Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz told they won’t be fighting Max Verstappen

Charles Leclerc led the early stages of the 2022 season, before Max Verstappen claimed complete control of the championship.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi believes the 2023 title fight won’t necessarily be all about double World Champion Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, with the Frenchman believing that Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey has “become the decisive factor”.

There is no argument that Newey is one of the greatest engineers that the sport has ever seen, with the Brit commonly being responsible for designing game-changing upgrades.

With this in mind, Alesi makes perfect sense in believing that Newey could be the key to Red Bull claiming both titles in 2023, with Ferrari needing to be on top of their game to give Leclerc the right car and upgrades to fight Verstappen throughout the season.

“You have to consider [as Ferrari], I think, two competitors,” Alesi told Italian publication Autosprint.

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“Red Bull, which is currently the absolute leader in Formula 1 and is incredibly strong in every field. Also, Mercedes. They are getting stronger, especially after Russell’s victory in Brazil.

“I don’t think they will make a mistake twice in designing a car.

“If we really look at how things stand, the real factor to consider is Adrian Newey. Ever since F1 announced that there were new rules and engineers were given freedom, Newey has been making a difference.”

Ferrari failed to develop their 2022 challenger as well as Red Bull did, which ultimately saw Leclerc’s attention switch to fighting for second in the Drivers’ Championship, rather than first.

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Red Bull had been on the back-foot during the opening rounds of last season, before their initial upgrades saw the Austrians haul in the Scuderia.

Ferrari must focus on maintaining a strong package for the entirety of 2023, rather than prioritising the start of the year, given that Red Bull will become stronger as the year develops, thanks to Newey.

“Newey has become the decisive factor, because he is able like no other to keep improving the car during the season, even if it’s only small changes,” Alesi explained.

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“In the end, though, they are small gains. That’s why I don’t think it will be a battle between Verstappen and Leclerc, but fundamentally between Newey and Ferrari.

“If he again comes up with a masterpiece, everything will be very difficult again this year. On the other hand, if this year’s Red Bull car will have something fallible and fragile things could change.

“In any case, let us not forget that, whether things go well or badly, Newey is a fundamental factor in winning or losing.”