Lawrence Barretto’s 5 bold predictions for the 2024 season – which of these could materialise?
It’s that time of the year again. We’ve eaten our bodyweights in Christmas delights, dabbled in some fizz to see the New Year in and now we’re faced with a new year ahead, full of possibilities and opportunities. For Formula 1’s 10 teams, who will have been ploughing on with their respective 2024 machines for most of the festive period, it’s a time of hope that this year can be better. And for me, I owe you, our dear readers, some bold predictions for the season ahead. So, here we go…
1. Lando Norris finishes in the top-three in the championship
While Lando Norris didn’t quite achieve my prediction of a maiden Grand Prix win in 2023, he did secure a career-best haul of seven podiums – six of them P2s – to show that he’s getting ever closer to the that elusive top step of the rostrum.
He was one of only a few who genuinely challenged Red Bull’s runaway champion Max Verstappen for a Grand Prix win on pure pace on more than one occasion and while he made more mistakes than usual over the course of the year, he still comfortably beat highly-rated rookie team mate Oscar Piastri and hoovered up a huge haul of points that was critical to McLaren achieving P4.
With McLaren deliver the second-quickest package for much of the second-half of the year – and seemingly on the right development trajectory in the chase of world champions Red Bull, I expect them to be a force straight out of the box.
Sure, Mercedes and Ferrari – plus Aston Martin will likely be thorns in their side as they hunt Red Bull, but expect Norris to slash the mistakes and deliver consistency that will not only put him in the hunt for more wins, but yield a haul of podiums so impressive, he’ll secure a top-three spot in the drivers’ standings.
2. Lewis Hamilton will return to the top step
The 2023 campaign was a far better one for Lewis Hamilton as, while he didn’t score a win for the second year in a row, the seven-time world champion did get more out of his Silver Arrow than it really deserved to secure P3.
That he was in the fight for P2 – which would have meant beating one of the all-conquering Red Bulls – for much of the year showed how much fight he still has. There were flashes of his brilliant best, too, such as his sensational pole in Hungary and drive to second in Austin (before his post-race disqualification) and Mexico.
Mercedes have finally abandoned the concept that has made the first two years of the latest rules cycle an abject misery but Hamilton believes the team finally “have a North Star” that he will hope can yield a return towards the form that delivered eight constructors’ championship on the bounce from 2014.
I expect Hamilton, who will start the first of a new two-year deal next season, to revel in a car that the team hope is more driveable, predictable and – more importantly – faster. While a championship fight is almost certainly out of the question, that kind of step should end his two-year absence for a victory.
3. Aston Martin will win a Grand Prix
Had Aston Martin fitted intermediate wet-weather tyres, rather than slick medium dry-weather tyres to Fernando Alonso’s car in Monaco, there’s a very good chance he would have emerged in the lead and gone on to win the Grand Prix.
But they didn’t and he crossed the line second for his fifth podium in six races, in a season where the double world champion fulfilled my prediction of scoring at least two rostrums by collecting eight trophies – but didn’t get that win he so craves.
Though they had a mid-season slump in form, that Aston Martin made such a jump over the winter, and recovered so well to push McLaren all the way for P4, suggests they are very much in the mix to repeat plenty of the heroics Alonso delivered during a remarkable campaign for the veteran in 2024.
I expect Aston Martin to have a couple of opportunities to score a win next season and this time, unlike the Monaco misstep, they will grab at least one chance with both hands to secure a first Grand Prix win since the team was rebranded with the iconic wings of the famous British carmaker.
4. Williams will score a podium
Williams entered the season fearing the worst, having lost their Team Principal and Technical Director in quick succession. But James Vowles steadied the ship, after an impressive stint at Mercedes, and Williams made the most of some sterling development work over the winter and their chunky upgrade introduced in Canada.
Alex Albon led the team like a lion, scoring 27 of their 28 points to essentially single-handedly guide them to P7 in the constructors’ championship and the chunky slice of prize money – that runs into the tens of millions – that comes with it.
It was all the more impressive given they didn’t upgrade their car after race eight in Canada – while the three teams that finished below them brought a raft of them all the way to the end of the season – as Williams focused on ploughing resource into the 2024 machine in a bid to making a more sustained step up the field.
They never had a shot at a podium in 2023 – but I expect that to change in 2024, with Albon continuing his rich vein of form and getting the most out of the car and Logan Sargeant stepping up a level to enable the team to score at least one podium.
5. AlphaTauri finally get P5 for Tost
Out-going Team Principal Franz Tost, who yesterday ticked off his final day at the helm of AlphaTauri, had set a target of P5 in the constructors’ championship for each of the 18 years he was in charge at the Italian team – but never managed to achieve it.
However, as he embarks on a life of skiing, property management and the odd motorsport project, Tost leaves behind a team on the up and in great shape. Peter Bayer, with experience from the FIA, is the new CEO with Laurent Mekies joining from Ferrari, where he was Sporting Director, to take on the Team Principal role.
They were a solid midfield outfit and points contender at the last five races of the season and intend to have an even-closer relationship with sister team Red Bull, the current class-leaders, from this season onwards.
Throw in a line-up of a rebounding Daniel Ricciardo and an ever-improving Yuki Tsunoda – who outperformed not one, not two but three team mates last year, and you have an overall package that will finally get P5 in the constructors’ championship, to the delight of Tost who says he’ll be watching every single session in 2024.