Pit Debrief writers select their best and worst races of the 2023 F1 season

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Best races Zandvoort —

As a Dutchie, I’m quite relieved to say that the Dutch Grand Prix has made it to the list of the best races of 2023, to prove that the twist and turns through the dunes can provide actual racing spectacle rather than the event serving as a three day music festival interrupted by the sound of engines.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The first two editions since the return of the race in Zandvoort were mediocre, and that’s being generous. In 2021 the relentless title fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton added the necessary tension to the race, but other than that I have a hard time remembering any actually noteworthy from that race.

Last year’s resurgence by Mercedes teased everyone with a possible tactical banger, until the Ferrari engine in Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa-Romeo decided to spew it’s innards on the main straight. The following safety car threw Verstappen a lifeline, killing any suspense before it could materialise.

And with Verstappen on pole position (again), a repetition of the average 2023 Grand Prix was looming, but thankfully the ever pleasant Dutch summer decided to spice things up this day, as during the formation lap it started to rain quite significantly. Barely enough for the native fans to grab their poncho’s, but quite enough to confuse the drivers in their tyre choice.

The pit stop chaos resulted in Sergio Pérez leading from Verstappen, but the hometown hero wasn’t to be denied a home victory, showing everyone why he was going to be this year’s champion, whereas his teammate only managed fourth after a few mistakes and a penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

So on paper is was just another boring race, but with a new overtake record — 186 overtakes, excluding the first lap and pit stops — there was not a dull moment during the race, something Formula 1 needed after the summer break during what would be a record-breaking 10 Grand Prix winning streak.

Other impressive drives were there by Alonso, who brought home second for an Aston Martin outfit that was a bit in the mud during that phase of the season, and by Liam Lawson, who had to step in for Ricciardo as the Aussie broke his hand after he hit the wall during practice.

The young Kiwi made no mistakes in the torrential rain, something which could not be said for Logan Sargeant, who binned his Williams twice during weekend. Charles Leclerc also had an abysmal race after he picked up damage in the opening lap, eventually prompting Ferrari to retire his car.

So a race that had plenty of action, ranging from daring overtakes to hairy moments and a few excursions into the TecPro. The only thing that was missing was a surprise winner, but given perfection showcased by Verstappen in 2023, that was probably a bit much to ask from a single race.


Singapore has always been one of my favourite circuits on the calendar. If I didn’t have to constantly defend my home race as my only favourite, it would be right up there joining it along with Baku. Since I’ve been watching F1 at the age of 6, Singapore has always been one of the tracks that I make sure to wake up for early in the morning to cope with the 13-hour time difference between Singapore and Montreal (we’re not going to talk about how the Montreal native did at this event). I know there’s always some excitement in store, and this year did not disappoint at all.

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

This year’s Singapore Grand Prix was one of the best because of, among other things, the most glaring result: someone not named Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez won the race. For the first and only time this season, Red Bull did not win the race. In fact, they were so far off the pace, as Verstappen finished P5 and Perez P9.

But, the person who did win was more than worthy of getting the win for him and for his team: Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. A stellar drive from start to finish included a few impressive points in his race, like surviving turn 1 and keeping Lando Norris within DRS range in order to stop George Russell, who was on much fresher tyres in the closing laps, from passing both of them. It was a tactical masterclass.

Speaking of Norris, I could say that Singapore was the beginning of the true resurgence of McLaren. While Lando Norris did get 2 podiums before this race, it was the absence of Red Bull in the top 3 that showed that McLaren was a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.

While qualifying did not go well for Oscar Piastri, it definitely showed that the McLaren car can contend regardless of scenario.

There was also a new point scorer in Singapore: Liam Lawson. In only his third race after filling in due to Daniel Ricciardo’s broken hand, the Kiwi driver drove excellently all weekend, qualifying 10th and finishing 9th. It showed that the decision to bring him in was the right one, and it surely sets him on a path for a full-time seat very soon.

Finally, we saw glimpses of a resurgent Mercedes. George Russell came so close to clinching a podium, but stunned everyone as he crashed on the last lap. However, his teammate took advantage, and Lewis Hamilton finished in 3rd, which showed that Mercedes also had pace when the conditions were right.

All in all, Singapore provided great storylines throughout the order and the excitement of a new winner in 2023 added to it.

Las Vegas

Late nights, a limousine ride to the podium, drain covers flying around, a world champion getting married in the paddock and a lot of overtakes, all under the prying eye of the Sphere.

Formula 1 went to Vegas with the aim of putting together a Super bowl-like event that brought together sport and entertainment, a fine line to cross that raised quite a few eyebrows in the paddock as well.

Things had started out with champion Max Verstappen quite unpleased with a very scenographic opening cerimony, that saw drivers raise up from underneath the stage and wave – much like tributes in the Hunger Games – making the Dutchman feel like a “clown”.

First practice left the teams concerned over safety – after a drain cover disrupted the floor of Sainz’s car only 8 minutes into the session- and fans annoyed for having to leave the grandstands and miss out on free practice the FIA had to delay into late night to be able to make the necessary fixes.

But what seemed to be “99% show, and 1% sport,” soon proved to be one of the most exciting weekends of the season.

The high speeds and low grip of the circuit was quite the challenge for drivers that overtook eachother for a total of 82 times – only Zandvoort did better this season – in a race that saw many close battles and two safety cars.

Verstappen took the lead from poleman Leclerc with a move that cost him a 5s penalty, went through a collision with Russell which left him with damage. However, he went on to take the win thanks to a Safety Car that benefitted him following that contact with Russell that resulted in lots of debris on the circuit.

But driver of the day was undoubtedly Charles Leclerc, who overtook the Red Bulls three times and pulled a brilliant last minute move to overtake Perez and take P2, showing off his braking abilities.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Worst racesSão Paulo —

If we had a “worst races” standings, Brazil would be the most relevant runner-up in my opinion.

The Brazilian Grand Prix has a reputation for intense races with surprising results. Fans and specialists were both let down by the 2023 race, which turned out to be one of the most disappointing events of the season following a thrilling sprint.

Brazil scored its first goal before even the race had begun, when Charles Leclerc crashed out on the formation lap due to a technical fault on his SF-23.

Following that, a red flag was raised after the major first corner crash between Alex Albon, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, which saw the Dane and Thai retire. Not to mention Oscar Piastri’s rear wing being hit by Magnussen’s spinning car and Daniel Ricciardo’s car getting hit by Albon’s flying left-rear tyre, costing them both a lap while getting their cars repaired.

Russell, Bottas and Guanyu eventually retiring made the remaining laps only worse in Interlagos and we were left with a race of 14 drivers. The field spread out for the most part.

But there was one special moment: Fernando Alonso finishing third by beating Sergio Perez to the line by only 0.053 seconds.

The Spaniard had put on a defensive masterclass to hold off Perez until the penultimate lap. However, he stayed in the fight and repassed the Mexican into turn 4 on the final tour. A sensational moment in a rather forgettable race.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin Aramaco Cognizant F1 Team

Bahrain —

The first round of the 2023 season in Bahrain would prove to be a race that pretty much summarised what was to come in the 21 races that followed it.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

From pole position, Max Verstappen would claim a comfortable victory from teammate Sergio Perez. The Dutch driver would go on to win a further 18 races in the campaign gone by, a quite staggering achievement.

Behind the Red Bulls, Charles Leclerc’s bad luck continued, losing a certain podium through unreliability. It wouldn’t be his last piece of misfortune in 2023.

The one feel-good and positive story was the leap made by Aston Martin. Fernando Alonso’s overtaking show — including that superb pass on Lewis Hamilton — saw the Spaniard claim the final spot on the podium. He would visit the rostrum a further five times in the opening eight rounds.

A brilliant recovery from Pierre Gasly on his Alpine debut allowed the Frenchman to score two points after starting P20. That was another highlight.

However, Bahrain proved to be unusually underwhelming as it became harder to follow another car compared to the first part of 2022 in particular. It was a theme that continued throughout the season.

Qatar —

In spite of the entertainment provided by the Sprint format, which saw an unusual winner on Saturday in McLaren’s rookie driver Oscar Piastri, and Max Verstappen win his third title in second, Qatar has to be counted in the worst races of the 2023 season.

No event is great if a driver has to retire from it due to health concerns, like it happened to Logan Sargeant, almost faints in the final laps (Lance Stroll), throws up in the car (Esteban Ocon) or gets burns (Fernando Alonso).

The amount of fatigue suffered by the drivers can be explained with the decision taken by the organisation of moving the race to October, instead of sticking with November as in the inaugural round in 2021.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Another cause of concern was the compulsory three stops due to concerns about the Pirelli tyres, which forced all of them to push the tyres and themselves to the maximum and beyond.

While it definitely made for some good on track moves, the consequences on their health were too severe to consider it a positive day for the sport overall.

Among the drivers least affected by the extreme conditions was championship winner Max Verstappen, who easily took the full length race win. The best performing team overall was McLaren, placing both drivers on the podium in spite of lower starting positions.

Another interesting racing episode was the Mercedes first lap collision between teammates, with Lewis Hamilton hitting George Russell from behind. The seven-time World Champion was forced to retire the car, whereas the younger British driver ended his race in P4 thanks to a superb recovery.