Shock new contenders emerge to ‘challenge’ Red Bull’s dominance in F1 2023

Mark Scott
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen leads the way in Spain. June 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen leads the way in Spain. June 2023

Mika Hakkinen has put full faith in his former team McLaren to start challenging runaway leaders Red Bull as early as this season. 

Hakkinen’s prediction does come as a surprise given the fact that McLaren have really struggled to set the F1 world alight since the beginning of the 2023 campaign.

McLaren are not only cut well adrift of Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship, but they are also languishing behind Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Alpine with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both struggling for regular success stories in the troublesome MCL60.

But, despite the clear lack in performance, Hakkinen is undeterred in picking McLaren as his number one choice to rival Red Bull…and soon.

“I don’t think anyone is able to catch up this year,” Hakkinen said in his latest preview for Unibet, in reference to whether he thinks anyone can stop Red Bull winning both World Championships again this season.

“The only surprise I think we’ll see is McLaren’s possible progress during the next two months, I think they will surprise us massively.

“Just in terms of the speed of the car, they will probably challenge Red Bull.”

With McLaren not catching the eye much on the track so far this season, perhaps Hakkinen’s confidence stems from the noises the team are making away from the circuit.

An aggressive recruitment drive is continuing with the recent acquisition of Red Bull’s chief engineering officer Rob Marshall and a B-spec MCL60 is also in the works.

Speaking to Australian publication Speedcafe, team boss Andrea Stella said the plan is to have the upgrades ready for the ninth and 10th rounds of the championship.

“We are working on delivering the main round of upgrades between Austria and Silverstone,” Stella said.

“It will be a very noticeably different car. We hope to do another round post [summer] shutdown.”

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Star driver Norris, meanwhile, is also optimistic about McLaren’s future as he looks to join the fight for podiums, wins and ultimately titles in the years to come.

Appearing recently on the Sky Sports F1 Podcast, Norris said: “I think there’s some big names coming in, which is always a great thing, a great addition.

“People who have been in the sport for many years, who have been a crucial part in success of other teams – a lot of success in other teams.

“Knowledge is one of the biggest things in Formula 1, and personnel, so I think getting some big guys in… Not that we had bad people, because that’s absolutely not true, but just making the force bigger is what we needed to go and compete against these other teams – Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and so on.

“It’s a very good thing, still fresh for the time being, but already factually there’s been some good improvements from the development rate and things like that, new ideas, new perspectives.

“Already good progress has been made, so therefore I guess I look forward to this year, I look forward to how we can go into a winter and be better prepared for 2024.”