McLaren stays with Mercedes power, there’s a host of youngsters in action, and a long-serving team boss bids farewell. Autoweek wraps up the Formula 1 action both on and off the track at Abu Dhabi.
Hold the Blankets, And Other Sporting Changes
The F1 Commission met in Abu Dhabi to discuss tweaks to the sporting regulations across future seasons. One of the main topics was F1 Sprints, with a general agreement to refine the format for 2024, though the exact structure has yet to be defined.
There is a broad agreement to ensure Sprint is split from the remainder of the Grand Prix weekend. There is also a push to change the weekend format to avoid drivers being stuck in parc ferme conditions—where car set-ups are locked in and cannot be altered without a penalty—after just one practice session.
There are set to be six Sprint events once more in 2024 with the locations yet to be announced.
In other news on the regulations front:
• It was also confirmed that a proposed ban on tire blankets for 2025 has been scrapped entirely.
• In response to the extreme heat drivers encountered in Qatar updates to the technical rules have been allowed permitting scoops in order to increase driver cooling.
• It was also agreed by the Commission that teams will not be permitted to begin any work on the 2026 chassis—the exact regulations of which are still being ironed out—until the start of 2025.
• Progress has also been made on the terms of the Concorde Agreement—the document that binds together Formula 1, the FIA and the teams—ahead of 2026.
• Work is also ongoing regarding rain covers—which could be used in the event of extreme weather conditions—but further tests will not take place until spring 2024, meaning any introduction is improbable until 2026.
Several of these rule tweaks are expected to be rubber-stamped at next week’s meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in Baku.
McLaren sticks with Mercedes through 2030
McLaren will continue to use Mercedes’ power units in Formula 1 through at least 2030.
McLaren formed a successful alliance with Mercedes from 1995 through 2014 but severed ties ahead of 2015 in order to link up with Honda. That partnership proved unsuccessful and after a so-so three-year affiliation with Renault it opted to jump back into bed with Mercedes in 2021.
The existing agreement ran through 2025 but that has now been extended from 2026-30 in order to cover the next power unit regulatory cycle. It gives Mercedes a strong partner long-term, with current customer Aston Martin to form a works deal with Honda from 2026, and existing customer Williams’ yet to determine its future.
“Mercedes-Benz have been a brilliant and reliable partner of the McLaren Formula 1 team,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. “The extension signifies the confidence that our shareholders and the wider team have in their powertrains and the direction we're taking with them into the new era of regulations ahead. We have been successful together, both in the last three seasons and when they previously powered the team, so we look forward to the success to come as we continue our journey to fight consistently at the front of the grid.”
Brown also revealed that McLaren will have a greater influence with Mercedes moving forward, quipping they now “have a seat at the table” with the power unit marque, and doubled down on his belief that it is possible to win a world championship without being a works team.
Pourchaire wins Formula 2 championship
Sauber-backed Frenchman Théo Pourchaire is this year’s Formula 2 champion.
The title has previously been won by the likes of Charles Leclerc (2017), George Russell (2018) and Oscar Piastri (2021), though Pourchaire encountered an unusual season.
Pourchaire won only one of the 26 races—the season-opener in Bahrain—but was the most consistent driver in a topsy-turvy season. Pourchaire finished with a 11-point advantage over Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, who won six races, but lost big points through setbacks in several Feature Races.
Pourchaire became a champion in his third F2 season, which is a less impressive achievement, but was fifth as a rookie in 2021 and runner-up in 2022. He finished runner-up to Piastri in Formula 3 in 2020. He is also still only 20 years old, and will act as Sauber’s reserve in 2024, and is keen to stay fresh by racing in another series next year. That could come in Japan’s Super Formula category, with talks understood to be ongoing.
“My dream is to be an F1 driver—I want to be F1 champion—but there is no space for next year,” said the genial Pourchaire. “It’s okay, I’m only 20, the team is helping me a lot, they have been helping me since F3. I’m confident I can have a seat in the future, let’s see, at the end of 2024 there will be a lot of drivers out of contract so next year I will keep myself busy and show myself as much as possible.”
Toyota Super Formula Champ Gets F2 seat
Toyota has sprung a surprise by placing its Super Formula champion Ritomo Miyata into Formula 2 for 2024.
In an unusual step Miyata, 24, is set to race for the Carlin team in the championship below Formula 1. Toyota has an extensive driver program, but not so much in the Formula 1 pipeline. Currently, it's driver program in Europe is aimed at developing talent for its WEC and WRC teams. It has done little in European single-seater categories since it quit Formula 1 after 2009.
Miyata, a contemporary of AlphaTauri’s Honda-backed Yuki Tsunoda, won the 2020 Super Formula Lights division—the stepping stone to Super Formula—before sealing the main championship in 2023, beating occasional AlphaTauri racer Liam Lawson. Miyata’s move to Formula 2 comes in the wake of Toyota WEC driver and Le Mans winner Ryo Hirakawa joining McLaren’s driver development programme in September.
F1 Reserve List Grows for 2024
Formula 1 race seats are few and far between and already the list of reserve drivers for the 2024 season is being tied up.
Mick Schumacher will stay on as Mercedes’ back-up alongside his race duties with Alpine’s World Endurance Championship team, while IndyCar racer Pato O’Ward will act as one of McLaren reserve drivers. O’Ward has been linked with McLaren for several years, and has had multiple Formula 1 outings, but his prospects of making the full-time switch are unlikely, given the long-term contracts in place with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.
Confirmation of Schumacher and O’Ward at Mercedes and McLaren means over half of the 2024 grid have their reserve drivers locked in. Five-time race starter Liam Lawson will conduct duties for Red Bull and AlphaTauri, while Felipe Drugovich and Théo Pourchaire will stay as back-ups at Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo respectively.
Farewell to Franz Tost
Abu Dhabi was the final race at the helm of AlphaTauri for team principal Franz Tost, who has stepped down after almost two decades in charge.
The retiring Tost has been instrumental in guiding the careers of several young drivers, and AlphaTauri paid tribute throughout the weekend, with its back-of-garage paneling logo listing all of Tost’s races since 2006. There was also a space for the paddock to write their messages of thanks, and warm wishes, to the departing Austrian.
“I started on the 8th of November, 2005, in Faenza, and we had 85 people,” said Tost. “It was not so easy at the beginning, but as you know, (Red Bull co-owner) Dietrich Mateschitz said to me, look, there are two pillars: you have to first of all use the synergies with Red Bull Technology and for second, to educate the young drivers. They must then come to Red Bull Racing, win races and, if possible, also championships. I thought to myself: ‘Okay—it’s clear what you want, boss.’ And this is how we started.”
Tost was competitive until the final race, as when asked what he most wanted, he replied that he hoped AlphaTauri’s upgraded floor delivered the anticipated performance gains. No relenting until the last day!
Under Tost the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly have gone through Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri before taking Grands Prix wins—and titles in the case of Vettel and Verstappen.
Tost will be succeeded by former Ferrari Sporting Director Laurent Mekies, while Peter Bayer has already taken on the new role of CEO.
Thanks for reading
It has been a very long Formula 1 season, with way more time spent on planes and in airports than should be allowed, but Abu Dhabi wrapped up the 2023 campaign.
It has not been a sensational season, let’s be honest, but it still delivered its moments, along with the continued growth of Formula 1 in the U.S. Logan Sargeant gave the U.S. representation on the grid—and we still await news on his future—while Formula 1 now has three stakes in the ground in the country, with Miami, Austin and Las Vegas all providing different types of Grands Prix.
So, as we wrap these notebooks for the season, thanks for joining along with the fun, and see you in 2024!