Part 1: Teams and drivers on 2024 F1 starting grid

Season with a record 24 races starts with Red Bull seemingly on top after pre-race testing.


With the 2024 Formula 1 season primed to get underway this weekend in Bahrain, here is a rundown of the teams and drivers who will take part in the 74th season.

Red Bull

Engine: Honda-Red Bull Powertrain

Team Principal: Christian Horner

Drivers:

  • Max Verstappen
  • Sergio Perez

Red Bull‘s build-up to the new season was dramatically disrupted by the ongoing inquiry into Christian Horner.

Inevitably it was Horner who hogged the headlines at the team’s launch this month on his first public appearance since news of an allegation of controlling and inappropriate behaviour levelled at him by a female employee first broke.

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Yet it was the record-breaking world champion’s 2024 car the RB20 that should have been the real showstopper.

The Austrian F1 giants began development on the 2024 car midway through last season and the result is an aggressively different design, which lived up to its daring good looks with ominous pace in testing.

Verstappen, seeking a fourth straight title, dominated the first day, trying the car out over the distance of two grands prix. The Dutchman, never one for hyperbole, said “the car was responding well”.

Mercedes

Engine: Mercedes

Team Principal: Toto Wolff

Drivers:

  • Lewis Hamilton
  • George Russell

Mercedes pipped Ferrari to best of the also-rans behind Red Bull by three points, but were a massive 451 points behind the runaway champions. Hamilton took third and Russell 8th in the drivers’ championship.

Hamilton’s revelation that he will drive for Ferrari next season was arguably the biggest driver moves since Hamilton announced he was joining Mercedes from McLaren back in 2013.

The seven-time champion will want to go out on a high. Last term, the Silver Arrows failed to win a race for the first time since 2011 as they continued to pay the penalty for an innovative design that proved a curse to drive when new ground force regulations were introduced in 2022.

Initial appraisals from the notoriously hard to evaluate performance at testing were positive that the fallen champions were back on the right track for Hamilton’s long goodbye.

“Compared to last year’s car, the feedback from the drivers is very different and more positive, which is encouraging,” Mercedes trackside engineering chief Andrew Shovlin told F1.com.

“The team has worked hard to iron out the handling flaws that were integral to the W14, and it’s great that we seem to have put a number of those problems behind us,” he added.

Ferrari

Engine: Ferrari

Team Principal: Frederic Vasseur

Drivers:

  • Charles Leclerc
  • Carlos Sainz

The only man to stop the Red Bull train last season was Carlos Sainz in Singapore. The Spaniard will be itching to take a few more chequered flags before vacating his seat for Hamilton in 2025.

Testing went positively for the Italian marque, who claimed the last of their 15 drivers’ world titles way back in 2007 – they finished top of the times on the second and third days. But Leclerc wasn’t about to get carried away with their showing over the three days in Bahrain this week.

“It feels like every winter test which means we don’t understand a thing, we don’t know fuel levels of everyone else. But my initial feelings are that Red Bull are still quite a bit ahead.”

On a more positive note he reckoned the “driveability” of this year’s car is much better than last year and “that will help us on the long runs”.

What is evident is that under Frederic Vasseur, appointed team principal last season, the Maranello men are now a much stronger force than before his arrival when a series of tactical own goals hampered their progress.

McLaren

Engine: Mercedes

Team Principal: Andrea Stella

Drivers:

  • Lando Norris
  • Oscar Piastri

A sluggish start to 2023 under new team boss Andrea Stella was soon forgotten when, after a mid-season revamp, McLaren began to motor.

Norris was second only to Verstappen in points scored in the closing dozen races. His final tally of 205 left him sixth in the drivers’ standings. McLaren came fourth in the constructors with the help of the 97 points earned by talented Australian rookie Oscar Piastri.

Despite that encouraging second half, McLaren’s executive director Zak Brown was keeping his feet on the ground regarding expectations this season.

“We’re all excited to go racing again, but we know there’s a long season ahead of us and a lot of work still to do to ensure we build on the progress we made throughout 2023.”

Norris, who signed a new contract with the papaya team last season, believes “there is still a big gap to some of the guys ahead” on the evidence of McLaren’s showing in testing.

Aston Martin

Engine: Mercedes

Team Principal: Mike Krack

Drivers:

  • Fernando Alonso
  • Lance Stroll

Aston Martin will be hoping to emulate the impact they made at the start of last season, with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso only missing the podium twice in the first eight races.

While that tremendous form was always going to be difficult to maintain the team ended 2023 fifth, with Alonso fourth in the driver’s championship, their best placing since taking over Racing Point for the 2021 campaign.

Part bankrolled by the father of Alonso’s teammate Lance Stroll, Aston have ambitions to stir up Red Bull’s dominance.

Whether this is Alonso’s last season with the team is open to question, with Hamilton’s seat at Mercedes vacant from 2025, while Red Bull could have a vacancy as Perez’s contract expires at the end of the year.

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