RACE DEBRIEF

    The New Year is almost upon us as we prepare to say goodbye to 2023 – and what a year it has been. So, seeing as we’re in the period where no one knows what day it is – and many are guaranteed to have overeaten – we thought we’d take a look at the lighter side of the F1 season.

    Here we have our ‘alternative awards’, celebrating the weird, the funny and the admirable all in one place – just for fun. Without doubt the 2023 season will be one to remember…

    READ MORE: Our writers pick their best drivers and favourite stories from 2023 – as well as who needs to up their game in 2024

    Most improved driver – Alex Albon

    We start with an award that, yes, is subjective and open to debate – but Alex Albon has more than stepped up in his fourth full F1 season. Having been bruised by his experiences at Red Bull, with a year off the grid following in 2021, the 27-year-old’s second season at Williams has been an undoubted success.

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 18: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams looks on from the drivers
    Alex Albon has shone for Williams in the 2023 season

    He scored all bar one of the team’s 28 points – helping the outfit to seventh in the constructors’ – and there were many admiring glances coming his way as he regularly outperformed the machinery at his disposal. As an indicator of that, he was ranked joint-fourth with Fernando Alonso in F1’s Power Rankings table.

    Williams Team Principal James Vowles has also said before that he would consider building the future of the team around Albon, hailing his leadership qualities in the process. Without doubt, 2023 was the year Albon truly showed what he is capable of.

    END OF YEAR REPORT: Progress for Williams as they look to build on a promising 2023 campaign

    Unluckiest driver – Esteban Ocon

    For the unluckiest driver, look no further than Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. Seven DNFs through the year tell their own story and there was a DNF in the Qatar Sprint for good measure.

    In other words, the Frenchman was unable to finish just under a third of the races this year, and he was in contention for points on some of those before various gremlins hit. Look no further than his race in Singapore, where he was forced out while running sixth – on his birthday no less. Now that is bad luck.

    SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 17: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A523 Renault
    Ocon has had a particularly unlucky 2023

    Funniest moment – Sergio Perez and Bruce Buffer

    Now here’s a duo you would never have expected to conjure up the most hilarious moment of the year – but they absolutely delivered. With famed UFC announcer Bruce Buffer drafted in to do the introductions for the Las Vegas drivers’ parade, it seemed no one had briefed Sergio Perez on where he needed to be after his grand welcome.

    What followed was a moment that was beautifully awkward and confusing in equal measure, as the Mexican just stared into the eyes of the 'Veteran Voice of the Octagon' before glancing around for further direction.

    Best radio message – George Russell’s sweat

    A future career as a weatherman probably isn’t on the horizon for George Russell, but he did at least entertain us when he thought the sweat dripping from his hair was rain at the Spanish Grand Prix.

    The Brit was left a little embarrassed after that weather faux pas, but at least he didn’t sweat it from then on...

    2023 Spanish Grand Prix: ‘I think it’s sweat!’ – Russell explains why he thought it was raining during the race

    Best special livery – Alfa Romeo in Monza

    From a chrome-look McLaren to Ferrari’s celebratory nod to their previous golden age in the US, we’ve had plenty of special liveries this year.

    But without question Alfa Romeo’s effort in Monza – featuring the dazzling tricolore of the Italian flag instead of the usual red and black design – was the standout. Bellissimo.

    READ MORE: Sauber's new team name unveiled after departure of Alfa Romeo as title sponsor

    Most entertaining feature – ‘Rookies Reunited’

    Four seasons on from their fresh-faced maiden seasons in F1, the ‘Rookies Reunited’ feature with Lando Norris, George Russell and Alex Albon was just really good fun.

    All of them were on great form, joking and laughing about some of the memorable moments in their past.

    You can watch that in full in the video below:

    Norris, Albon and Russell: 2019's rookies... reunited

    Best cause – Bottass 2024

    Never has an F1 calendar been so talked about…but Valtteri Bottas’ effort this year was attention-grabbing in so many ways.

    While the photos are… ahem…memorable, the calendar also managed to raise around $150k for Movember. That is a truly worthy cause if ever there was one.

    Oops! Error retrieving Instagram post

    Best stat – Max Verstappen's win percentage

    Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was on a one-man mission to seemingly re-write every record in the books in 2023. Perhaps the most eye-catching milestones were his run to 10 consecutive victories, as well as becoming the first driver to complete more than 1,000 laps in the race lead, with 1,003.

    But perhaps the one that illustrates his dominance the most this year is his 86.4% win record, which broke a 71-year-old record perviously held by Alberto Ascari.

    EXPLAINED: The 71-year-old record Verstappen broke in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix

    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and
    Max Verstappen standing in top spot on the podium was a regular sight this season

    Best meme – Oscar Piastri and the unfortunate jetpack pilot

    Oscar Piastri gave us plenty of on-track excitement in his rookie year, but his reaction in Austria after one of the pre-race entertainment jetpack pilots tumbled to the ground gave us some meme gold.

    That facial expression will be making frequent appearances on social media for the rest of time, we guarantee it.

    Best joker – Fred Vasseur

    Despite taking the reigns as Team Principal at Ferrari – arguably the team with the most pressure out of anyone – Fred Vasseur never lost that humour or his cheeky grin.

    Whether it was jokingly pushing TV presenters out of the way or answering “red” when asked what the 2024 Ferrari might look like, you could always expect a smile during one of his interviews.

    THE STRATEGIST: Bernie Collins picks out her top 5 best strategy calls from the 2023 season

    Perhaps F1 TV presenter Will Buxton summed it up best: “His interactions with us in the press never leave you in any doubt as to his seriousness or ability to get the job done, but the way in which he carries himself and the light touch with which he deals with every situation is a breath of fresh air.”

    SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 30: Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur talks with Red Bull Racing Team
    Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur has always been ready to have a laugh