2024 Formula 1 Season Preview: How do the teams stack up at the start?

2024 Formula 1 Season Preview: How do the teams stack up at the start?

There’s no sugar-coating it or burying the lead on this one – anybody you ask is expecting Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to run away with another Formula 1 World Championship in 2024. From the car’s pace in pre-season testing, to Max’s delight about its performance in interviews after, it’s looking ominous for the rest of the grid. That said, there is still a “rest of the grid,” so let’s take a look at what’s expected of them for the 2024 season.

Podium contenders

The early favorite as runner-up to Max and Red Bull are Ferrari. Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz showed promising pace in testing, and the two were rather happy with their cars compared to the previous season. However, like others on the grid, they believed the Red Bulls to be even stronger.


“My initial feeling is that Red Bull remains the reference and ahead for now,” Leclerc said after pre-season testing.

Formula 1 compiled and put together a handy timing comparison chart – find it here – from all the testing done in Bahrain, and Ferrari still appears to be a couple of tenths slower than Red Bull. Certain cars suit certain tracks better than others, but starting out on the back foot is never a good thing.

Another team tempering expectations is McLaren.

“I’m feeling good, the car has definitely felt [like] an improvement in some areas, and in other areas still plenty to improve,” Lando Norris said after testing. “A positive few days, but still a big gap to some of the guys ahead, so that’s a lot of work we still need to do over the next week or so to try and close that down already.”

McLaren ended 2023 on a high note after starting the season as badly as they did. The upgrades it brought throughout the year eventually propped the car up to be second-fastest on the grid, which was enough to challenge Red Bull in qualifying and occasionally give Verstappen fits during the race. Oscar Piastri even won a sprint race, though neither Piastri nor Norris got close to winning a full-length race in 2023. The team hopes to continue its success into 2024, stay on the podium and maybe even swipe a few victories away from Red Bull.

If Ferrari or McLaren are able to put together full-season team performances and consistently get on the podium, either one has the opportunity to make the Constructors’ battle a tight one. Sergio Perez at Red Bull simply hasn’t been able to extract the sort of pace from that car Verstappen can, which left second and third place up for grabs in many a grand prix last year. Of course, Max could just win enough that Perez’s points total hardly matters, but these second-tier teams can certainly smell blood if there is any weakness from the Red Bull duo.

Mercedes is going to have a rather awkward year with Lewis Hamilton, as everybody at this point knows he’s off to Ferrari for the 2025 season. It was odd timing for the Ferrari announcement, which is typically something you’d see in “silly season” and not during the long winter break of development heading into a new year. Nevertheless, Mercedes has finally ditched its “zero-pod” design for 2024, so there’s hope the team could find the pace it’s been lacking for the past couple of years. Formula 1’s timing predictions put them slower than both Ferrari and McLaren in the beginning, but Mercedes has proven it can develop the car throughout the year and challenge for the podium.

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