Friday, December 1, 2023

2023 Formula One Predictions: Revisited

After the third consecutive season with 22 Formula One races, we can finally put a bow on the 2023 season and wrap up with addressing the predictions made for this season nearly a year ago. Some things changed. Many things didn't. Broken records ended up being a common theme this year. There were not many surprises. You could argue there were none. If there were no surprises, how did the predictions turn out? Any incorrect prediction would have gone against expectations, no? Maybe there were some surprises after all.

1. Three teams will have multiple winners

This is what you get for being optimistic. Only two teams won all season. Only three drivers won. That math does not add up. Red Bull won 21 of 22 races. That's it. That's the only team with multiple victories this season. Carlos Sainz, Jr. won at Singapore, Ferrari's only victory. Mercedes went winless for the first time since 2011. McLaren had six runner-up finishes, tied for the most this season with Red Bull. Fernando Alonso was responsible for all eight of Aston Martin's podium finishes. Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon each stood on the podium once for Alpine, but that is the close we got to this prediction being correct. 

2. Red Bull will not win majority of the races where a Ferrari driver starts on pole position

If I got the first one wildly wrong, this one wasn't going to be close to correct either. 

Ferrari started on pole position seven times in 2023. Red Bull won six of them. At least Ferrari was not shut out but it was not favorable for the Scuderia either. Charles Leclerc is feeling the brunt of this prediction. Leclerc has won eight pole positions since his most recent victory and he has failed to win from pole position in 12 consecutive races where he has rolled off from first.  

3. Mercedes will have at least eight podium finishes in the first 11 races of the season

Mercedes had five podium finishes in the first 11 races. Aston Martin had more in the first 11 races than Mercedes. Mercedes did have four fourth-place finishes in those 11 races. Close but not good enough in this game.

4. Oscar Piastri will score at least 30% of McLaren's point total

This one turned out to be close because after McLaren's slow start and significant turnaround, Lando Norris was earning points at a faster rate than Oscar Piastri, who still had a wonderful season. Out of McLaren's 302 points, Piastri was responsible for 97 points, or 32.119%. 

It should be pointed out that through nine races McLaren had 29 points. McLaren averaged 21 points per race over the final 13 events! A remarkable turnaround from where the season started. Through the first nine races, Piastri had five points. He scored 92 points in the final 13 races, an average of 7.0769 points per start. 

5. Alpine will have at least one classified car in the 17th race of the season

Entering this season, the team operating as Alpine had failed to have a classified car in the 17th race of the season in three of the prior four years. This year, at Qatar, how did this team do? Both cars made it to the finish with Esteban Ocon picking up six points for a seventh-place finish while Pierre Gasly scored no points but saw the checkered flag in 12th. Progress.

6. Logan Sargeant will score less than 47% of Alexander Albon's point total

This one might have never been in question, but Sargeant didn't really come close to giving Albon a run for his money in the Williams' stable this year. Sargeant scored one point, or 1/27th or 3.7037% of Albon's point total this season. The American driver's only point was fittingly for finishing tenth in the United States Grand Prix in Austin, and it really only came because Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified for illegal skid block wear. 

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. It wasn't a horrid season by any stretch for Sargeant, but he didn't impressive anyone either.

7. Nico Hülkenberg's first point scoring race finish of the season will not be a seventh-place finish

Entering 2023, Hülkenberg's first points scoring finish of the season had been seventh-place in five of the previous seven seasons. Where did Hülkenberg finish for his first points finish this season? 

That would be seventh in the third round of the season, the Australian Grand Prix. It nearly wasn't that case as Carlos Sainz, Jr. was fourth on the road but a five-second time penalty for causing a collision knocked Sainz, Jr. out of the points. There were also four cars that were taken out in the one restart on lap 57. Plenty of circumstances conspired together to see Hülkenberg finish seventh for his first points of the season again. 

8. Nyck de Vries will clinch the intra-team, head-to-head AlphaTauri battle by the Qatar Grand Prix

De Vries didn't even make it to the Qatar Grand Prix, replaced after the British Grand Prix with Daniel Ricciardo taking his seat. De Vries went 2-8 head-to-head with Yuki Tsunoda in their ten races together as teammates. De Vries was 12th at Monaco while Tsunoda was 15th. At Austria, de Vries was 17th with Tsunoda in 19th. 

That was it. Heck, this prediction was wrong before de Vries was even canned. Once Tsunoda beat him at Montreal this prediction was wrong and could not be flipped. It was not a great experience for de Vries at AlphaTauri, but he will always have the 2022 Italian Grand Prix.

9. Lance Stroll does not cause an accident on a straightaway

No one can act like this was a spectacular season for Lance Stroll. In a year where his teammate beat him by 132 points in the championship and Aston Martin ended up finishing fifth despite being third and 97 points clear of fifth at the halfway point of the season, Stroll performed to the minimum level of this car. There must be at least a dozen drivers in the world who could have scored 23 points more than Stroll did in 2023 and at least kept Aston Martin in the top four. 

Points aside, this prediction was about Stroll's driving and after looking back to see if he had an accident on a straightaway, I cannot find one. He had a few incidents in corners, including one coming onto a straightaway, but none were Stroll running into another driver going in a straight line. Again, progress. 

10. There will be a driver who gets his first career fastest lap

Not only was there a driver who got his first career fastest lap, there were two drivers that had their first career fastest laps. 

We had to wait for a while, but the first was Oscar Piastri was the Italian Grand Prix. The second was Yuki Tsunoda at the United States Grand Prix. Nine drivers had a fastest lap this season. 

No surprise, Max Verstappen led the way with nine. Lewis Hamilton had four. Sergio Pérez and Piastri each ended the season with two, Piastri's second was at Las Vegas. Guanyu Zhou had the fastest lap in the season opener. George Russell's only fastest lap was at Baku. Fernando Alonso's fastest lap at Zandvoort was his first fastest lap in over six years. There was the aforementioned Tsunoda. Lando Norris picked up fastest lap on his way to finishing runner-up at Interlagos. 

11. A safety car period will occur during at least two sprint races

The first safety car period in a sprint race came in the first sprint race of the season at Baku after Yuki Tsunoda had an accident after only two laps. 

The second safety car period in a sprint race came at Spa-Francorchamps when Fernando Alonso spun off course and beached his car on lap three. 

12. Average American viewership per race decreases by at least 10%

But this one was fairly close. Thanks to the internet, we were able to track the ratings for each Formula One race shown in the United States and we know the average viewership this year was 1,093,273 viewers that is down from 1,210,000 average viewership in 2022, but that was only a 9.64% decrease. Close, but close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades.

I think we all can admit the Las Vegas race got a better television rating than expected and that likely saved it from the 10% decrease.

Six-for-12 or 50%. Kind of streaky, no? Three wrong then three correct. Two wrong then three correct. One wrong to cap it off. There have been worse sets of predictions, but there have also been far better ones as well. It was at least on par with last year.