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It is finally here, the 2023 Formula 1 season gets underway this week when three days of testing start in Bahrain. Everything will change in terms of the betting markets as teams, fans, punters, and bookmakers will digest every piece of data available to them.
They say the clock never lies, but in testing, it can. ‘Sandbagging’ – running an overweight car to slow it down and thereby fool rival teams – is not an unknown phenomenon. At the same time, the clock can be vital.
In 2009, many judges suspected Brawn was running a car that was too light when it topped the time sheets in pre-season testing. Odds of 100/1 were available about its star driver, Jenson Button, in the Championship before testing and bookmakers chose to ignore the times his car was posting during early testing laps. Button went on to win the title beating Sebastian Vettel by 11 points.
The Brawn was a legal car carrying – to use a horse racing term – the correct-weight. And weight is a key term in 2023 as many teams are declaring they have a lighter chassis this season. This will allow that saved weight to be used in other, ‘performance enhancing’ areas.
The latest published version of F1′s 2023 regulations says that the minimum weight will be 796 kilos, a reduction of two kilos from 2022. And every kilo is vital in this sport. A case in point is Mercedes. The German team has a black car in 2023. Shifting from its traditional silver livery, the change will save two kilos in weight.
Fans are yet to learn which cars are fastest as the countdown to the first of 23 races draws close. But all ten teams have now completed their official launch. Some have been informative – others have been nothing more than a PR exercise promoting a brand and not a race team.
A case in point is Red Bull. It headed to the USA for the launch of its 2023 car but the trouble is – the car it unveiled is unlikely to remotely resemble the car that will appear this week. The show was more of a celebration of the Red Bull brand and its sponsored sports stars as opposed to a bedrock scraping examination of its 2023 car, and its prospects of landing a third consecutive championship.
Similarly, AlphaTauri, also doing its bit to fully exploit the US market, launched its car as part of a fashion show during New York Fashion Week! AlphaTauri is a fashion brand, so this made perfect commercial sense. But diehard F1 fans learned little about the 2023 car.
Ferrari Straight on Track
Thankfully two car launches did impress. Ferrari unveiled its car close to its factory and took the opportunity to showcase the new car on Fiorano Circuit – it meant the new car was seen in action. It’s been 16 years since the Italian team landed a World Drivers’ Championship. Anticipation is always high, and the team has started strongly in recent seasons.
But Mercedes held nothing back with its launch giving an unprecedented amount of detail to its 2022 season mistakes, moves to rectify them, and aspirations for the year ahead. If this was a competition whereby the best talkers win – judges would stop the contest now!
Mercedes became the dominant force in Formula 1 when hybrid power units were introduced in 2014. Since then, the German team recorded eight consecutive constructor’s championships and Lewis Hamilton claimed six Drivers’ Championships. However, 2022 was disastrous as the team developed its least competitive car in more than a decade.
F1 Constructors Odds 2023
- Red Bull - 11/10 (William Hill)
- Mercedes - 7/5 (888Sport)
- Ferrari - 11/2 (bet365)
Understanding and Unraveling the Old Problems
Driving the W14 will be Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who line up for their second season together, supported by Mick Schumacher in his new role as third driver.
“Our hopes and expectations are always to be capable of fighting for a World Championship. However, our competitors were very strong last year, and we are playing catch-up,” said Team Principal & CEO of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, Toto Wolff at the launch.
“Racing at the front requires resilience, teamwork, and determination. We face up to every challenge, we put the Team first, and we will leave no stone unturned in the chase for every millisecond. This year, we are going all in to get back in front.”
It is a case of a refined concept for Mercedes. “Last year was difficult but it came with lots of learnings,” Toto commented. “I hope 2023 will be proof that we have understood how to unravel the problems and improve the package of the car.”
“W13 certainly had a performance which we never were able to unlock and put all its downforce on the ground. Our car performed very well at the end of the season. However, we still had the famous bouncing at some circuits and the car never gave the drivers good feedback, which limited them in being able to really push. We have tried to keep all the goodness of the W13 and address its weaknesses,” he continued.
Weight Loss and New Concepts
The challenge of unlocking the performance in last year’s car, while troubleshooting the problems that the team could address in-season, was met head-on by both Brackley and Brixworth Mercedes factories. Notably, the development over the year led to a memorable one-two finish at the São Paulo Grand Prix. The progress throughout 2022 excites Technical Director, Mike Elliott.
“Last year, once we had figured out what we needed to do, it took a huge amount of work to get ourselves moving forward. Towards the end of the season, you could see the performance improving, and the winter has been a reset. We have done all the things that we wanted to do with the W13 last year but weren’t able to because of resource constraints or because our focus was elsewhere fixing other issues,” he said.
Areas targeted include reducing overall weight, giving the drivers a more consistent car balance across the speed range, and better matching the aerodynamic characteristics to the demands of the aero regulations. This is borne out in areas such as a significantly lighter chassis, revised front suspension geometry, cooling system adjustments, and a refined aerodynamic concept based on last year’s learning.
What Are the Odds on a Mercedes Championship?
Mercedes are top-priced 7/5 (888Sport) to regain its World Constructors’ Championship title. William Hill makes the team 500/1 to finish bottom of the WCC standings – it will not happen but, interestingly, Williams – a team that uses Mercedes engines – is 2/5 to finish last of the ten teams.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Lewis Hamilton is 10/3 to recapture his World Championship title, and his Mercedes teammate, George Russell, can be backed at 8/1 (with bet365). He can also be backed at 1/14 to win any race.
F1 Drivers Championship Odds
- Max Verstappen - 5/6 (William Hill)
- Lewis Hamilton - 2/1 (bet365)
- Charles Leclerc - 13/2 (Unibet)
- George Russell - 8/1 (bet365)
Mercedes is 11/10 to outpoint Red Bull over the course of the season and 8/15 to outscore Ferrari. In the driver head-to-heads, Hamilton is 8/13 finish ahead of his teammate at the end of the season points standings.
The veteran Englishman is also 5/6 to win seven or more races during the season. If his car is anywhere near as good as the previous cars – 2022 apart – it is a great bet. After all, Hamilton has won seven-plus races in every season between 2014-2021 inclusive!
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.
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