Things to know ahead of the 2023 F1 season

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F1 teams were back in action at the Bahrain International Circuit last week, preparing themselves for the forthcoming 2023 season which gets underway at the very same venue with the Bahrain Grand Prix staging the first round. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó analyses some key aspects of the upcoming record-breaking season.

Record-braking season - The championship is due to be contested over a record twenty-three Grands Prix, and and is scheduled to begin in March and end in November. Bahrain will stage the season-opening race on 5 March with Abu Dhabi brining the season to a close on 26 November.

The Qatar Grand Prix is scheduled to return to the calendar, after last being held in 2021. Although there were plans to move the race to a new purpose-built circuit, the race will stay in Lusail.

F1 will add a third race in the United States with the Las Vegas Grand Prix set to make its debut. The race will be held in November on a new street track across the Las Vegas Strip.

The French Grand Prix will not feature on the 2023 calendar although the promoters of the Grand Prix stated that they would aim for a rotational race deal by sharing its slot with other Grands Prix. The Chinese Grand Prix was initially due to be part of the calendar after last being held in 2019, but the promoters were forced to cancel the race for the fourth consecutive time due to the Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

Although the Hungarian Grand Prix used to be the race that traditionally closed the first half of the season ahead of the summer shutdown, the Belgian Grand Prix will take over this role with the Spa race with moved forwards to the end of July.

More sprints – Sprint races were introduced in F1 in 2021 when three weekends sported a special format. F1 Sprint is a 100km dash with no mandatory pit stops and drivers racing flat-out to the chequered flag.

Each of the last two seasons incorporated three sprint races with Silverstone, Monza and Sao Paulo hosting this 100km race. Last year saw Imola, the Red Bull Ring and Sao Paulo stage the sprint weekend format.

For the upcoming season, the amount of sprint races has doubled. There will be six sprint weekends: Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, USA and Brazil.

Three rookies – There will be three rookie drivers on the grid in F1. Sebastian Vettel has decided to leave the sport following his illustrious career while Daniel Ricciardo was left without a racing seat after McLaren had decided to terminate his contract. Mick Schumacher was dropped by Haas at the end of last year, and will serve as Mercedes reserve driver this year. Williams has opted for a new driver line-up, deciding not to extend Nicholas Latifi’s contract.

In this merry-go-round, three drivers will make their debut in F1 this year. Oscar Piastri will drive for McLaren while former F2 driver Logan Sargeant will join the grid with Williams.

The Faenza-based outfit AlphaTauri moved for Nyck de Vries, Formula E champion and long-time Mercedes reserve who has already completed a grand prix, having stood in for Alex Albon at Williams at the 2022 Italian GP.

After announcing his departure from Alpine, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso made the shock move to Aston Martin to join Lance Stroll.

Pierre Gasly will join Esteban Ocon at Alpine to complete a full French driver line up at the French outit. Elsewhere, Haas has replaced Schumacher with Nico Hulkenberg, who will make his return to the sport, having last competed in Formula One as a full-time race driver in 2019 with former team Renault.

Unchanged driver pairing - Four teams will start the season with an unchanged driver line-up with Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Alfa Romeo opting to continue to compete will their 2022 driver pairing.

Return of Honda While Honda left Formula One at the end of 2021, the Japanese engine-maker will make its return – at least formally. The Sakura-based company will return as a named engine supplier to Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri, with both teams' engines badged as Honda RBPT. Although their relationship will end at the end of 2025, Honda will continue its technical support of Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri in the coming three years.

Safety measure - Roll hoops came under the spotlight after Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu's huge accident at the start of last year's British GP. Following extensive research conducted by the FIA, F1 cars will feature stronger roll hoops from 2023 with the tweaked rules stating that rounded top is required on the roll hoop. The governing body hopes that the new shape will reduce the chance of the roll hoop digging into the ground during an accident.

Bigger mirrors - The new season will see the rear-view mirrors become bigger in an attempt to increase driver visibility. The sport held tests with Red Bull and Mercedes in Hungary and Belgium before most of the teams carried out experiments with the bigger mirrors at Zandvoort.

As a result of the change, the size of the side-mirrors will be increased from 150 mm × 50 mm to 200 mm × 60 mm.

Grid penalties – In previous season, races in which multiple drivers served grid drop penalties often led to confusions. The latest prominent example for that is the 2022 Italian Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda all received grid penalties with the different nature of penalties having led to confusion over how these were applied.

In order to clear up the confusion, wording of the regulations has been updated. The new rule stated that driver who receive “more than 15 cumulative grid position penalties, or who have been penalised to start at the back of the grid, will start behind any other classified driver. Their relative position will be determined in accordance with their qualifying classification.”

Revised floor tests – After porpoising affecting most cars last years, the FIA introduced in-season changes last year the the Belgian Grand Prix that saw the governing body measure the car’s vertical forces accurately.

For 2023, additional sensors will be installed to the car which will enable the FIA to monitor the situation even closely. Furthermore, the diffuser throat has been raised and the floor edges have been raised by 15mm in order to prevent cars ‘porpoising’.

Revised gearbox rules – Previously, teams were only allowed to make changes to their gearbox designs when they encountered reliability problems of for cost saving reasons. the 2023 rules now allow changes “in the case of materials, processes or proprietary parts becoming unavailable or having their use restricted for health and safety reasons.”

New compound - Pirelli will introduce a sixth dry weather compound tyre to their range for 2023, with the 'C0' set to be added to the previous range. The tyre maker will continue to nominate three tyres - a Soft, Medium, and Hard - for each Grand Prix weekend.

New wet tyres – Following successful testing by Pirelli, the Milan-based tyre manufacturer have made a new, "more performant" wet weather tyre that will be available from the 2023 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix onwards. The new tyre is a reaction to issues from the previous seasons which often saw they the tyres fail to properly cope with extreme weather conditions.

Tyre experiements – Pirelli will debut an exciting tyre allocation at two events which will saw a previously mandated tyre allocation in the qualifying session. In this so called ‘Revised Qualifying Format’ drivers will be able to use hard tyres only in Q1; mediums tyres only in Q2; and, finally, soft tyres only in Q3. Intermediates and wets will be allowed if the RQF sessions are declared wet.

Working hours – In order to promote the wellbeing of team members, the number of hours worked by F1 team personnel across grand prix race weekends will be reduced over the next two seasons.

The third of three restricted periods (on Fridays) will start an hour earlier in 2023, with another hour set to be taken off for 2024. It means that team members will have an earlier finish on Friday as the third restricted period will start 14 hours before FP3, with a further switch to 15 hours from 2024.

Furthermore, the number of curfews allowed for the first Wednesday and second Thursday will also be cut in half - again, in a bid to reduce work hours in the paddock.

Sprint races - The Sprint race weekend are also set to undergo several sporting changes. In order to reduce the current excessive workload on FIA technical staff and scrutineers during events that include a Sprint session, the F1Commission approved a revised Parc Fermé request acceptance policy, in which Sprint weekend Parc Fermé allows a greater scope to change components that are prone to getting damaged, and greater use of self-declared Parc Fermé forms. It means that the FIA aims to simplify the set-up-locking process for race weekend featuring sprint format.

This will apply for the whole Parc Fermé period from when the car leaves for Qualifying on Friday to when the car starts the race. This will be implemented via a Technical Directive.

Circuit changes - The FIA confirmed various updates and changes to circuits for the coming season. In Saudi Arabia, significant changes have been to improve visibility on corner entry wherever possible. In Azerbaijan and Miami, drivers well encounter a completely resurfaced track. Zandvoort will also undergo a key change with the space between the pit stop positions set to be increased by 1.5m. Following its inaugural race in 2021, Qatar will welcome teams and drivers with a new pit building and paddock infrastructure.

The FIA has analysed DRS zones for 2022 and some changes made for 2023 in order to either facilitate overtaking, or make it harder in certain circuits where it was deemed not to be enough of a challenge. These changes will be implemented in Bahrain, Jeddah, Melbourne, Baku and Miami, and involve the adjustment of detection and activation zones, and additionally in Melbourne the 4th activation zone will be reinstated.

New shutdown period - Along with the existing summer shutdown, the sport will introduce a winter shutdown period for both Competitors and PU Manufacturers. This change was implemented due to concerns over the impact longer seasons are having on staff. The governing body has yet to confirm the proposed length of the shutdown, which will affect power unit production programmes as well as the teams themselves.

Financial change - An increase of the cost cap adjustment for additional races above 21 was agreed from 1.2M$ to 1.8M$ per race on the basis that the trend of the additional races being added to the calendar has been towards fly-aways, which are more expensive.

The sport first announced a budget cap in 2021 with a limit of $145 million. It was scaled down to $140 million for 2022 and drops to $135 million for 2023, excluding driver salaries and engine costs. These figures are based on a 21-race season and will be adjusted accordingly.

Monitoring of the cost cap - Wording has also been added to the rules to allow easier access to the factories for the FIA auditing team, in order to police the adherence of the teams and PU Manufacturers to the Financial Regulations, and to the Operational limitations of the technical and Sporting Regulations.

In the future, the FIA aims to conclude its investigation regarding the budget and spending of each team earlier than last year as they published their final finding at the end of October last season.

Communication – Teams have been previously not allowed to communicate to their drivers during formation laps which aimed to make things tougher for drivers to perfect their setups at start procedures. For the upcoming season, the F1 Commission have agreed to relax the rules surrounding team radio.

No change – In recent years, the weight of the Formula 1 car has increased massively in a relatively short space of time with 2013’s cars being limited to 642kg, 156kg lower than the cap for 2022. Last year saw the introduction of new ground effect cars with the weight also increasing from 749kg to 798kg compared to 2021 due to strengthening of several safety components of the cars and the introduction of bigger tyres.

For 2023, the minimum weight of the F1 car was set to drop by two kilograms from 798kg to 796kg. However, the technical advisory group have decided to keep the current cap, sticking with the 798kg cap of 2022.

The figure of 798kg is minus the fuel allocation, which can take a car to above 900kg if filled to the brim.

Engine weight - The allowed weight of power units will be increased for 2023 from 150 kg to 151 kg. This change was necessary as the total weight will also include components that were previously part of the chassis weight, such as the ducts of the plenum chamber.

Cooling of fuel – Fuel temperature massively affects the performance of F1 cars as the cooler the fuel is, the more energy it contains. That is why teams try to gain a competitive advantage by tweaking temperature which has caused many controversies in the past.

The most prominent case happened at the 2007 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix when McLaren accused Williams and BMW to have used fuel that was outside of the legal temperature range. The FIA rejected McLaren's appeal, but it could have changed the outcome of the championship.

For 2023, the FIA has made a tweak to the regulation regarding the fuel in a car. It means that the fuel must not be colder than the lowest of either 10 degrees centigrade below ambient temperature, or 10 degrees centigrade (this being cut from 20 degrees), at any time when the car is running after leaving the competitor’s designated garage area.