively with Norris eventually finishing second; many McLaren fans are hoping that this string of good driving and good luck will continue.

This year, the sprint race format was also updated. Last year, on sprint weekends, qualifying took place on the Friday to set the grid for Saturday’s sprint race – the sprint results would then set the grid for Sunday’s race. However, this year, qualifying (again taking place on the Friday) sets the grid for Sunday.

Meanwhile, a Saturday ‘Sprint Shootout’ has been introduced as a separate qualifying for the sprint race later in the day. The top eight drivers continue to earn points in the sprint race, with first place gaining eight points down to eighth place gaining one.

These points also go towards the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. Notably, Charles Leclerc has done particularly well in the sprint races, earning many podiums and points.

At the end of the 2022 season, fan favourite Daniel Ricciardo revealed that he would be leaving the grid to focus on his mental health.

However, he was later announced as a reserve driver for Red Bull. At the beginning of July, it was revealed that Ricciardo would be replacing Alpha Tauri rookie and former Formula E champion, Nyck de Vries.

Verstappen has also overtaken Sebastian Vettel’s record of longest podium streaks (13), amongst others.

Although this was incredible news for the Honey Badger and F1 fans, it must be heartbreaking for de Vries who entered F1 at the relatively old age of 28 and was not even able to complete half a season before being ousted. Despite not scoring any points, it is surely a painful end to the career he wanted so badly.

In lighter news, Max Verstappen and Red Bull managed to break records such as the most consecutive number of wins (12) in Hungary. Verstappen has also overtaken Sebastian Vettel’s record of longest podium streaks (13), amongst others. With luck, perhaps more records will be broken this year. Moreover, both Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg have extended their contracts with Haas for the 2024 season.

What will the second half of the year see? Many contracts are set to expire by December – including Lewis Hamilton’s. Could we see any potential moves or retirements from these drivers announced over the summer?

Will Max be challenged at the top? Will Logan Sergeant ever earn a point for Williams? The next race after the summer break will be in Zandvoort in the Netherlands, home of Max Verstappen, where he will of course be aiming to win in front of what will surely be a boisterous partisan crowd.


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