Formula 1 – 2024 Season Preview

New cars, same drivers. The circuits, the regulations and the rumours. We have everything you need to know about the 2024 Formula One season and more.

Ryan, Data Analyst

Ryan, Data Analyst

5 months ago

Next weekend sees the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season in Bahrain after three days of testing this week. So let’s get into what has changed from last year, whether Red Bull will be catchable and just how many of the 24 grands prix will Max Verstappen find himself on the top step for?

2024 Driver and Team Changes

For the first time in history, the F1 grid that lines up for the opening race of the 2024 season will be the completely unchanged from the final race of the previous season, even comparing to the first grand prix of last season, the only change is Nyck de Vries being replaced by Daniel Ricciardo at (what was then) Alpha Tauri.

This will likely be contrasted by the driver changes we’ll see at the end of the 2024 season, with at least 13 of the 20 drivers coming to the end of their current contracts. Lewis Hamilton has already shocked the paddock by announcing his intention to leave Mercedes for Ferrari, partnering Charles Leclerc. Mercedes needing to fill a race seat under these driver contract conditions indicate that 2024 could be one of the silliest silly-seasons in recent memory.

Whilst no teams have fundamentally changed in their day to day running, there have been major rebrands to two outfits. Red Bull’s junior team has rebranded themselves from “Alpha Tauri” to “Visa Cash App RB F1 Team”, which some pundits have been referring to as “VCARB”. The Alfa Romeo team has reverted back to using the Sauber name, and have become “Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber” ahead of their 2026 take over by motorsport giant Audi.

Didn’t I hear that Andretti are joining the Formula 1 Grid?

Yes, kind of. You probably heard towards the end of the last season that the FIA had accepted a bid for Andretti to join the Formula One Grid, however, this was for 2026 onwards. They had joined forces with General Motors brand Cadillac to form a strong application that could boast both motorsport pedigree and a large car manufacturer to back them.

Despite the governing body, the FIA, approving their bid, Formula One Management, the commercial rights holders, did not, citing a lack of competitiveness and value towards the championship. The decision will be likely to be appealed, and the Andretti bid isn’t quite dead in the water just yet. Watch this space

2024 New Grand Prix and Calendar Changes

Last season saw the longest calendar in history at 23 races (which ended up being 22 after the flooding in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna), and 2024 looks set to break that record with 24 races scheduled. Emilia Romagna returns at the Imola Circuit and it is a long awaited return of the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on the 21st of April. The Chinese Grand Prix has been cancelled for four years in a row due to the repeated COVID-19 lockdowns in the country.

The only other slight change is the reorganisation of two grands prix, with us heading to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix in April, swapping positions with Baku and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix which hosts the Formula 1 circus in September.

Some important dates to jot in your calendar are the 2nd of March for the season opener in Bahrain and the finale in Abu Dhabi on the 8th of December. The Silverstone Circuit has recently renewed its contract with FOM (Formula One Management) and extended their deal to host the British Grand Prix until 2034, with this year’s iteration occurring on July the 7th.

The Monaco Grand Prix, as is tradition, will be on the 26th of May, meaning motorsport nuts like myself can finish watching that and then watch the Indy 500 later on that evening.

For a full calendar, see the official F1 website, here.

2024 Regulation Changes

After what was the most dominant single season by a driver in Formula 1 history in 2023, with 19 out of 22 wins going to Max Verstappen, you could make the argument that a big regulation overhaul in 2024 could make for a more interesting championship battle. Unfortunately for those who share that sentiment, 2024 will mostly be a continuation of 2023 technically with most of the regulation changes being more rule changes.

Teams will be relieved to read that they are now given an additional engine per driver for the ‘24 and ‘25 seasons, with each driver now able to go through four engine changes before they incur a grid penalty.

DRS, the drag reduction system operated by an opening flap on the rear wing, is now able to be activated just one lap after a race start or race restart, down from two laps previously. This was tested in spring races last year and will be in effect for all races this year.

Speaking of sprint races, the format for the spring weekends will change. The six grands prix that host spring races will forsake the usual schedule. Fridays will consist of a practice and sprint qualifying. Saturday will start with the sprint race before the grand prix qualifying, and Sunday, as always, will host the main grand prix. The first grand prix to host a sprint race will be the Chinese Grand Prix on the 19th – 21st of April.

What should we expect?

The Dutch national anthem, followed by the Austrian national anthem.

No, seriously.

To call Max’s 2023 performance a “purple patch of form” would be more of an insult than an understatement. His season last year was indisputably the most dominant in the history of the sport. Michael Schumacher peaked at winning 72% of his races in 2004. Vettel won 68% in 2013 and Hamilton won 65% of races in 2020. Way back in 1952 Alberto Ascari stood on the top step in 75% of races, with the huge caveat that it’s much easier to do so when there were only 8 races in a season.

In 2023, Max Verstappen won 86.4% of all races. 19 wins, two second places and a fifth position. He also won 5 out of 6 sprint races with a second place in Qatar the only “failure”.

Considering, at the time of writing, the Red Bull has managed to complete two full days of pre-season testing and topped the time charts in one of them, looked well balanced, and mostly smooth to drive, I’d posit that the gap they have in race trim over the rest of the field is insurmountable from the end of last season to the start of this one.

Ferrari look to have made a step forward with their car this year, with both Sainz and Leclerc praising it’s drive-ability and handling. Looking at long run data, it seems their tyre degradation issues are all but gone, and Sainz managed to put some quick and incredibly consistent times together in his race simulations.

As for the other eight teams, no one has really shone from the pack or showed anything worth noting. Mercedes, Aston Martin and McLaren don’t seem to have shown their representative pace yet, and considering the other five teams all seem to have closed the gap a little to the chasing pack, we could see one of the tightest midfield battles in the last few years.

But this season is all about Max Verstappen again he’s the short priced favourite for the World Drivers Championship for a reason and truthfully, I’d be incredibly surprised if this time next year I’m not writing about a four-time Formula 1 World Champion going for a fifth.