At the start of the new season, everything seems to indicate that Max Verstappen in his Red Bull can make a serious attempt to become world champion again. Because the first free practice sessions in Bahrain also went crescendo.
Red Bull off to a good start
Former driver and RTL GP presenter Allard Kalff closely followed the pre-season. He is clear: “If you look at the test days, Red Bull has the strongest package. I think it is too early to say that they will be supreme for 23 races.”
The test days last week therefore went well for Red Bull, and less so for the competitors. “Red Bull Racing is the fastest,” says Kalff. “Behind that you have Ferrari and Mercedes, but maybe Aston Martin is the third team at the moment, just ahead of Mercedes. There is no level behind that.”
The fact that Aston Martin has things well organized at the start of the new season was shown today in the free practice sessions, where Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso first set the second fastest time, ahead of Verstappen and was even the fastest in the second practice.
Beitske Visser also saw Red Bull stand out during the test days. Visser is a driver in the W-series, where she finished second last year. “I’m curious about tomorrow’s qualifying,” says Visser. “Then we will really see how each team came out of the winter break. We have already seen something with the test, but after those test days you still don’t know exactly who is driving what kind of stuff.”
In any case, Visser and Kalff hope for a nice battle. “I hope it will be exciting,” says Visser. “That’s the best thing to watch, when it’s a good fight on track. Red Bull seems very strong so far, but we’ll see.”
“From me, Max can win 20 races,” says Kalff. “But I hope we will see battles every race.”
Nyck De Vries
Although most eyes will be on world champion Max Verstappen, there will also be a lot of attention this season for newcomer Nyck de Vries. The 28-year-old Frisian made his debut in the premier class last season as a substitute, and immediately scored high by finishing ninth during the Italian Grand Prix.
This season, De Vries is the regular driver for Alpha Tauri. Although the chances of him being able to compete at the top of the standings are slim, expectations are high. “In principle, Nyck de Vries’ car should be good enough to score points,” said Allard Kalff. And you can only achieve that with a place in the top 10.
Beitske Visser knows Nyck de Vries from her hometown of Uitwellingerga (population 425), and is looking forward to his performance this season. “We come from the same village, we have known each other since childhood,” she says. “I know he works hard for it. And he has shown how good he is throughout his career. He has to trust himself, then it will be fine.”
Allard Kalff especially hopes that De Vries will not forget to enjoy this season: “I expect nothing more and less from Nyck de Vries than that he gets the most out of himself, his car and the team, and that he enjoys it. We will see the result at the end of the year.”
New faces, old acquaintances
In addition to De Vries, there are two new faces in Formula 1 this season. The Australian Oscar Piastri will drive for McLaren in 2023. He replaces Daniel Ricciardo, who we will not see on the grid this year.
Logan Sargeant makes his debut in Formula 1 for the Williams team. The American drives no less than three times in his native country this season. In addition to the United States Grand Prix at the Austin circuit, races in Miami and Las Vegas are also on the calendar this year.
After two years as a reserve driver, Nico Hülkenberg makes his comeback as a regular driver. He will drive for Haas this season, replacing Mick Schumacher.
The race calendar is fuller than ever this year, with no less than 23 races. In addition to the race in Las Vegas, the Grand Prix of Qatar has also been added to the program. The Losail International Circuit has already been raced in 2021, and this year the circus will return.
Of course, the F1 will visit Zandvoort again this year, in the last weekend of August. The Grand Prix of the Netherlands will take place on Sunday 27 August.
Mechanics and engineers are also away from home for long periods of time
According to Kalff, 23 races in one season is actually too much. “It is very tough, not only for the drivers, but also for the teams around them. You can still say that the drivers earn a million-dollar salary, but all mechanics and engineers are also away from home for 23 weeks this year.”
Visser does not think that the full calendar could play a role in the championship in the course of the season. “Of course it makes it heavier. You have less rest in between, and the traveling takes its toll.” Still, she thinks the drivers are ready for the busy season: “I think all drivers trained hard over the winter and are in good physical shape. That shouldn’t be a problem.”
Leave a Reply