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Formula 1 2024's biggest dark horses? Teams that could shake up F1 pecking order

Published at :February 9, 2024 at 6:23 PM
Modified at :February 9, 2024 at 6:23 PM
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(Courtesy : Formula 1)

Rahul Saha


2024 pre-season testing is just a fortnight away

The 2023 Formula 1 season looks more like a distant memory, with pre-season testing for the 2024 season a fortnight away.

Red Bull and Max Verstappen ran riot during the 2023 season as the duo won their third consecutive world title in style. However, the battle from second downwards was intensely fought, with every tenth of a second making a difference. 

Mercedes just fended off Ferrari’s final charge thanks to the ever-consistent Lewis Hamilton finishing third in the championship behind Sergio Pérez, while Carlos Sainz and Ferrari were the only ones to spoil Red Bull’s dreams of a clean slate with a surprise victory in Singapore.

With no significant changes in the technical regulations, the cars are only expected to get faster from hereon, narrowing down the field as well. Thus, with the teams and drivers heading into the third year of this set of regulations, let’s take a look at who can emerge as the potential dark horses for the 2024 Formula One season.

McLaren 

When McLaren turned up for the first Grand Prix of the 2023 season, they were easily the slowest car on the grid. But with sharp decisions in the development department, they quickly emerged as the second-quickest race on the grid midway through the season. Both Lando Norris and rookie driver Oscar Piastri proved their mettle as the duo notched up an incredible nine podium finishes from the British GP onwards.

Now headed in the right direction, McLaren are currently the best-placed team to challenge Red Bull. And given their P4 finishes in the Constructors’ Championship, the British team will get more CFD time compared to its rival. Considering all of these factors, along with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri gaining another year of experience, the writing is on the wall for McLaren to finally seize their opportunity. 

Aston Martin 

Aston Martin’s start to 2023 surprised many, especially their emerging as the second-best car behind the Red Bulls. Fernando Alonso secured six podium finishes in his first seven races and was easily the second-best driver on the grid behind Verstappen.

However, as the season wore on, most of the front runners outran them in the development race, but the way Fernando Alonso drove throughout the season and the way in which they recovered later on to push McLaren for P4 suggests that the British outfit could be able to repeat the heroics of 2023, especially given they’ve addressed where they exactly went wrong.

Alpha Tauri 

The sister Red Bull team started off the 2023 season on the back foot, with their new driver, Nick DeVries, struggling massively. Eventually, the team had to let go of the Dutchman for an experienced veteran in Daniel Ricciardo. While the Australian started to find his feet, his young teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, exhibited some of his raw potential. Eventually, the team recovered to finish eighth in the constructors’ battle, which was way below the team’s expectations.

Although long-time team principal Franz Tost has stepped down from his role to enjoy a well-deserved time off from the sport, the Austrian has left the team in great shape with Peter Bayer, with experience from the FIA, joining as the new CEO and Laurent Mekies joining from Ferrari, where he was Sporting Director, to take on the team principal role. Moreover, with the team reported to be forging a closer relationship with Red Bull for the coming year, hopes are high for the Italian outfit to make a push for an upper-midfield slot.

Williams Racing 

Williams’ fortune for the 2023 season looked doomed from the offset when they lost both their Team Principal and Technical Director in quick succession. But James Vowles steadied the ship after an impressive stint at Mercedes. The team did some excellent work during the winter testing and brought their final upgrades to Canada as the team shifted their focus to ploughing resources into their 2024 machine in a bid to make a more sustained step up the field.

Despite that, the team finished seventh in the Constructors’ Championship, with Alex Albon scoring 27 out of the 28 points scored by the team. Thus, with most of their resources spent on the 2024 car and an in-form Alex Albon, we can expect big things from Williams Racing this season, so much so that even a podium finish is not out of the realm of possibilities.

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