As February 15th finally brought the reveal of the last two constructors’ liveries for 2023 (I’m looking at you Mercedes and Alpine), it is now only a matter of weeks until we see the rolling circus that is Formula 1 return to the track in Bahrain. So before preseason testing gets underway, it seems a good time to ruminate on the intense flurry of personnel changes that have so far, defined the build-up to the 2023 season.
When Verstappen took the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi last year, most of us, quite reasonably, assumed that ‘that was that’ for the dominant, yet often ridiculous season that was 2022. This was not to be the case. The silly season continued, only this time, it wasn’t owing to significant driver changes or 2016-esque shock retirements.
Within the space of the next 24 hours it was announced that Fred Vasseur was to leave Alfa Romeo Sauber in favour of the top-spot at the Scuderia, which in turn triggered Andreas Seidl to relinquish his team principalship at McLaren after just three seasons at the team. Seidl has instead taken up the reigns as CEO at Alfa Romeo Sauber, as he looks to draw closer ties to his German racing roots, following the announcement that Audi would be taking over from 2026. This left McLaren out in the cold, and as amicable as their social media will have you believe the split was, they were left frantically searching for a replacement which came in the immediate promotion of former Executive Director, Andrea Stella. Though a seasoned veteran of the sport, starting with Ferrari in 2000, and having worked at the Woking-based outfit since 2015, Stella has an immense challenge ahead if he is to steer the team from their ailing 5th place in 2022 to the front of the grid again.
The F1 fanbase was afforded some respite over the festive period, though this was brought to a timely end on 14th January with the announcement that James Vowles (author or the now infamous ‘Valterri, it’s James’) would be heading Williams after Jost Capito’s shock departure the month before. The continuation of Vowles’ 20 year tenure at Mercedes seemed to be a given, especially considering his instrumental role in their historic eight consecutive constructor’s titles. Ergo, Vowles’ move is a significant one, betraying both Dorilton Capital’s frustration at yet another 10th place finish in the Constructor’s championship and Toto Wolff’s realistic view of the future given his close personal and financial ties with Williams…
Though RedBull’s Christian Horner, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Alpha Tauri’s Franz Tost have headed their respective outfits for the better part of half a century collectively (not to forget Drive To Survive star Guenther Steiner’s 9 year reign at Haas), the chaos has ensured that four of the ten team principals are newly appointed. With the addition of Krack and Szafnauer, both taking over Aston Martin and Alpine in 2022, six of the ten have held tenure for less than two seasons.
It’s safe to say the season ahead will certainly be one of adjustment and new approaches up and down the paddock, though the winners and losers of the transfers remains to be seen. Bring on 2023.
Image description: Andreas Seidl and Frederic Vasseur, two of the new team principles who have moved teams over the winter break