Looking at the 2023 driver pairings I can’t help but think what the season would look like if there was a grid shake up that got rid of number 1 and number 2 concept and instead paired up the drivers that are on more equal footing. Although the chances of this becoming reality are essentially impossible, here are my reimagined driver pairings for the 2023 season:
Redbull have dominated the entirety of 2023 and there’s no doubt about it, I can’t see Verstappen driving for any other team apart from Redbull and I think it would make for a very interesting pairing if Norris were to leave McLaren and join the reigning world champions. Norris has been in an underperforming car for a couple of years now and has still managed to drag the McLaren onto the podium more than once, but we are yet to see what he can do in a top team. Having Verstappen as a teammate is no easy feat, as we can see from the trail of drivers that have been swapped in and out of that second Redbull seat over the last few years, but given what Norris has done in that McLaren, would he be able to challenge Verstappen in a championship winning car?
Throwing it back to 2007, we have seen this pairing once before in F1 and I think seeing history repeat itself in this case would be box office entertainment. Alonso has already suggested that he would love to bring his F1 career to a close by reuniting with this former rival and teammate. These two drivers are undoubtedly legends of the sport and seeing them in a teammate battle one more time seems like it would be the perfect end to their iconic careers that have solidified their legacy in the sport for years to come.
Aston Martin: Sainz/Ocon
Sainz and Ocon are two underrated drivers in my opinion, Sainz is often seen as the second driver to Leclerc at Ferrari however, he is currently sitting ahead of him in the standings. Sainz’s advantage over Leclerc can partially be put down to Leclerc’s reliability issues this season but Sainz has proved during his time at Ferrari that he is also the more consistent driver. Leclerc’s outright pace supersedes Sainz but his lack of experience has shown to be a downfall as we’ve seen in Monaco and Silverstone that Sainz’s success came down to him using his better judgement to overrule the team’s decisions, resulting in a podium and a race win. Ocon on the other hand is generally viewed as a solid midfield driver, but he is a race winner and his recent podium at Monaco has pushed him to the forefront of the F1 discussion with many agreeing that he is in fact an underrated driver. I think these two drivers could push each other to the limit and may be able to escape the midfield/second driver labels that they currently hold.
Russell and Leclerc encapsulate this new generation of Formula 1, both drivers are often spoken about as future world champions and have managed to pull off some of the most memorable performances in recent years. Despite their obvious talent, neither driver has managed to capture that elusive first title as of 2023. We saw during Ferrari’s 2022 title bid that Leclerc is still prone to a mistake or two and given the current competition on the grid that is enough to end a title fight, especially when Ferrari’s strategy calls have been questionable to say the least. Russell on the other hand has just simply never been afforded the car to challenge for a title but I think he is a slightly more consistent driver than Leclerc. Both drivers’ junior careers seem to mirror each other and they are on a pretty level playing field in F1, if they were both put inside the same machinery it really would be anyone’s guess as to who would come out on top.
Over the past few years Gasly has made a name for himself in the midfield and was able to finally depart from the Redbull family by securing a seat in a significantly more competitive car. Since moving to Alpine we haven’t seen any real stand out performances that we came to expect from Gasly, this reminds me of Hulkenberg as many people often comment that he never really lived up to his potential in F1. These two drivers would make a strong midfield pairing as they’ve had quite similar paths in F1 and they both have a point to prove. Hulkenberg has outperformed his teammate since his return in 2023 and if he were to be paired with Gasly, I would love to see whether his experience would be enough to trump the raw pace of Gasly or vice versa.
Part 2 coming soon.