2024 Formula 1 Season Preview: How do the teams stack up at the start?


There’s no sugar-coating it or burying the lead on this one – anybody you ask is expecting Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to run away with another Formula 1 World Championship in 2024. From the car’s pace in pre-season testing, to Max’s delight about its performance in interviews after, it’s looking ominous for the rest of the grid. That said, there is still a “rest of the grid,” so let’s take a look at what’s expected of them for the 2024 season.

Podium contenders

The early favorite as runner-up to Max and Red Bull are Ferrari. Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz showed promising pace in testing, and the two were rather happy with their cars compared to the previous season. However, like others on the grid, they believed the Red Bulls to be even stronger.

“My initial feeling is that Red Bull remains the reference and ahead for now,” Leclerc said after pre-season testing.

Formula 1 compiled and put together a handy timing comparison chart – find it here – from all the testing done in Bahrain, and Ferrari still appears to be a couple of tenths slower than Red Bull. Certain cars suit certain tracks better than others, but starting out on the back foot is never a good thing.

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Another team tempering expectations is McLaren.

“I’m feeling good, the car has definitely felt [like] an improvement in some areas, and in other areas still plenty to improve,” Lando Norris said after testing. “A positive few days, but still a big gap to some of the guys ahead, so that’s a lot of work we still need to do over the next week or so to try and close that down already.”

McLaren ended 2023 on a high note after starting the season as badly as they did. The upgrades it brought throughout the year eventually propped the car up to be second-fastest on the grid, which was enough to challenge Red Bull in qualifying and occasionally give Verstappen fits during the race. Oscar Piastri even won a sprint race, though neither Piastri nor Norris got close to winning a full-length race in 2023. The team hopes to continue its success into 2024, stay on the podium and maybe even swipe a few victories away from Red Bull.

If Ferrari or McLaren are able to put together full-season team performances and consistently get on the podium, either one has the opportunity to make the Constructors’ battle a tight one. Sergio Perez at Red Bull simply hasn’t been able to extract the sort of pace from that car Verstappen can, which left second and third place up for grabs in many a grand prix last year. Of course, Max could just win enough that Perez’s points total hardly matters, but these second-tier teams can certainly smell blood if there is any weakness from the Red Bull duo.

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Mercedes is going to have a rather awkward year with Lewis Hamilton, as everybody at this point knows he’s off to Ferrari for the 2025 season. It was odd timing for the Ferrari announcement, which is typically something you’d see in “silly season” and not during the long winter break of development heading into a new year. Nevertheless, Mercedes has finally ditched its “zero-pod” design for 2024, so there’s hope the team could find the pace it’s been lacking for the past couple of years. Formula 1’s timing predictions put them slower than both Ferrari and McLaren in the beginning, but Mercedes has proven it can develop the car throughout the year and challenge for the podium. 

Lewis Hamilton is going to want to end on a strong note with the team that’s brought him so many titles, but there’s always the chance that things get a little testy toward the end of the year. Mercedes knows that it’s moving forward with George Russel, which will always affect the mood and general atmosphere inside the garage. It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out at Mercedes this year, as it’s the first time there’s been any driver uncertainty in a long while.

Mid-tier

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It hurts a little to put Aston Martin behind the top four after the way that team started in 2023, Lance Stroll’s broken wrists and all. However, the team wasn’t able to keep pace last year as others delivered performance-enhancing updates, and in the end, Aston lost out to McLaren in the fight for fourth in the championship. That said, Aston still has a quick enough car that it could cause problems up front, and when you have Fernando Alonso in the car, he may be able to put it places that it otherwise might not have the pace to belong. 

The new Racing Bulls team (renamed from Alpha Tauri) is looking much stronger this year than last thanks to it borrowing from parent team’s Red Bull RB19 that was so dominant last year. That means that Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda could have a machine to bring them consistent top 10s and surprise others throughout the year. Alpha Tauri was mighty close to coming in last place in 2023 if it weren’t for a couple of heroic performances from Liam Lawson and Daniel Ricciardo getting them solid chunks of points. With Ricciardo seemingly returning to a much stronger form and Yuki gaining more and more experience, the duo is set to bring this team to higher levels than they’ve seen in a long while.

Alpine just sneaks into the mid-tier level of competitors, but expect them to struggle against both Aston Martin and the Racing Bulls. The team didn’t get to complete as many testing miles as it wanted to in pre-season testing, and it’s been downplaying expectations for the start of the season. That said, we fully expect Alpine to challenge for points with consistency and definitely improve its standing versus the rather abysmal 2023 season it went through.

A bit of a mystery

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Judging by Alex Albon’s superb performances over the course of last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Williams put a lot of points on the board in 2024, too. Logan Sargeant, the only American on the grid, has a second chance to show the sport that he deserves to be there, which is a little more leeway than others might get after the disappointing 2023 he had. This is also James Vowles’ first full off-season and regular season for Williams, and while pre-season testing was rough for them with problems cropping up and limiting track time, the limited running they did looked promising. Williams could be one of the teams that struggles at the beginning, but comes on strong as the season progresses.

Stake F1 (or Sauber) has a totally new concept for its car this year, so things will either be really bad or middlingly good. Pre-season testing puts them in a similar position as last season, toward the rear of the grid and fighting tooth and nail with Haas. That’s not where Valterri Bottas or Zhou Guanyu want to be. Despite the pace, the car’s redesign gives us some degree of hope that Sauber can turn it around and maybe snag the occasional points finish in 2024. Guanyu will be driving for his future in the sport with his contract being up after this season, so expect him to try and impress in hopes of either resigning or transitioning to a more competitive team.

Bringing up the rear

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Haas seems to have little confidence in its ability to compete, so we’re afraid that another last-place finish is in the cards for Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg. Guenther Steiner is no longer on the pit wall in 2024, replaced by former Director of Engineering Ayao Komatsu. Netflix’s “Drive To Survive” will be sad to see Steiner leave the circus behind, but it also means a new start for Haas with a new philosophy. Singe-lap pace was the team’s strong suit last year, and the changes made for 2024 aim to help race pace, but interviews with team members paint a grim picture of more back-of-the-grid finishes. Look for Haas to try and take advantage of bad weather or other unexpected circumstances to score some points and lift itself from the drudgery of last place.



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