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What to expect when you’re expecting another Red Bull Victory

Headlines to be aware of as the 2024 Formula One Season approaches

Formula One’s traditional ‘Silly Season’ never seemed to arrive in 2023. There was no shock announcement of a retirement or driver swap to kick off the inevitable game of musical chairs between teams as in previous years. Where the preceding season had seen Fernando Alonso’s unexpected departure to Aston Martin that caused the Oscar Piastri debacle and its ensuing chaos, this time around, the inter-team machinations had been ominously quiet.


That was seemingly the case until the calendar flipped over into 2024. With the new year came rumblings of various rumours that looked to upset the status quo of the unchanged grid. Soon those rumours morphed into facts, and the 2024 season has thrown up more intriguing questions than may have at first appeared.


Although the 2024 grid remains unchanged, 2025’s is anything but, and that is in part thanks to Lewis Hamilton’s unforeseen move from Mercedes to Ferrari at the end of the coming season. After activating a release clause in his most recent contract, the seven-time World Champion is set to fulfil a lifelong dream and take up a seat at the Scuderia. Despite one of the most successful partnerships in the history of the sport, Hamilton is separating from his team of eleven years and six driver’s titles after a sobering two seasons of being well off the pace set by a dominant Red Bull. Although Hamilton reiterated his commitment to the Brackley-based outfit, the first winless seasons of his sixteen-year career and “the three backwards steps,” Mercedes has had to risk with its 2024 design mean that this is as good a time as any for the 39-year-old to take a leap, in the hopes of beating Michael Schumacher’s record. 


Hamilton’s move throws a Carlos Sainz-shaped cat amongst the 2025 pigeons. With Ferrari’s new “superteam”, the Spaniard becomes a free agent at the end of the season and will be hot property amongst teams with drivers whose contracts are running out. The most likely destination for the former race-winner is the newly renamed Stake F1 team, formerly Alfa Romeo-Sauber, as they look to make preparations before transitioning into the works Audi team for the advent of the new 2026 regulations. Audi will want a strong, proven driver to head their lineup, and Sainz’s father has existing ties with the German company following recent successes in the world of rallying. Any moves that are made will mean a major reshuffling of the grid while increasing the pressure on every current driver without a long-term contract. Additionally, there will be questions about how team dynamics will develop, or deteriorate, in the coming year between Hamilton, Sainz, and their respective teams.


Alongside Hamilton’s departure came somewhat more unsavoury news that threatens Formula One’s most dominant team. Off the back of a season in which Red Bull took twenty-one of a possible twenty-two victories, allegations have emerged from a female employee at the team accusing the sport’s longest-standing team principal, Christian Horner, of ‘controlling behaviour’. Horner has emphatically denied any wrongdoing, attending the launch of the RB-20 on Thursday, but the news has thrown a shadow over what may be yet another record-breaking season of dominance. The team’s parent company has started an independent investigation with the aid of an external barrister, with whom Horner met for an eight-hour interview last Friday. 


Recent events have been a harsh reality check for the team in Milton Keynes. Some of his defenders have suggested that the allegations are an attempt by the team’s parent company to “clip Horner’s wings or remove him from the job entirely”. Horner’s influence in the company has only grown in recent years, especially following the death of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, and is now in a unique, and highly powerful, position as CEO of all three of its operating arms, controlling both sporting and business aspects. With the investigation into the claims far from over, this will likely run on beyond the season opener in Bahrain, and the conjecture and uncertainty can only jeopardise Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s bid for title defence.


With pre-season testing on the horizon, all eyes will now be drawn to the Bahrain International Circuit to see the first running of this year’s cars. Ferrari are now the only team to have kept their pullrod rear suspension, with the rest of the field opting for pushrod to bring them in line with the all-conquering Red Bulls. Despite the aerodynamic and space-saving benefits of a pushrod design, Ferrari felt the advantages were not big enough to justify the compromise. Whether the Italian team has made the right choice will become evident in the coming weeks.


2023 was not without its casualties, and Haas will be looking to move on in the wake of the exit of former team principal Günther Steiner. With owner Gene Haas apparently happy to allow the team to tick over on his funding, the early races of the coming season will be crucial to the team’s future. New head Ayao Komatsu will be keen to prove himself in the paddock, but Haas’ results this season may force the owner’s hand into a premature sale of the team, following their last-place finish a few months ago. Kevin Magnussen is similarly at risk of a third absence from the grid if his results don’t improve, with British Formula Two driver Oliver Bearman set to become a reserve driver and participate in multiple free practice sessions during the season.


The battle for next year’s seats will commence with the first laps in Bahrain. Sergio Perez must challenge Verstappen for wins this year if he has any hope of keeping his Red Bull drive ahead of a resurgent Daniel Ricciardo at sister team Visa CashApp RB, while Lance Stroll is on borrowed time at Aston Martin. After a lacklustre rookie season, Logan Sargeant’s future hangs in the balance, with the bright prospect of Prema driver Kimi Antonelli closely linked with Mercedes and an obvious replacement at Williams without significant improvements in pace and consistency. 


Pre-season testing will run from 21-23 February, and the opening race is set for 2 March.

Image: Unsplash

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