It was a case of business as usual at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen streaked away to win the race by almost 20 seconds. The Dutch ace can now officially claim his third F1 World Championship title by finishing sixth or better in Saturday’s Sprint Race at the Qatar Grand Prix meeting.
Sergio Perez had a dreadful race with a retirement. Damage incurred at the opening corner was not his fault, but driving into Kevin Magnussen was inexcusable. Nevertheless, with Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri, confirming Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda as its 2024 drivers, his race seat appears safe for 2024.
And so, there may be just one new driver on the 2024 F1 grid with Logan Sargeant unconfirmed for next year. The American smashed up his car in qualifying, and he is becoming something of a liability.
It was a similar case with his predecessor, Nicholas Latifi. Also from North America, his family also brought big money to the Williams team, but he was equally slow and errant. Viewed as a ‘sleeping giant’ of a team, its directors need to balance the financial rewards of a pay driver compared to the on-track benefits of a quality driver.
The Contenders for Williams Race Seat
If Sargeant leaves at the end of the year, Mick Schumacher would be the obvious replacement – he is closely related to Mercedes and that German outfit provides its engines to Williams. Will Schumacher bring money into the team? It is doubtful.
Liam Lawson, who has done an excellent job for AlphaTauri in keeping the injured Daniel Ricciardo’s seat warm, would be the logical choice. But the 21-year-old is contracted to Red Bull, and he might foresee an opening for him in one of their two cars soon.
As Formula 2 champion, Brazil’s Felipe Drugovich will be high on any team owners list. But Aston Martin currently has him on their books – he replaced the injured Lance Stroll during pre-season testing for the team and took part in FP1 at Monza earlier this season.
Vegas is the Best Bet as Qatar Could be Snooker
It is a sad state of affairs when F1 fans have little more to get enthusiastic about – other than the identity of a driver in a team in 2024, a team that will do well to achieve a top-five race finish in any race.
But six races remain on the 2023 F1 calendar, and there is little hope for some unpredictable or even exciting action at more than one of these venues: First-time-venue, Las Vegas on November 18th, is the best bet.
Of the other races that lay ahead, the United States Grand Prix in Texas always sees cars strung out. Brazil’s long flat-out section makes overtaking easy and is the only place where it is conducted. Abu Dhabi is the opposite – but the lack of overtaking opportunities makes this one a processional race akin to the tragically boring Monaco.
On Sunday, Qatar’s Losail International Circuit – which opened in 2004 and made its F1 debut in 2021 (off the calendar in 2022 to avoid a World Cup clash) – will host the action. In the 23 months between races, the track has improved its facilities for fans but left the circuit unchanged, barring a resurface. It was already as flat as a snooker table!
In 2021, a minute separated the first three cars home, and ten cars were lapped. That result suggests the speculation on who will drive for Williams in 2023 may intensify on Monday!
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.