Who Will Win the Battle of the ‘Next Best’ in F1 in 2023?

When the major sports betting sites are running ‘without Max Verstappen’ and ‘without Red Bull’ markets, you know that the current F1 season has already become something of a procession.

Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Perez have won all six races of the 2023 campaign to date, and such has been the dominance of Red Bull in the early going – with obvious vulnerabilities at Mercedes and Ferrari – that it feels as though every other team is fighting it out for second place in the constructors’ championship.

But who will prevail in the battle for next best?

Silver Service

Few racing fans could say with any great confidence which team will provide Verstappen and co their greatest challenge this season at this point, and that is reflected in the ‘without Red Bull’ Formula 1 betting odds. Both Mercedes and Aston Martin are priced at 5/4, with Ferrari a shade behind at 16/5.

At this point, an argument could be made that Mercedes are a fraction ahead of their two main rivals in the race for second place – not a finishing position that the German firm have become accustomed to finishing in over the past decade or so.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have posted the fastest laps at the Monaco and Azerbaijan GPs respectively, which offers a snapshot of what the W14 is capable of – albeit, the car hasn’t been able to deliver the consistent speeds for an entire race that would propel the two drivers into contention.

Much of Aston Martin’s success so far in 2023 has been predicated on the brilliance of Fernando Alonso, who has delivered five podium finishes in six starts – including that thrilling runner-up effort at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The other AMR23 car has been rather less successful, pointing in only three of its six outings and failing to finish in Saudi Arabia and Monaco. With such reliability issues, Mercedes perhaps have the edge in the quest for a consolatory second place behind Red Bull in the season-long standings.

Maybe Next Year

It’s been a wretched start to 2023 for Ferrari, who have just one podium finish to their name, courtesy of Charles Leclerc in Azerbaijan.

Article continues below

They continue to qualify well without taking that form into race day, which is an obstacle that Frederic Vasseur and his two drivers will need to overcome – and fast – if the season isn’t to be a complete write-off.

Vasseur has admitted that he doesn’t know why the SF-23 is struggling to keep pace after a solid 2022 season: “It is true that so far we were struggling on the long stint with consistency. We are trying to develop the car. It could be mechanical or aero,” are words from a team principle that hardly instill confidence.

It’s been suggested that at least two engineers from Red Bull will join Ferrari for the 2024 season, with David George – an experience aerodynamics specialist – one of the duo.

That would suggest that the Scuderia are already focusing on next term, which allied to Aston Martin’s team inconsistency may well hand Mercedes a huge advantage in the race for second place in 2023.