by F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Max Verstappen and Red Bull further underlined their status as the package to beat in Formula One in 2023, sealing both Drivers' and Constructors' World Championship titles with record points tallies and win totals.
But it was a season of underachievement for the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes, who failed to produce cars capable of challenging for top honors. In the second part of Xinhua's season review, it's time to take a look at how the top five teams fared in 2023.
Aston Martin - 5th, 280 points
(Fernando Alonso - 4th, 206 points; Lance Stroll - 10th, 74 points)
The arrival of Fernando Alonso coincided with a significant uptick in form for Aston Martin, who could legitimately lay claim to having the second-fastest car over the season's opening races. Development missteps saw them fall to fifth in the Constructors' standings by year's end, but 2023 still represented a significant step forward for Aston Martin, and with a new factory and wind tunnel in the offing, the future looks bright for Team Silverstone.
Alonso's surprising decision to jump ship from Alpine was vindicated by a series of excellent drives, and the Spaniard can count himself unlucky not to have won at Monaco, when only a superhuman lap from Verstappen prevented Alonso from securing a pole position that he surely would have converted into victory.
Alonso's form contrasted sharply with that of Lance Stroll in the sister car, who once again did little to counter the notion that his employment is down to his father Lawrence's ownership of the team. A rotten mid-season pointless stretch fueled speculation that the Canadian may be set to walk away from F1, and though those rumors seem to have dissipated, one wonders how much longer Aston Martin can stomach Stroll being so far off his teammate's pace.
McLaren - 4th, 302 points
(Lando Norris - 6th, 205 points; Oscar Piastri - 9th, 97 points)
A definite season of two halves for McLaren, who struggled badly in the season's opening races before a raft of mid-season updates transformed the team's potential. Lando Norris took six second places from Silverstone onwards to underline his growing status as one of F1's best drivers, and a mid-season contract extension until 2025 put paid to rumors linking him with a move to Red Bull.
In the sister car, Oscar Piastri showed why McLaren had been so keen to prise him away from Alpine, and the Australian quickly proved himself the most capable of 2023's rookies. A notable highlight came with a win in the Qatar Sprint race, and several other strong performances prompted McLaren to extend Piastri's deal until 2026. With a new wind tunnel up and running, and two of F1's most promising talents tied down for the foreseeable, there's much to be optimistic about at Woking.
Ferrari - 3rd, 406 points
(Charles Leclerc - 5th, 206 points; Carlos Sainz - 7th, 200 points)
After a bright start to 2022 soon turned sour, hopes were high at Ferrari of a genuine title tilt in 2023, but it soon became apparent that the SF-23 was no match for the all-conquering Red Bull RB19. The car was quick in the right conditions, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz combining for six pole positions, but too often fell away over a full race distance, seemingly unable to manage its tyres as efficiently as Mercedes and Red Bull.
Sainz can at least hold his head up high as the only driver to prevent a clean sweep of Red Bull victories in 2023, with the Spaniard taking a superbly thought-out victory in Singapore, and remaining consistent enough throughout the rest of the year to finish ahead of Leclerc in the standings.
Perhaps the fastest driver in F1 over a single lap, Leclerc endured a frustrating and winless 2023, with occasional unforced errors still creeping into his driving. Rumors suggest that the Monegasque has signed a bumper contract extension that will tie him to Maranello until 2029, but such a commitment may turn out to be mistimed if Ferrari continue to fumble key strategy decisions and fail to produce a title-contending car.
Mercedes - 2nd, 409 points
(Lewis Hamilton - 3rd, 234 points; George Russell - 8th, 175 points)
By their high standards, Mercedes endured a disappointing and winless year, but ultimately managed to pip Ferrari to second in the Constructors' Championship. A mid-season technical reshuffle that culminated in the departure of erstwhile design chief Mike Elliot was a tacit admission that the team's ambitious zero-sidepod concept had not worked, and the Silver Arrows will hope that the return of James Allison to head up the design project will bear more fruit in 2024 and beyond.
A rather flat end to the year notwithstanding, Lewis Hamilton at least looked more at home in the W14 than he had in the 2022, and emerged at the head of a crowded field to finish up best of the rest behind the Red Bulls. By contrast, George Russell admitted late in the year that 2023 was "disappointing", as a combination of poor reliability and driver error saw him well in Hamilton's shadow. Both drivers are signed up with the Silver Arrows until the end of 2025, and will be itching to return the team to the winners' dais.
Red Bull - 1st, 860 points
(Max Verstappen - 1st, 575 points; Sergio Perez - 2nd, 285 points)
A record-breaking total of points and wins in a single season for Red Bull, who were denied a clean sweep of Grand Prix victories only by a rare off-day in Singapore. The imperious Max Verstappen won a record 19 of 22 Grands Prix to canter to a third consecutive World Championship title that sees him cement his status as one of F1's all-time greats. Indeed, it could have been even better for the Dutchman, who could also have won in Baku and Jeddah had circumstances transpired differently.
Despite winning two of the season's first four races, Sergio Perez's season was marred by inconsistency and unforced errors, and though he secured second in the Drivers' Championship, the contrast with Verstappen's relentless dominance was all too stark. Red Bull's management is notoriously trigger-happy, and rumors suggest that an inconsistent start to 2024 will see Perez replaced mid-season by Daniel Ricciardo. ■