F1 Q&A: Andrew Benson answers your questions before the start of the 2024 season

F1 Q&A: Andrew Benson answers your questions before the start of the 2024 season

The 2024 Formula 1 season starts in Bahrain this weekend – but what are the big talking points ahead of the new campaign?

What is the point of watching this season if the winner of pretty much everything is already known?

Andrew: It’s easy to feel that way, especially after last season. But sometimes sport is like this. Fortunately, it is also unpredictable. That’s part of its beauty.

Yes, Max Verstappen and Red Bull look strong favourites and everyone believes they have the fastest car. But it’s the fastest car now.

Within Red Bull, there is a feeling that they will reach a plateau with development this season, where gains are harder to find. In theory, that should happen to them before it happens to other teams.

So there’s still hope they could be caught in what is after all the longest season ever. Whether that happens soon enough to affect the championship is a different question.

As Lando Norris has said: “Are they beatable? You have to say yes, because we were very close at certain times (last year) and at certain times we did. But the question is, are they beatable over a season? I think that will be very difficult.”
If Verstappen does win the title again, who is going to push him closest?

Andrew: If the Red Bull is as good as it looks, and it keeps that advantage all season, no-one will be pushing him.

His team-mate, Sergio Perez, doesn’t have Verstappen’s quality, and as yet it appears those who could rival him – Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso, George Russell, Norris – don’t have fast enough cars.

If the questioner is asking who will be the closest team to Red Bull, right now that looks like a toss up between Ferrari and Mercedes, with Aston Martin next in line.

But remember the huge progress McLaren made last year. They believe they can keep up that trajectory. If so, they, too, will be in the mix at the front.

Who has impressed you the most in testing and why?

Andrew: The Red Bull looks awesome in every possible way – speed, design, aesthetics. That man Adrian Newey looks to have done it again.

But the Ferrari has shown strong pace, Mercedes have clearly made progress and are at the beginning of what should be a steep development curve with a new car, and the Aston Martin looks pliable and predictable.

And some think the RB, which contains many Red Bull parts, is a dark horse.

Drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda have been playing down talk of a big step, but if they make one, the politics will get interesting – McLaren have been making concerned noises about the close ties between the two Red Bull teams for some time.

Will the longer season have any impact on who takes the title? Can anything make it closer?

Andrew: If it’s a season of dominance, the longer championship does at least push back the date by which the title can be won, just by fundamental mathematics. Whether that’s important in those circumstances is another matter.

The hope has to be that one or more of Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin can make the sort of big development step McLaren made last year and bridge the gap.

If they can, the start in Las Vegas last year, when he pulled a dubious move that forced Charles Leclerc off the track, proved Verstappen is still prone to going over the edge under pressure, just as he did in 2021 against Lewis Hamilton. Then it could get interesting.
Which races are you most looking forward to this year and why?

Andrew: All Grands Prix are special – and all individual races have value. This is another reason why just because one man might run away with the championship, it’s still worth watching.

Remember Alonso’s fantastic drives in Bahrain, Monaco, Zandvoort and Brazil last year, for example, or Leclerc’s in Las Vegas. Or the four-way battle for the win in Singapore.

But some F1 events are more special than others. As a whole package, my personal favourites are Australia, Japan, Singapore and Austin. Each very different, but all just that bit extra special.

And of course Monaco, Spa and Monza are all uniquely atmospheric, and the racing at Silverstone can’t be beaten. That track layout has some kind of special magic about it.