Struggling with where your support should like this Formula One season? This is the guide for you.
Although without Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher this year, F1 is packed full of great drivers and compelling characters.
There’s plenty of candidates for your favourite team or driver in 2023. Here we run down all of them.
The season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5, live on ESPN (10.55 a.m. Eastern time).
Many laughed at the idea of an energy drinks company becoming an F1 team in the mid-2000s but Red Bull has become a racing juggernaut since. It remains one of the grid’s coolest outfits, blending racing and engineering pedigree with brilliant marketing. Red Bull appears to be back at the level of its early-2010s dominance.
1. Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen impressed during F1 testing in Bahrain. Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Race starts: 163
Race wins: 35
World championships: 2021, 2022
2022 position 1st
Dutch superstar Verstappen is the guy right now. The defending two-time champion has completely changed the game since 2015, not just in how good he was at such a young age, but in completely reshaping the sport’s rules of racing. His approach is controversial, but Verstappen can do things with a car few others can match. Like Ayrton Senna decades earlier, his refusal to give up a corner when going wheel-to-wheel with another driver has earned him a legion of support. His pace and his relentless consistency saw him reach a near-unbeatable level last year and he could be set for a similar season in 2023.
11. Sergio Perez
Race starts: 239
Race wins: 4
2022 position: 3rd
The man with the most difficult job in all of motor racing being measured in equal machinery to the world champion, Perez spent 10 years waiting for his first win and the career break his talent so clearly deserved. He’s won three times for Red Bull and has been a diligent and consistent teammate to Verstappen (earning himself the nickname Mexico’s Minister of Defence in 2021) but that loyalty and respect hasn’t always been a two-way street. Perez’s level of support in Mexico borderlines on religious worship and his popularity at home would reach otherworldly heights if he can challenge Verstappen over a season.
16. Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc finished second to Max Verstappen in 2022. Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Race starts: 102
Race wins: 5
2022 position: 2nd
The poster boy of F1’s most famous team, Leclerc has every trait you could want in a modern racing superstar — prodigiously quick, softly spoken and movie star good looks. Leclerc, who used to catch the bus to school at what is the final corner the Monte Carlo circuit of his home race, the Monaco Grand Prix, was earmarked as a future world champion from a young age. He’s arguably F1’s best qualifier with 18 pole positions. Leclerc is quick to take blame for mistakes and has stomached some unbearable Ferrari strategy mishaps over recent seasons. If anyone is going to end the Scuderia’s long wait for a title, its him.
55. Carlos Sainz
Race wins: 1
2022 position: 5th
Carlos Sainz is one of a number of racing drivers who have struggled to escape the shadow of a famous racing surname but in recent years he has established himself as one of F1’s top talents. A Red Bull reject, Sainz rebuilt his F1 career with stints at Renault and McLaren before a move to Ferrari for 2021. A breakthrough came last year, taking his first pole and first win at the British Grand Prix. Sainz sometimes seems like the teammate of Ferrari’s prodigal son but on his day he can be as good as anyone and gave Leclerc a run for his money in 2021 when he outscored the Monegasque in the points table.
After the most dominant spell in F1 history Mercedes was knocked off the summit by Red Bull in 2022. The team is steeped in racing history and remains one of the grid’s most efficient operations. Last year, it went against the curve with its unique ‘zero sidepod’ concept, which it retained for 2023, showing how much it is willing to push the envelope to win.
44. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton arrives for the first day of F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images
Race starts: 310
Race wins 103
Championship titles: 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
2022 position: 6th
If you were to make a Mount Rushmore for F1, Hamilton’s face would be on it. The Brit has a record 103 wins and shares the record of seven world titles with Michael Schumacher. He’d have eight if the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had been completed in line with F1’s rulebook. The 38-year-old, who came grew up on a council estate in Stevenage, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2021. He is still an elite performer despite not winning a race last year and one of the best qualifiers F1 has ever seen.
As a bonus, his legacy will not just be defined on the racetrack. Hamilton, F1’s only Black driver, has become a real force for social change worldwide, pumping millions of his own money into improving diversity in Formula One.
63. George Russell
Race starts: 82
Race wins: 1
2022 position 4th
It says a lot about how talented Russell is that he out-performed Hamilton across their first season together, claiming a first pole position in Hungary and a first win in Brazil. Russell is the future of the Mercedes F1 team and looks absolutely worthy of the billing of a future world champion. After waiting patiently for three years at Williams for his chance Russell is clearly in no mood to wait for success in F1 and he seems as driven and singularly focused on winning championships as any young driver on the grid.
Renault’s F1 team now runs under one of its smaller brands but has ambitions of returning to the front of the grid. Leadership changes at Renault have changed Alpine’s long-term plans on an annual basis but last year it was the strongest team in the midfield. It has an all-French lineup for 2023 and ambitions of cutting the gap to the Big Three event further.
31. Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon has signed a contract to remain with Alpine until the end of the 2024 season. Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Race starts: 111
Race wins: 1
2022 position: 8th
A man with one of the best origin stories on the grid. Ocon did not have either of the advantages most need in F1 today — a racing father and/or a bucket load of money. Ocon’s talent and the fighting spirit he had to adopt to outdrive better-equipped rivals are still visible when he races in F1 today. The Frenchman might have been at Mercedes if timing and fortune had been on his side a few years ago, but at Alpine the one-time race winner has a perfect environment to prove he is worthy for a step up the grid in the next few years.
10. Pierre Gasly
Race starts: 108
Race wins: 1
2022 position: 14th
The man Netflix hopes can replace the Daniel Ricciardo-shaped hole in future seasons of Drive to Survive, the incredibly likeable Gasly is one of the great redemption stories on the grid. Dropped by Red Bull in summer 2019, he returned to its secondary outfit AlphaTauri and won the Italian Grand Prix in 2020, which remains one of the most astonishing race victories in F1 history. Now he has broken free of the Red Bull programme and finds himself in what should be a competitive midfield car. Gasly is quick and races hard, making him one of the easiest drivers to root for.
The ultimate sleeping giant, McLaren is one of F1’s most revered teams but has just a single victory to its name since the start of 2013. The famous racing team hasn’t won a constructors’ championship since 2007 and has a long-awaited windtunnel being built later this year which could be the missing ingredient to reviving the glory days. CEO Zak Brown wants McLaren to be back in the title hunt by 2025.
4. Lando Norris
Lando Norris in the paddock during day three of F1 testing in Bahrain. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images
Race starts: 82
Race wins: 0
2022 position: 7
Lando Norris seems to be on an unstoppable rise to global superstardom. He’s only 23 but he’s entering his fifth season of Formula One as one of the sport’s most popular drivers. Norris is the ideal F1 star for Generation Z, with a mammoth Twitch and social media followings, he also champions great charitable causes and has been candid about his struggles with mental health. On top of all that, he is one of F1’s best talents, but seems to be set for another season limited by an uncompetitive car. Once that changes Norris will be a force to be reckoned with.
81. Oscar Piastri
Race starts: 0
Piastri’s now-famous tweet last summer that he would not be racing for Alpine after they announced him for 2023 saw the Australian rookie gain global headlines, but his name has resonated in motor racing circles for a long while now. Dubbed “the next Max Verstappen” by Red Bull boss Christian Horner, few drivers have arrived in F1 with the hype which currently surrounds this rookie. Back-to-back titles in Formula 3 and Formula 2 proved his talent. He arrives in F1 with a point to prove given all the controversy about how he ended up at McLaren.
Alfa Romeo has one of the longest motor racing histories of any car company on the planet. Enzo Ferrari started out racing Alfa Romeos in the 1920s and the name is still one of the most evocative in the motor industry. Alfa is actually the title sponsor of the Swiss-based Sauber F1 team, which still makes and runs the car. Alfa has delivered a gorgeous livery for its final year with the team.
77. Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas left Mercedes to race for Alfa Romeo at the end of the 2021 season. Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Race starts: 200
Race wins: 10
2022 position: 10th
Bottas has absolutely thrived since leaving Mercedes at the end of 2021. On track last year he was largely responsible for the team’s best result since 2012, with 49 of its 55 points. It was a great reminder of how talented Bottas is after years of struggling to match Hamilton’s title-winning form. Away from the track Bottas is a loveable character — last year he made $50,000 for charity by selling a photo of himself in a lake with his buttocks exposed. He comes into this season sporting a moustache and a mullet.
Race starts: 22
Race wins: 0
2022 position: 18th
China’s first F1 driver had a solid but unspectacular rookie season last year, which featured a terrifying crash at Silverstone on the opening British Grand Prix he thankfully walked away from unharmed. Zhou still has something to prove coming into his sophomore campaign and he will do a lot of good for his career prospects if he can start matching Bottas’ pace on a more regular basis in 2023. One of the quieter characters on the grid, Zhou is easy to overlook but there is a feeling that if he can kick on this year he’ll be around for a while.
One of the most famous car brands on the planet, Aston Martin races in the company’s famous shade of green. Owner Lawrence Stroll is determined to make it the best F1 team on the grid and has pumped big money into new facilities and plucked several big name designers from other teams and a two-time world champion to boot.
14. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso during preseason testing in Bahrain. Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Race starts: 355
Race wins: 32
Championships: 2005, 2006
2022 position: 9th
Simultaneously one of the most brilliant and the most unfulfilled talents in F1 history, Fernando Alonso is arguably the most complete and rounded driver on the grid. The poor career decisions Alonso has made over the years are legendary but his move to Aston Martin sees him join a team that matches his hunger and ambition. Formerly known as a toxic influence behind the scenes, the 41-year-old has mellowed during his second F1 stint. Although he has embraced the concept of being F1’s bad guy Alonso’s brilliant one-liners, his regular proclamations of his own greatness and the ability to insult a rival, a steward or an FIA president and then backtrack on the very same day make him one of the grid’s most fascinating personalities.
18. Lance Stroll
Race starts: 122
Race wins: 0
2022 position: 15th
The son of team co-owner Lawrence Stroll, Lance looks set to be a permanent fixture at the team for as long as he wants to remain in F1. He’s about as laid back as a driver can be but has shown glimpses of his underlying passion for F1 when results have gone his way, such as his epic wet weather pole position qualifying lap at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix. Often overlooked because of the huge financial clout he’s had behind his career, with the yardstick of Alonso to measure himself against this will finally be the year we know how good Stroll really is.
Spearheaded by Netflix cult hero Guenther Steiner, Gene Haas’ F1 team are the plucky underdog outfit and remains the grid’s most humble operation in terms of staffing and resources. New backing from title sponsors MoneyGram should enable Haas to spend at the cost cap limit for the first time and in the past it has shown it can punch above its weight. Drama also seems to follow this team around, making it one of the most fun to support.
22. Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg at preseason testing in Bahrain. Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Race starts: 141
Race wins: 0
2022 position: 13th
Magnussen enjoyed a storybook 2022: a late return to the grid, strong early results and a first career pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix, which was easily one of the best moments of the season. Magnussen is the grid’s ultimate fighter and never seemed to have the career breaks he needed to land a front-running race seat. In wheel-to-wheel moments with other drivers Magnussen is one of F1’s most exciting. The Dane’s scrappy attitude also perfectly matches the Haas team, which makes ‘K-Mag’ very difficult to root against.
27. Nico Hulkenberg
Race starts: 181
Race wins: 0
2022 position N/A
Back in F1 as a race driver for the first time since 2019, Hulkenberg kept himself in the sport as a Covid-19 supersub – which included a brilliant qualifying performance at the British GP in 2020. Those performances ultimately helped keep him in frame for a return to racing this year. Hulkenberg is one of the great ‘what might have been’ stories with a brilliant junior career followed by a long but ultimately unsuccessful first stint in F1. Hulkenberg carries the unenviable record of the most race starts without a podium finish — it would be an amazing story if he could end that drought by giving Haas its first ever podium finish this year.
22. Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda during day three of testing. Peter Fox/Getty Images
Race starts: 42
Race wins: 0
2022 position: 17th
It’s difficult to find reasons to dislike Yuki Tsunoda. He hates training, he constantly makes joke about his 5ft 2in/1.59m frame (small even by racing driver standards) and has previously admitted he needs to give up Uber Eats and gaming if he wants to stay in F1 long term. His frank answers to the media are a rarity in a sport as cut-throat as F1 and in an environment as notoriously unforgiving as the Red Bull programme. On track the Japanese driver can be one of the most exciting wheel-to-wheel racers of the lot and if he lives up to all his promises of self-improvement in his spare time, he just might be able to show everyone what all the fuss was about when he joined the grid.
21.Nyck de Vries
Race starts: 1
For so long it looked like De Vries was going to be one of the many talented drivers to miss their moment to make it in F1. Then 2022 happened. The 2020-21 Formula E champion took part in Friday practice sessions for Mercedes, Aston Martin and Williams across the year and got the chance to race for the latter as Alex Albon’s stand-in at the Italian Grand Prix. De Vries’ performance at that race, where he finished 9th, and Alpine’s determination to sign Pierre Gasly opened up what had looked like an unlikely route into F1. De Vries arrives with real racing pedigree and could well be one of the feel-good stories of the year if he performs well.
If McLaren is a sleeping giant then Williams is one that has been sedated. The team that dominated the 1990s has dropped to the bottom of the F1 pack and is no longer owned by the Williams family, but American owners Dorilton are determined to take them back up the order. For so long an independent team that fought against F1’s big dogs this is a team that just tugs at the heartstrings.
23. Alex Albon
Alex Albon joined Williams for the 2022 season. Alex Albon
Race starts: 59
Race wins: 0
2022 position: 19th
Albon might be the nicest guy on the F1 grid and he has a great story to boot. He’s another great example of someone who’s career thrived with a second chance after a failed stint with Red Bull. Albon was such a prodigious karting talent that an even younger Lando Norris had a poster of the Thai-British driver on his bedroom wall years before they ever met or raced each other. His career peaked with an elevation to Red Bull in 2020 but he was dropped by the team at the end of the next year. After a year out, he made a popular return with Williams last year and across the season scored the team’s best results. Hopefully he is in F1 for the long term.
2. Logan Sargeant
Race starts: 0
If you’re from the U.S., this is an easy one – Floridian rookie Sargeant has ended the wait for an American driver, which stretched back to 2015. Sargeant has shown flashes of real talent in his junior career and comes into the sport at a time it is booming in popularity Stateside. Although there’s a case to be made that he should have stayed in Formula 2 for another year, Sargeant is probably in the best place for a rookie driver to be, with Williams likely to be a backmarking team this season. Pressure is low and as long as Sargeant doesn’t make mistakes or compile a long list of crashes, he has a good chance of carving out a long stay on the grid.