FORMULA ONE’S 2024 season, which kicks off this weekend with Bahrain hosting the first of two back-to-back Saturday races in the Middle East, promises action galore all the way through to the finale in Abu Dhabi on December 8; with the world’s best drivers all hell-bent on stopping Red Bull top gun Max Verstappen from claiming a fourth-straight title.

A record-24 round calendar will both exhaust the F1 paddock and delight fans, with the schedule seeing the return of Imola (cancelled last year due to floods), and China for the first time since 2019 (given extended Covid-19 restrictions). Throughout it all, Esquire Australia will bring you the biggest stories. But, we’re predicting the angles below to dominate paddock chatter.

Heaven and/or hell at Red Bull?

Red Bull dominated the sport in 2023, with its 21 wins from 22 races the most successful F1 campaign of all-time, and its top gun Max Verstappen claiming a record-19 of those (along with a third-straight crown). Last week’s pre-season test saw Ferrari claim a one-two at the top of the timesheets, but it’s reckoned that Red Bull still holds a 0.4sec pace advantage. Can the pack behind—Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren or even Aston Martin—challenge the energy drinks squad? Another dominant run could be spoiled, though, by the still-developing furore surrounding Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

Aussies to the front (of the grid)

There are huge opportunities for our homegrown talents this season, starting with veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who could snag Sergio Pérez’s seat at Red Bull (perhaps even mid-season), should the Mexican again fail to match his world champion teammate Verstappen in qualifying and races. Oscar Piastri, in his sophomore campaign, could further cement his place: not just as a once-in-a-generation talent, but also on the top teams’ future shopping lists—should he continue to show the searing raw pace, and impressive, mature racecraft that won him three-straight titles in the junior categories.

Hamilton’s final year with Merc

INSTAGRAM @lewishamilton

Sir Lewis Hamilton rocked global headlines with his February announcement that he will join the legendary Ferrari on a multi-year deal from 2025—a huge move not just in sporting terms, with the news adding USD$7 billion dollars to Ferrari’s market cap on New York’s Stock Exchange. The seven-time F1 world champion will reportedly earn an annual salary of USD$100 million, but will be increasingly shut out of meetings at his current team Mercedes—where he has been its top gun since 2013—to prevent any new technologies going with him to Maranello. His teammate George Russell will naturally be favoured, perhaps on-track in strategies, and that promises to be a fascinating thing to watch—with Hamilton fiercely competitive.

Expect 2025’s silly season to start early

There may have been no driver changes between seasons this year for the first time in history, but it won’t happen in 2025—with Hamilton off to Ferrari, and 13 drivers out of contract at the end of the season. The one to watch will be two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, who has options galore. Should he remain with Aston Martin, and continue to build the ambitious green squad into his 43rd year, or go for a potential, thrilling one-year deal with Red Bull Racing (should Ricciardo not get chosen) or Mercedes—where he could win F1 races, which he hasn’t done since Spain 2013 (with Ferrari). The stakes are high, and Alonso isn’t getting any younger.

Will F1 continue to grow Stateside?

F1’s popularity in the USA has skyrocketed in step with Netflix’s super-popular reality series Formula 1: Drive to Survive, leading to three races (Austin, Miami and Las Vegas) on US soil and an American driver on the grid in Logan Sargeant (who is now in his second season at Williams). But, fans who were snagged by a brilliant 2021 title fight between Hamilton and Verstappen have had to weather the Dutchman’s recent domination (in 2022 and 2023), while household name squad Andretti was denied an entry into the sport for 2025. American sponsors are on target to outnumber their European counterparts, with plans for a fourth US race in Chicago, but fans—across the globe, but especially Stateside—need to see closer racing to retain momentum.

INSTAGRAM | @oscarpiastri


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