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Will Mercedes’ slow start result in another winless year for Lewis Hamilton in F1 2023? | F1

Another dry campaign for Mercedes?

Mercedes go into the first race of the season – like they did in 2021 and 2022 on the backfoot.

While the issues don’t appear as severe as last year, with porpoising no longer being a hindrance, Mercedes seem no closer to challenging Red Bull and thus for the title this year.

Mercedes struggled throughout the three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, particularly with rear-end stability and traction – something the RB19 excelled in.

It’s familiar territory for Mercedes, who often perform unspectacularly in pre-season testing.

In 2019, Ferrari appeared the team to beat going into the first half of the year, however, Mercedes won the first eight races.

Similarly in 2021, Mercedes were way off it following the changes to the floor regulations over the winter, handing the impetus to Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

While it’s clear the issues that face Mercedes currently aren’t as detrimental as last year, they don’t seem to be in a spot to challenge Red Bull or even Ferrari.

2022 was Mercedes’ worst year in a decade, registering just one win in 22 rounds courtesy of George Russell.

Lewis Hamilton, whose contract with Mercedes runs out at the end of the year, slumped to his worst championship finish, combined with no wins or pole positions to his name.

To Hamilton’s credit, he rallied the troops, remained motivated and maintained a positive attitude – but how long can that last?

Several outlets are reporting that Mercedes should be more concerned with Aston Martin, let alone the top two at the front.

Time will tell to see how much Mercedes are struggling – let’s hope it’s not as much as it appears.

Can anyone stop Red Bull?

The RB19 looks to be the class of the field, with it being an impressive evolution over its dominant predecessor.

As a result, Verstappen is the clear favourite to win this weekend, and this year’s championship.

It would make it three consecutive titles, matching what Sebastian Vettel achieved between 2010 and 2012.

The worrying thing for their competitors is that the disadvantages of the RB18 (2022 car) seem to have been rectified.

They have reduced the weight of the car, improved its performance in the corners, while the RB19 still has incredible top-speed.

On top of that, Red Bull have said that the car has been built to suit both driver’s style.

It’s Red Bull’s race to lose.

All eyes on Fernando

Alongside Red Bull, Aston Martin were one of the biggest success stories of pre-season testing.

In the hands of Fernando Alonso, the AMR23 was hooked up and consistently quick, particularly in the race simulations.

Alonso revealed after testing that their race stint on day three was “slightly quicker” than Ferrari’s.

Whether Aston Martin can truly challenge Ferrari or Mercedes for the podium this weekend it’s still unclear that the Silverstone-outfit has made incredible progress from the start of last year.

Let’s not forget Aston Martin were bottom of the constructors’ championship after three races last year.

Messy midfield

The midfield looks to be tighter than ever.

It remains to be seen whether Aston Martin or Alpine are able to pull away from that congested pack, but from sixth down, it looks impossible to call.

Alfa Romeo and Haas enjoyed solid pre-seasons, likely benefitting from Ferrari’s power unit improvements over the winter.

AlphaTauri showed respectable pace towards the end of the test as they look to build on a disappointing P9 finish in the constructors’ championship while Williams enjoyed their best pre-season since 2017.

One team that will be fearful going into the opening round will be McLaren after CEO Zak Brown admitted that they failed to hit their “development goals” with their 2023 car.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both McLarens knocked out in Q1 given how much they have struggled, but Lando Norris tends to pull a lap out when it matters.

New drivers

F1 welcomes a number of rookies to the grid for F1 2023.

Oscar Piastri makes his debut for McLaren, and he’s arguably the best prospect to enter F1 since Norris and George Russell in 2019.

Logan Sargeant will become America’s first full-time driver since 2006, when he debuts for Williams, while Nyck de Vries (who has one grand prix start to his name) races for AlphaTauri.

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