Teams are busy ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, with a fallow period in the calendar allowing for more focus on upgrades to be transported to Baku. With the cost cap also in effect, teams are expected to debut new components in hopes of improving their current performance. Here’s a breakdown of what each team needs to focus on.
Williams will likely abandon the development of the FW45 in favor of focusing on the longer-term for 2024. They need to address their car’s behavior on entry to slower-speed corners, as progress has been made in this respect but there’s still room for improvement. The car lacks overall downforce, which is efficient in a straight line but loses time when it comes to twisty tracks.
AlphaTauri is the slowest of the field and needs to address their reprofiled floor and rear ride height in order to improve their aerodynamic load during braking. They need to reduce their overall drag and their poor low-speed cornering habits, which will be put to the test by the split personality of the Baku layout.
Alfa Romeo lost out on the development race last year but the team’s new investment from Audi should provide the capacity to address their straight-line deficit. The C43 has good medium-speed acceleration and brakes well, but falls behind beyond 165mph due to excessive aerodynamic drag. The team needs to increase the downforce generated underneath the car in order to become competitive in the speed traps.
Haas needs to optimize their suspension set-up in order to compete with Alfa Romeo on flying laps through slow corners. The team was hampered by struggles to manage Pirellis over a race stint in Bahrain, but retained strong straight-line performance and enjoys a powerful DRS advantage. While overall downforce is less inspiring, Haas will wait until Spain to debut upgrades.
Alpine has not delivered on its promise to slot straight back into fourth place, but the team plans to out-develop all other teams in 2023. The A523 has so far proved reliable but needs to deliver superior peak downforce to become more competitive. Alpine must sacrifice some of its broad operating window for a higher performance ceiling to reel in star performer Aston Martin.
McLaren has pinned its hopes on a major Azerbaijan upgrade to revive fortunes. The MCL60 still suffers from the same unpredictable behavior as the 2022 car, with cornering balance needing to be improved. The team needs to address their lack of overall downforce, which has left them behind fellow Mercedes engine customer Aston Martin through most medium- and high-speed turns on the calendar.
Ferrari still faces operational shortcomings from last season, including unreliability, a lack of downforce, and a twitchy, capricious car. The team sacrificed peak cornering performance to close the late-2022 gulf to Red Bull. Ferrari needs to improve the front end, which both drivers are struggling to manage, exacerbated by the abrasive surface in Bahrain.
Mercedes must wait until the Emilia Romagna GP for its potentially game-changing string of updates, which includes rear-end stability improvements. The seating position won’t change until 2024 due to the novel exposed crash structure, size-zero sidepods, and engine cooling package. Lewis Hamilton has complained of a “disconnect” from the cockpit being placed too far forward relative to the front axle.