5 things to be excited about as F1 gears up for the 2024 season
F1’s winter break will soon draw to a close as teams pull the wraps off their cars and hit the track for pre-season testing, with plenty of excitement and anticipation in the air. If you weren’t already itching to go, we’ve picked out five things to whet your appetite for the new campaign…
1. A closer fight at the front
There’s no getting away from Red Bull’s domination over the past two seasons, with the Milton Keynes team winning a whopping 38 out of 44 races held – including all bar one in 2023 – en route to back-to-back constructors’ crowns, while Max Verstappen triumphed in 34 of them to become a three-time world champion.
With stable regulations and Red Bull’s early switch of focus to their 2024 design, given the sizeable advantage they held over the competition, the task of catching up has been likened to climbing Mount Everest by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
However, it’s a mountain their rivals are doing all they can to scale, clearly shown by the upgrade package McLaren introduced at the midway point of last season to go from struggling for points in the first half to challenging for victories in the second half.
With seven podium finishes across the final eight races, including five P2 results, it’s form that’s left Verstappen feeling that the Woking operation could be “very strong” from the outset in 2024, and potentially a genuine threat for supremacy.
But it’s not just McLaren who will be hoping to be in the mix at the sharp end. At Mercedes, “almost every component” has been changed on the outfit’s latest challenger after they failed to hit the mark in 2022 and 2023, with Technical Director James Allison recently commenting that some particularly “spiteful” characteristics are set to be a thing of the past.
That’s not to mention Ferrari, who made solid progress with the handling of their car in Fred Vasseur’s first season as team boss, taking the only non-Red Bull win of the year and claiming pole position for three of the last five races, while Aston Martin showed signs of a recovery after their blistering start to 2023 faded.
Should these teams deliver on their winter targets, we could be set for a thrilling scrap toward the front of the field, and maybe even the first genuine multi-team title fight since 2021, when Verstappen and Red Bull versus Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes caused fireworks.
2. A record-breaking calendar
Regardless of the pecking order, 2024 is a year that promises more twists and turns than ever before with 24 Grands Prix and six Sprints on the schedule – meaning those five red lights will go out a total of 30 times.
The campaign is due to kick off in Bahrain on March 2, following three days of pre-season testing at the same venue, before taking in trips to five continents and eventually arriving back in the Middle East for the finale in Abu Dhabi on December 8.
One of the headlines is China making a comeback after four years off the calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the popular Shanghai International Circuit slotting in after the Japanese Grand Prix as Round 5 – F1 gradually regionalising the roster as part of its sustainability efforts.
China will also host the first of six Sprint weekends this year, with Miami another to be selected for the first time, while Brazil is preparing to host its fourth 100-kilometre dash, Austria its third, and Austin and Qatar their second.
For context, the previous longest seasons in F1 history were held in 2021, 2022 and 2023, which all featured 22 Grands Prix – more than three times as many as the sport’s original, seven-round calendar from 1950.
No shortage of trophies up for grabs, then…
3. The 2025 driver market
It might seem strange to be writing about 2025 before the 2024 season has even started, but we could see some big moves from drivers up and down the order this year.
That’s because many of those on the grid – which has stayed completely the same between seasons for the first time in F1 history – are entering the final year of their contracts, such as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
The fight for the Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen – tied in until 2028 – is particularly intriguing, with team boss Christian Horner making clear that Perez needs to significantly up his game in qualifying to keep that spot for another season.
If the Mexican’s 2023 struggles carry over, the door may well be opened for recent returnee Daniel Ricciardo, who has made clear that it’s his “dream” to go back to Red Bull, while Yuki Tsunoda could also put himself in the mix by showing the Australian up at AlphaTauri.
Over at Ferrari, Vasseur told Sky Italy at the end of last season that the team were “not in a rush” to extend Leclerc and Sainz’s deals beyond 2024 but had “started discussions”, with the wait going on for further news to come out of Maranello.
Barring any unusual circumstances, two teams who will not be involved in the ‘silly season’ are Mercedes and McLaren. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will be staying at Brackley through 2025, while Lando Norris is committed to being papaya-coloured until the same point and team mate Oscar Piastri has re-signed to 2026 following his impressive rookie campaign.
Elsewhere, there will be plenty of eyes on another sophomore racer in Logan Sargeant, who faced persistent speculation over his future in 2023 but was ultimately retained by Williams for a second year with the hope of building on the flashes of promise he displayed.
The need to impress all over the grid only grows when the likes of Ferrari-backed Oliver Bearman are making waves on the junior scene, the Briton having won races in F2 and caught the eye during F1 practice runs in late-2023 – declaring that he “has what it takes” to make the step up in 2025, should an opportunity arise.
4. Further grid convergence
While we’ve talked about a closer battle at the sharp end, we could see even more blurring of the lines between those front-runners, the midfield and the back of the pack – as lap times continue to converge.
This is thanks in part to the F1 cost cap regulations, which have tightened year on year, and the sliding scale of aero testing rules, which controls the number of wind tunnel testing runs and computational fluid dynamics hours teams are allowed based on their on-track success.
For example, Red Bull’s championship doubles in 2022 and 2023 gave them the lowest numbers to play with, and they faced a further reduction for breaching the cost cap in 2021, while those at the bottom of the standings have more time available.
If we look back at last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, less than a second covered Verstappen’s pace-setting time and slowest runner Zhou Guanyu in the first phase of qualifying, and little more than six-tenths between P1 and P18.
It’s something the aforementioned and very experienced Allison pointed to as he previewed the 2024 season and pondered how the pecking order could shape up.
“Although Red Bull’s dominance was near complete [in 2023] and they didn’t look vulnerable even to the last race of the year, if you look at the bigger picture, this is a grid that’s gradually compressing,” he commented.
“That’s not a coincidence, it’s a trend that’s happened from 2022, continued in 2023, and I think will continue to show itself in 2024, because the gains are getting more asymptotic.”
Former Haas team boss Guenther Steiner agrees, telling fans at the recent Autosport Show: “Any race it can come that somebody catches up because the regulations stayed stable, there is a limit [on] what you can develop and everybody’s going to that point.”
5. Even more F1 entertainment
While the above points are all worth getting excited about in terms of the drivers, teams, cars and tracks, there will also be plenty to keep you entertained off the track.
Before the new F1 season even starts, we’ll be treated to another offering of the hugely popular Drive To Survive series on Netflix – giving us some behind-the-scenes insight into last year’s action.
Meanwhile, depending on where you are in the world, an F1 TV subscription will unlock thousands of hours of exclusive shows, highlights and race replays alongside live F1, F2 and F3 coverage.
And, following a successful debut in Madrid, the Formula 1 Exhibition will head to the Austrian capital of Vienna to deliver an immersive F1 experience through six specially designed rooms spread over 3,000 square metres.
Finally, right here on F1.com, we’ll have a wide range of content to take you through the season, from news to interviews and podcasts to videos.