Which driver is the early favourite for the F1 2023 title?

Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen on the 2021 World title. Abu Dhabi December 2021 Credit: Alamy
Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen on the 2021 World title. Abu Dhabi December 2021 Credit: Alamy

Slowly but surely, the new season is appearing on the horizon. Let’s take a closer look at the latest F1 2023 odds to see where the early money has been heading in the driver market.

The beauty of a new F1 season is every driver and every team go back to zero points in their respective standings, sparking fresh hope of new contenders for the title – even more so after Max Verstappen and Red Bull won both at an absolute canter in 2022.

While opportunities for a Leicester City-style shock are nigh-on impossible to pull off in Formula 1, the new aerodynamic regulations introduced should, eventually, lead to a more open playing field in future seasons with at least more than two potential winners of the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.

We live in hope…and that hope could turn into reality as early as F1 2023.

The following ranking is based on the current betting markets

F1 2023 Drivers’ title favourites

1 – Max Verstappen

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Max Verstappen is being backed to make it three Drivers’ Championships in a row which would put him in an elite class with Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna should he manage to stay at the top of the Formula 1 mountain.

The dominant nature of Verstappen’s F1 2022 title win means punters are going to need some serious convincing from other rival drivers and teams during the first few months of the season before even considering there is a realistic threat to Verstappen having his crown snatched away from him.

And, even if a different option did emerge, you only need to look at the brilliant start made by Charles Leclerc and Ferrari during the F1 2022 campaign to know that you have to be extremely wary of false dawns in the world of Formula 1.

At this current early stage, with only past success to really factor in, we can expect to see Verstappen to stay top of this list for quite some time yet.

2 – Lewis Hamilton

Current second favourite is a seven-time World Champion that goes by the name of Lewis Hamilton. After the hugely controversial way a record-breaking eighth crown was taken from his grasp in 2021, Hamilton went the entire 2022 season without a single victory – the first time that has ever happened in Hamilton’s F1 career, which started all the way back in 2007.

After the wrong of 2021, the expectation was for Hamilton to use that as motivation and turn it into a right in 2022. But, having to drive the W13 which resembled more space hopper than Formula 1 car, it became clear quite quickly that the wait for an eighth World title would have to go on.

That same optimistic expectation is clearly back for F1 2023 with Hamilton sitting second in the Drivers’ market, but the W14 will need to be a marked improvement if Hamilton is to challenge Verstappen for the title again and there is another factor in the form of George Russell, who will have title ambitions of his own and even more so after managing to out-score Hamilton in his first season with the Silver Arrows.

3 – Charles Leclerc

Next in line is Charles Leclerc, the man who screamed potential World Champion after winning two of the opening three races in F1 2022. But, as we all know, a combination of Red Bull’s resurgence, countless driver and team errors at Ferrari alongside poor reliability, the long title drought at the Scuderia became even drier.

However, a new season will bring renewed optimism at Ferrari, who now have a new team boss in Frederic Vasseur and has a strong previous working relationship with Leclerc. If Vasseur does delve into the murky waters of picking No.1 and No.2 drivers, expect Leclerc to be in the former role rather than the latter.

It is easy for all of Ferrari’s shortcomings in 2022 to mask another great step forward in terms of the car that they have at their disposal. The F1-75 posed a serious threat, especially on one-lap pace, and that will give Ferrari a fantastic platform to build on for F1 2023.

But nobody has pressure on them quite like Ferrari do. That pressure turns into mistakes and those mistakes turned into more missed opportunities. Backers beware!

4 – George Russell

The prospect of making the jump up from the back of the grid to the front and expected to perform from the get-go is a daunting one, but George Russell made it look easy despite all of Mercedes’ problems during his first season with the Silver Arrows.

Russell had long outgrown his stay with backmarkers Williams and was crying out for a bigger move, which finally came once Hamilton’s former team-mate Valtteri Bottas found a new cosy home with Alfa Romeo. He more than justified that move during F1 2022 and with a taste of winning a F1 race still firmly on his lips, he will be thirsty for more.

The early indications with Russell is that he is going to be much more of a handful for Hamilton than his predecessor, making for a fascinating watch as we allow this driver dynamic to develop further into a second season.

It has all been very nice and respectful so far, but if titles are back on the table in F1 2023, then cracks will begin to show.

If the Mercedes W14 is a genuine title contender, we could expect to see Russell and not Hamilton surge all the way up to the No.1 favourite slot…

5 – Carlos Sainz

We now start making the net a little wider as we look at the drivers who are with big teams but remain relatively unfancied at this stage to launch their own title tilts.

F1’s ‘Smooth Operator’ had a fantastic start to life as a Ferrari in 2021 as he got the better of Leclerc, but the Monegasque driver soon turned those tables back around in F1 2022 – even if Sainz did experience the first F1 win of his career with victory at the British Grand Prix.

As alluded to earlier, the predominant reason for why Sainz is relatively low down in the market is because of that expectation Leclerc will be favoured over him if Ferrari do have the ability to have another crack at the titles in F1 2023.

But, like Sainz showed during his win at Silverstone, he has showed signs of defiance before and any moves to pigeon-hole him into a No.2 role may not come easy.

6 – Sergio Perez

Rounding off the drivers at the top three teams – Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari – is Sergio Perez who, try as he might to establish his own World title credentials, simply won’t be allowed to as long as Max Verstappen is in the other Red Bull car.

Rather than focusing on a World Championship push, more pressing for Perez will be looking to protect his own future at Red Bull – even more so now that Daniel Ricciardo is back in the fold as Red Bull’s third driver.

Red Bull say Ricciardo is of no threat to Perez, but the team’s cut-throat decision-making with some of Verstappen’s previous team-mates since the Aussie was last with them means there will always be scepticism around Red Bull’s driver plans. You never truly know what is up their sleeves.

Perez, though, away from all the noise off the track, can still be a wonderful driver on it and his majestic win at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2022 was another timely reminder of his supreme skill. It’s just a lack of consistency coupled with the Verstappen factor that will ensure Perez will never be threatening top spot to win the title.

The Outsiders

Such is the current dynamic of Formula 1, every driver from the other seven teams – Alpine, McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Haas, AlphaTauri and Williams – can be considered as rank outsiders for the F1 driver title in 2023.

Everyone after Sergio Perez is available at three-figure prices and it would take a miracle of epic proportions for that to change any time soon.

Naturally, after pre-season testing there will hype surrounding one of the midfield teams to the point where people may start believing they can turn F1’s ‘Big Three’ into a ‘Big Four’ – but realistically we are going to have to wait at least another year or two before we can even begin to consider new viable options for the titles.

For the curious amongst you, Lando Norris is currently next best in market after Perez. However, his potential quickest route to becoming one of the legitimate favourites for the F1 World title would be to move to either Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari given McLaren’s tough progress in trying to break through their own glass ceiling.

Read next: F1 drivers’ height and weight: A full rundown of the 2023 grid

 

 

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