Race Weekend Central

2023 Formula 1 Awards: Max Verstappen Still Too Good

It’s that time of the year once again.

With the 2023 season now behind us, all that’s left is to hand out some awards. It wasn’t clear what the upcoming season had in store when we put out our 2022 awards, but now it’s coming in crystal. Red Bull Racing absolutely dominated the year.

21 of 22 races were won by Red Bull, with 19 of them won by the reigning drivers champion alone. There’s no use in delaying the inevitable any further, it’s time to start with the obvious:

Michael Schumacher Award for Most Outstanding Driver and Ayrton Senna Award for Best Qualifier: Max Verstappen

There’s really not much else to say about Verstappen’s season that hasn’t at this point. As a personal aside, by October, it started to become really hard to write some of those “Verstappen Wins ___” headlines without directly repeating myself from the week prior. Verstappen was near untouchable for the entire season.

There are all sorts of wild stats coming out of this year when it comes to Red Bull. Laps led, in which Verstappen became the first driver to cross the 1,000 mark in a season, was absolutely dominated by the Bulls. Only 176 laps were led by non-Red Bull drivers in the entire season, 114 without counting the lone race in which they didn’t win.

Said race, Singapore, still ended with Verstappen catching fire in the closing laps and finishing fourth. While this denied him the feat of being just the second F1 driver in history to finish on the podium in every single race in a season, it still illustrates just how impossible it was to shake Verstappen in any race this season.

Verstappen was also able to score 12 poles and walk away with the best qualifier award. He’s not the best qualifier in the field, that honor likely belongs to Charles Leclerc. But he’s still pretty great at dealing with the task, and was in a much better car, and thus was able to beat Leclerc in average starts fairly easily.

Alain Prost Award for Most Valuable Driver: Alexander Albon

Verstappen has a case for this, in that Red Bull would have finished a lowly fourth in the constructor standings without him.

But, at the same time, Albon scored 27 of Williams’s 28 points on the season. The Thai driver held a perfect qualifying record against rookie teammate Logan Sargeant and also pretty decisively beat him in races head-to-head.

Albon has a decision to make next year as to what his future holds. He probably could land a top seat at a team like Ferrari, or potentially even, Aston Martin. But he could also stay with Williams and help them grow into a solid contender next year. If he can keep his current form, there might not be a bad decision either way.

Murray Walker Award for Biggest Story: Will They or Won’t They with Sergio Perez?

Throughout the entire season, Red Bull seemed to be in an interesting situation with Perez.

On one hand, Perez was one of the worst teammates of the season, scoring a dismal 45% of his teammate’s points. On the other hand, his teammate was Verstappen.

Rumors abounded all year, almost on a weekly basis, that Red Bull was looking to replace the underperforming Mexican driver. It was so frequently floated out there that Daniel Ricciardo was about to take Perez’s seat that Red Bull had to underline multiple times that scenario was not in the cards.

The reality is that Red Bull was so far ahead of the rest of the competition with their 2023 car that there is a real danger Perez could cost them a constructor’s championship if the rest of the competition catches up. But Verstappen was driving out of his mind and most drivers would suffer going against him and the year that he had.

Perez was able to retain his seat for 2024. But with his contract up at the end of the year, his seat is going to be a particularly hot one going forward.

Dan Gurney Award for Most Underrated: Daniel Ricciardo

Speaking of Ricciardo, this seems like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out: Ricciardo was better than what the stats showed this year.

First and foremost, he was fast enough in the simulator and in testing to take the AlphaTauri seat from Nyck de Vries. His first stint in that seat didn’t last long as he injured himself in an accident during practice for the Dutch Grand Prix.

It took months for Ricciardo to return, and he may not have been 100% for the rest of the season. Even still, he was able to wow at the Mexico Grand Prix and finish sixth, the highest any AlphaTauri driver finished in the season – and that includes team leader Yuki Tsunoda. That’s underrated in my book.

Lewis Hamilton Award for Breakout Driver: Oscar Piastri

When McLaren jumped for Piastri in 2022, it was a calculated risk.

Piastri could live up to the lofty expectations put towards him- there were whispers that he was the best prospect since Verstappen- or he could flame out and McLaren replace him with another easily available option.

Alex Palou, in particular, could have hopped into an F1 car relatively easily if Piastri had faltered out of the series like fellow rookie de Vries ended up doing.

Instead, Piastri gradually improved throughout the season, culminating in a massive win in the Qatar Sprint. It was one of just two races/sprints not to be won by a Red Bull all season, and he matched up very well with Lando Norris in the autumn months.

Bad luck set Piastri back in the latter half of the season, ending the American-Abu Dhabi leg. But he definitely has the potential to be a consistent race winner and a thorn in Norris’ side if McLaren can get a fast car under him again.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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