The new Formula One season begins in Bahrain on Saturday with Max Verstappen bidding to win a fourth consecutive world championship.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions heading into the 2024 campaign.

Who is the favourite to win the title?

Red Bull’s preparations for the new season have been overshadowed by allegations facing team principal Christian Horner. Horner, who is fighting to save his career following a claim of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague, insists it is business as usual at Red Bull. Off-track it has been anything but for the team which has dominated the sport for the past two seasons. But on-track it has been precisely that.

Verstappen — in an upgrade of the machine which carried him to 19 victories from 22 rounds last year — set a blistering pace on the opening day of last week’s test, finishing 1.1 seconds quicker than anybody else.

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, summed up the ominous feeling in the paddock. Writing about Verstappen on ‘X’ he said: “He’s gloating. He’s taunting us. He knows. This year is going to be one long victory lap. You cannot begrudge anyone their success. All we can do is watch and admire.”

So, can anyone challenge Verstappen and Red Bull?

Ferrari ended last year with five pole positions from the final nine races and Carlos Sainz secured the only non-Red Bull win of the season in Singapore. The Italian team have worked hard over the winter on translating their one-lap pace into race conditions, where they tended to struggle in 2023.

They will take solace from a trouble-free test and their pace appeared relatively encouraging, too. Sainz topped the time charts on the second day, while Leclerc ended the final day quickest – albeit on speedier rubber than Verstappen.

An upbeat Leclerc said: “We are in a much better place and it is an easier car to drive. The feeling was good. We have been consistent straight away and this will help us in the race.”

And what about Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Hamilton stunned the sporting world by choosing to quit Mercedes and join Ferrari in 2025. The news broke earlier this month and is likely to be difficult for those at Mercedes to digest. Hamilton took the decision – one he described as the hardest of his life – after two winless years with the Silver Arrows.

Mercedes are armed with a new design philosophy for the new campaign but – although both Hamilton and team-mate George Russell spoke of an improved, more reliable machine – there was little to suggest from testing that they have closed the gap to Red Bull.

Mercedes finished ahead of Ferrari in last year’s constructors’ championship but do not be surprised if the Scuderia start the new season ahead of them.

What about the other teams?

McLaren came alive in the second half of 2023, with Lando Norris scoring seven podiums. But the British team looked short of last year’s form in Bahrain last week – although it is a track which has not always suited them in recent seasons.

Aston Martin finished fifth in the constructors’ championship, with Fernando Alonso, now 42, leading their charge for a second season. Alpine are set to head the midfield, with Williams, the newly-rebranded RB and Sauber teams (nee AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo) and Haas likely to follow.

Have there been any driver changes?

No. This season’s line-up is the same as the previous year – the first time that’s ever happened. But with Hamilton already announcing his move to Ferrari for 2025 and 13 of the 20 drivers out of contract at the end of the season – next year’s grid is sure to have a whole different feel about it.

What else happened during the winter break?

Aside from Hamilton’s blockbuster transfer, his soon-to-be Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc penned a new deal which is expected to keep the 26-year-old Monegasque dressed in red until 2029. Lando Norris also extended his stay with McLaren until at least the end of 2026.

Andretti’s move to become the 11th team on the grid was blocked by F1 bosses. The British Grand Prix will remain on the calendar for another decade after Silverstone agreed a new long-term deal with F1’s American owners’ Liberty Media.

How does the calendar look?

There will be a record-breaking 24 races – the longest season in history – starting in Bahrain on March 2 and ending in Abu Dhabi nine months and six days later.

The Chinese Grand Prix returns after five years away, while the round in Japan moves from its traditional October slot to April. The roster features six sprint races in China, Miami, Austria, Austin, Qatar and Brazil. The format has been tinkered with, too. Qualifying for the sprint will now take place on Friday, with the grid for Sunday’s main event decided on Saturday, following the shortened race.

What else do I need to know?

The opening two races will both take place on a Saturday. The Muslim holy period of Ramadan starts on March 10. As such, the second round in Saudi Arabia has been brought forward by a day. FIA rules stipulate there must one week between races, meaning the Bahrain GP will also be 24 hours earlier than usual.

Christian Horner wants his Red Bull future to be resolved “as soon as possible” as the embattled team principal fights to save his Formula One career.

Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner is being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner denies the claim.

Horner addressed the media alongside four other F1 team principals on the second day of this week’s three-day test in Bahrain on Thursday. The new season starts in the Gulf kingdom next Saturday.

Asked why he has not moved aside as team principal and chief executive of Red Bull Racing with the investigation under way, Horner replied: “As you are well aware there is a process going on which I form part of, and as I form part of that process, I am afraid I cannot comment on it.”

Horner was then asked if he could provided a timeline as to when the investigation might be over.

The 50-year-old added: “I am dreadfully sorry but I really can’t comment on the process or the timescale.

“Everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible. But I am really not at liberty to comment about the process.”

Sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could be a resolution before the opening race on March 2.

On Wednesday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called for Red Bull’s probe to be transparent, and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown, speaking in the same press conference as Horner on Thursday, echoed Wolff’s comments.

“The allegations are extremely serious,” said Brown. “McLaren hold themselves to the highest standards of diversity, equality and inclusion.

“These are extremely important to us and our partners, and to everyone in Formula One.

“Red Bull Corporation has launched an investigation, and all we hope and assume is that it will be handled in a very transparent way, and as the FIA and Formula One has said, swiftly, because these are not the headlines that Formula One wants or needs at this time.”

Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races last year as Max Verstappen stormed to the world championship.

The Dutch driver, in his heavily upgraded machine, set an impressive pace on the opening day in Bahrain, finishing 1.1 seconds clear of anyone else.

Mercedes’ George Russell said: “Red Bull are definitely the favourites and definitely a step ahead of everyone here in Bahrain. They have had an impressive winter, no doubt.

“Hopefully Red Bull are already in that sweet spot, and we can close the gap, but it is going to take a lot of hard work to do so.”

Lando Norris insists he can take the championship fight to Max Verstappen after declaring the Dutchman’s Red Bull team as “beatable”.

McLaren emerged as the closest contender to Red Bull last year following an impressive mid-season turnaround with Norris scoring seven podiums.

The 24-year-old, gearing up for his sixth season on the Formula One grid, last month committed his future to McLaren by signing a contract extension which will keep him with the British team for at least the next three seasons.

Red Bull won all but one of the 22 rounds last season, with Verstappen cruising to his third world title in as many years.

But speaking at McLaren’s car launch on Wednesday, Norris said: “If you were to ask, ‘are Red Bull beatable?’ I am going to have to say ‘yes’.

“We have to believe that because we were very close at times last year and at certain times we did beat them.

“Can we beat them over a season? That is going to be a challenge and very difficult to do because of how well they performed, but I am optimistic.”

Norris and team-mate Oscar Piastri, who impressed in his rookie campaign last season, were provided their first taste of this year’s machine at a Silverstone shakedown test on Wednesday.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella added: “At the start of the season my expectation of Red Bull is that they will enjoy an advantage.

“I say this because they didn’t develop the car very much last year and I would think it is reasonable to expect that they will have accumulated knowledge and development from last season and bring that to the 2024 car.

“If, and I say if, we continue the development rate from 2023 into 2024, then we can be in a strong position. But whether that is enough to challenge Red Bull and the other top teams who have made improvements, we will find out.”

F1’s sole pre-season test gets under way in Bahrain on February 21, ahead of the opening race, also in the Gulf kingdom, on March 2.

Lando Norris saw off triple world champion Max Verstappen to take pole position for today’s sprint race in Brazil.

The British driver, 23, beat Verstappen to top spot by 0.061 seconds in Interlagos with Sergio Perez third.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will line up from fourth and fifth respectively for Mercedes.

Norris believed he could have taken pole for tomorrow’s 71-lap main event, but for a McLaren strategy blunder in Friday’s rain-hit qualifying session.

However, the young Briton made amends by delivering the quickest time for today’s 24-lap dash to the chequered flag.

Norris, who is seeking his first win in Formula One, said: “It felt like one of the worst laps I have done so I am a little bit surprised to be on pole.

“But I feel like we have made up for yesterday. I have no idea how the sprint will go, but the pace has been good this weekend and the car has been quick.”

Perez was a tenth back from Norris, while Russell finished 0.235 sec behind, with Hamilton 0.318 sec adrift.

Yuki Tsunoda qualified sixth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo.

Q1 ended early after Esteban Ocon crashed out following a collision with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Ocon was on a hot lap, but briefly lost control of his Alpine though the left-hander at Turn 3, and thumped into Alonso.

The Spaniard was off the racing line, affording space for Ocon, but the Frenchman clipped Alonso’s Aston Martin which sent him into the tyre barrier at Curva do Sol.

“F****** idiot, Fernando,” said Ocon after he sustained significant damage to the rear of his machine.

Alonso limped back to the pits with front suspension damage leaving his mechanics scrambling to get his machine ready for Q2.

A 28-minute delay followed as the barrier was repaired but Alonso was unable to continue. He will start 15th.

The double world champion’s team-mate Lance Stroll qualified an impressive third for Sunday’s grand prix. But the Canadian will line up three places from the back for today’s sprint which gets under way at 3:30pm local time (6:30 pm GMT).

Max Verstappen completed a practice double for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix by edging out Lando Norris.

After leading the way in the first running at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Verstappen – who has won 15 of the 18 rounds so far – set the fastest time in the day’s concluding running.

The Red Bull driver finished 0.119 seconds clear of McLaren’s Norris, with Charles Leclerc a quarter of a second back in his Ferrari.

Home favourite Sergio Perez finished fifth, three tenths behind Red Bull team-mate Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton took seventh for Mercedes, a third of a second down.

Verstappen has dominated this year, and wrapped up his third successive world championship in Qatar earlier this month.

And the Dutchman will head into the remainder of the weekend in the breathless Mexico City air as the man to beat.

The high-altitude venue, which sits 2,200 metres above sea level, can often throw up anomalies, and Valtteri Bottas was a surprised fourth for Alfa Romeo, with Daniel Ricciardo sixth in his AlphaTauri, just three tenths off the top.

Hamilton finished a close second to Verstappen in the United States a week ago before he was disqualified for running an illegal floor on his Mercedes.

But despite his post-race exclusion, Hamilton hoped his speed in Austin would enable him to challenge Verstappen here.

However, the seven-time world champion failed to challenge the top of the leaderboard on Friday, finishing 11th and seventh respectively in the two sessions.

George Russell, who sat out the opening running as Mercedes blooded academy driver Frederik Vesti, finished 10th, half-a-second behind Verstappen.

Earlier on Friday, Ollie Bearman made history by becoming the youngest British driver to take part in a Formula One weekend.

Bearman, 18, competing for American outfit Haas, ended his F1 debut in 15th, only 1.6 sec slower than Verstappen and three tenths adrift of Nico Hulkenberg – a veteran of 200 grands prix – in the other Haas.

Bearman also finished one place ahead of double world champion Fernando Alonso.

F1 teams must run a rookie driver at least twice during the season and Chelmsford-born Bearman was handed his chance to impress, breaking the British record previously held by Norris.

Norris was three months shy of his 19th birthday when he took part in practice for McLaren in Belgium in 2018 before he was promoted to a race seat the following season. Bearman turned 18 in May.

The teenager, a member of the Ferrari academy, has taken four victories in F1’s feeder series Formula Two and is sixth in the standings ahead of next month’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Max Verstappen saw off Lewis Hamilton’s early challenge to claim victory in Saturday’s sprint race at the United States Grand Prix.

For the first time since their 2021 championship duel for the ages, Verstappen and Hamilton ran line astern in the 19-lap dash at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.

But Hamilton was unable to prevent Verstappen from taking the spoils, and accumulating yet another win of this most one-sided of Formula One campaigns.

Hamilton took the chequered flag a distant 9.4 seconds adrift of Verstappen with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third.

Verstappen, crowned champion of the world for a third time in Qatar a fortnight ago, took pole position earlier on Saturday and then put his elbows out at the start to ensure Leclerc did not sneak up his inside on the uphill drag to the opening bend.

Verstappen moved over to his left to squeeze the Ferrari man allowing Hamilton a clean shot at Leclerc on the exit of the first corner.

Hamilton ran over the kerbs and past the Monegasque, and then set his sights on Verstappen.

Hamilton has not won a race for nearly two years, the longest losing streak of his career. Indeed, 685 days have passed since he claimed victory at the penultimate round of the 2021 campaign in Saudi Arabia.

But for half-a-dozen laps here, Hamilton will have dared to dream that a victory could be on the cards.

Hamilton has triumphed six times in America – with five of those victories in the Lone Star State – and his early pace certainly provided Verstappen with food for thought.

The seven-time world champion stayed within one second of Verstappen to provide him with a possible DRS slingshot past his Red Bull rival.

“Driveability is not there,” moaned Verstappen on the radio. “I lost the rear completely.”

Hamilton then hinted his nemesis was gaining an advantage by using more of the track than is allowed.

“Max has gone off quite a few times,” said the Mercedes driver.

Hamilton has lauded the improvements from his updated machine, but the superiority of Verstappen’s Red Bull came to the fore.

Six laps had passed and Verstappen was suddenly out of DRS range. A slim hope of victory for Hamilton was dashed.

Yet the 38-year-old, who starts third for tomorrow’s 56-lap main event, will expect to be a contender again.

And his chances of a possible win will be aided by Verstappen starting only in sixth after his pole lap in Friday’s qualifying was deleted for exceeding track limits.

Lando Norris took fourth spot ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, with Carlos Sainz sixth.

George Russell finished seventh but was demoted to eighth after he served a five-second penalty for an illegal move on McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Max Verstappen will begin his quest to win the world championship from third for Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar as Oscar Piastri took a surprise pole position.

Piastri saw off team-mate Lando Norris as McLaren secured a front-row lockout.

Lewis Hamilton was knocked out of Q2 and qualified only 12th in his Mercedes for the 19-lap dash, which gets under way at 8:30pm local time (6:30pm BST).

Verstappen will wrap up his third consecutive title if he finishes sixth or better, or if Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez fails to finish inside the top three in the sprint at the Lusail International Circuit. Perez qualified only eighth on yet another scruffy outing for the struggling Mexican.

A day after taking top spot for the start of Sunday’s 57-lap main event, Verstappen, who has dominated all year, saw his first lap in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 5.

And the 26-year-old Dutchman was unable to do enough on his final run to usurp Piastri, finishing two tenths behind the rookie Australian.

Norris was in the running for first place but he ran wide at the last corner and failed to improve on his earlier effort.

George Russell finished fourth for Mercedes – four tenths behind Piastri – and ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who took fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari.

Sprint qualifying at a windswept Lusail – 18 miles north of Doha – was delayed amid fears over the safety of the tyres.

The running had been due to start at 4pm local time (2pm BST), but was delayed by 20 minutes following revisions to the track limits.

The drivers took part in an additional 10 minutes of practice to familiarise themselves with the changes made to the track at turns 12 and 13 prior to qualifying.

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, said “a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords” were discovered on the Pirelli tyres following yesterday’s one-hour running.

The federation believe the problem is likely to have been caused by a number of the high kerbs used at the circuit.

An emergency summit was staged in the build-up to qualifying with the drivers assured they would not be put in harm’s way.

Additional analysis will take place following today’s sprint race and further action – which will include three mandatory tyre stops – may be taken for Sunday’s grand prix.

Lance Stroll shoved his British performance coach and stormed out of a television interview after he was eliminated from Q1 in Friday’s running.

And the under-pressure Canadian fell at the first hurdle again on Saturday, one place better off in 16th.

Stroll’s Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso, who also saw his best effort in qualifying chalked off for exceeding track limits, lines up in ninth.

Lando Norris believes McLaren’s strong driver pairing can be a big advantage as the team celebrated an “important milestone” with a double podium at the Japanese Grand Prix.

British driver Norris finished second for a second consecutive race, albeit well behind dominant race-winner Max Verstappen, while team-mate Oscar Piastri secured his first podium in his debut Formula One season.

After a tough start to the year, McLaren have impressed since their first big upgrade began at July’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Norris finished fourth at Spielberg before picking up back-to-back second-places at Silverstone and in Hungary.

Piastri, 22, has exceeded expectations this season, with a number of strong displays earning the Australian an extended contract earlier this week – none more so than at Suzuka given he had never even been to Japan before.

Norris feels their combined strength is a major plus for McLaren as they chase down Aston Martin in the constructors’ championship.

“I think our advantage at the minute comparing to almost every team, bar a couple, is we have two drivers who are up there fighting for these positions and fighting for these points,” Norris said after the race at Suzuka.

“And not every team has that at the minute. So I think that’s helping us. We can help one another, we can use one another, and I think that’s a good advantage we have over a lot of other teams at the minute.

“So we’re on an upward trend. We’re making good progress and days like today prove exactly that.

“The progress we’ve made this season has been pretty incredible from my eyes, and from where we were to finishing 19 seconds behind the lead is, I think, evidence of exactly that.

“So I’m proud of everyone and we’ll keep pushing.”

Team principal Andrea Stella described the result at Suzuka as “an important milestone in our journey at McLaren”, while Piastri celebrated a significant day.

“You never forget your first podium, regardless of whether it’s been a strong performance or not,” he said.

“So yeah, it will be a special day and I won’t forget it and also ticking the first podium off the list is always a nice achievement to have.”

There are six races remaining in the 2023 season, including three sprint weekends, with a trip to Qatar next on the agenda in two weeks’ time.

McLaren have closed to 49 points of Aston Martin in the standings and CEO Zak Brown is confident they have a well-rounded car to be strong for the rest of the campaign.

“The team is just doing such a fantastic job, executing week in, week out,” Brown told Sky Sports F1.

“We are trying to catch Red Bull. All we can do is chip a tenth at a time but Max was pretty dominant. I think we will be strong at the next race, so will keep pushing.

“I feel as confident as I can we will be pretty strong everywhere, but we know there will be some tracks that favour your car more than others and we are good in the high speed, which Qatar is, so we will be strong there and not be weak anywhere.”

Sergio Perez has taken new power unit components ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver has taken a new energy store (ES) and control electronics (CE) for the second race of the 2023 Formula One season.

No penalty will be issued for the Mexican driver, though he finds himself in a tricky situation for the remainder of the campaign as only two ES changes are allowed over the course of the season, while three CE's are permitted.

Perez is now in a similar situation to that of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who was forced into an ES change ahead of the season opener in Bahrain and has taken another unit for this weekend – resulting in a 10-place grid penalty.

Leclerc, alongside team-mate Carlos Sainz and McLaren's Lando Norris, has also taken a second internal combustion engine (ICE) for Saudi Arabia, with three permitted during a season, while both Leclerc and Norris have taken an additional MGU-H.

Norris has seen further changes in the form of a new turbocharger, MGU-K and exhaust system for the weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Max Verstappen leads the championship standings ahead of team-mate Perez after a Red Bull one-two in Bahrain, with Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso third.

A new Formula One season is upon us and the 2023 campaign will be the longest in the history of the elite motorsport class.

The number of races is rising to 23, with Las Vegas joining the show, though drama will not be limited to the track.

Two seasons ago, the controversial conclusion to the campaign in Abu Dhabi was a dominant story, while last year saw Red Bull's budget cap breach and an Oscar Piastri fight between Alpine and McLaren, as well as frustrations with governing body the FIA, notably over the drivers' freedom of expression.

Get set for sporting theatre to unfold over the course of the season ahead, though the biggest talking point centres around whether anyone can dethrone Red Bull.

Red Bull gives you wins

Max Verstappen finished at the front in 15 of 22 races last season, setting a record for the most triumphs in a single campaign, and he has won over half of the events in the past two years (25 wins from 44 races).

While pre-season testing never offers a full indication of what lies ahead, Red Bull's strength was still evident and the consensus is that the defending champions will begin the campaign with an advantage over their rivals.

 

If that gap cannot be reduced, the biggest threat to a third consecutive crown for Verstappen may come from team-mate Carlos Perez. Should that happen, tempers may flare as they did in Sao Paulo in November when Verstappen refused a team order to allow the Mexican through.

One aspect that may provide hope to Red Bull's rivals is the punishment issued for the budget cap breach, which included a 10 per cent reduction in aerodynamic testing allowance for 12 months. While it came too late to have a major implication on the overall develop of this year's car, it could restrict the team's ability to fix any issues that arise.

Ferrari's fight to the front

A season that offered so much promise for Ferrari last term ultimately fell away through mistakes in race strategy and engine failures, the latter of which resulted in the team having to run in a low-power mode to avoid further woes.

Charles Leclerc certainly has the ability to go head to head with perennial rival Verstappen, who he has raced since his junior days, while Carlos Sainz got his long-awaited maiden F1 win at Silverstone last year.

The appointment of Fred Vasseur as team principal, replacing Mattia Binotto, hands the Scuderia an experienced head on the pit wall and may result in fewer questionable calls in race strategy.

Ferrari are confident they can mount a challenge this season and, even though Leclerc has conceded Red Bull may start with an advantage, he believes the Prancing Horse can respond.

"The target is still [to win the title]. Even if we are starting a bit of the back foot compared to them in terms of performance, I'm sure we can come back," Leclerc told Sky Sports.

Mercedes on a mission

Any hopes of a Mercedes revival in 2023 appear to have stalled already, with testing performances suggesting the team may have to look over their shoulders at those chasing from behind rather than competing at the top.

Mercedes' design continues to divide opinion, with a zero-pod approach being vastly different to their rivals and leading to questions about whether they have stuck to their guns out of pride rather than sporting merit.

With Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel, there is always a chance and the Briton will be determined to come back and add to his record 103 race wins having failed to secure a victory last season – the first campaign in his career when he has not registered a win.

The seven-time world champion was outperformed by team-mate George Russell last season, however. Russell secured a maiden race win in the penultimate race and offered consistency throughout the campaign.

Best of the rest

The biggest surprise of the testing weekend in Bahrain was the pace shown by Aston Martin who, with the addition of Fernando Alonso, have a driver who could mount a serious threat to the bigger guns on the grid.

Though a third world title for the Spaniard may be a stretch, regular podiums and dethroning one of the big three in the constructors' championship is certainly an achievable goal.

At Alpine, great care will be taken to ensure French compatriots Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon do not find themselves butting heads, with a frosty relationship over the years, while McLaren have already admitted they missed their development targets and start on the back foot as a result.

Andreas Seidl, now at the helm of Alfa Romeo-Sauber, enters with high expectations ahead of the team's transition into Audi in 2026, while AlphaTauri's long-term future continues to be questioned despite assurances Red Bull will not sell their second-string team.

Expect the season to also see further rumblings regarding new additions to the grid, with Porsche and Andretti among those pushing to join.

As ever, there is plenty to watch out for in F1 and from the first corner to the last there are likely to be surprises along the way.

Lando Norris hopes there will be a U-turn on plans for Formula One drivers to be prohibited from making personal, religious and political statements without consent from the FIA.

The FIA has been widely criticised following the governing body's decision to introduce new legislation underpinning the ban, which it says will be clarified through the issuing of new guidelines.

F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali had an adverse reaction to the proposals, saying the sport will not "gag" drivers who wish to speak out on issues they believe in.

McLaren's Norris has become the latest in a string of drivers to hit out at the FIA's ban, saying: "We should be able to say what we want and what we believe in.

"I feel there has been quite a bit of pressure and enough said to make a little bit of a U-turn.

"The penalty [for speaking out] is not clear, but we are not in a school. We should not have to ask about everything and say, 'Can we do this, can we do that?'

"We are grown up enough to try and make smart decisions. Maybe sometimes people make silly decisions, but that happens in life. I hope and believe that enough drivers have said things now to push back a little bit."

Norris said he supports F1's existing approach, adding: "F1 has made things clear, what they think is acceptable and what we should be able to do as drivers, and that is what I stand by. 

"We need it. We are only trying to help people in the world and give advice and there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to do that."

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem recently announced he would take a step back from the day-to-day running of F1 after being involved in several controversies and conflicts.

McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown welcomed that decision, saying: "It has been a bit exciting over the winter, but things seem to have course-corrected."

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella is targeting a top-four finish in the 2023 Formula One season with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri taking up their two seats.

Piastri has replaced fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren, who launched their new MCL60 car at the team's factory in Woking on Monday.

McLaren finished fifth in the Constructors' Championship last year, with Norris gaining 122 of their 159 points. Rivals Alpine ranked fourth with 173 points.

The MCL60, named to mark 60 years since Bruce McLaren founded the team, is an evolution on last year's MCL36.

"I think it's fair to say that over the course of the season we would like to establish ourselves as part of the top four," said Stella, who has replaced Andreas Seidl.

"We know realistically with the top-three teams, this may mean potentially being the fourth best car over the course of the season.

"We are realistic in the very short term, there's good developments already in the pipeline that should land trackside very soon in the season and should allow us to take a decent step forward.

"We are not naive, we know that pretty much every team will be saying the same, 'we have good developments' and so on. Like I said, we also have more high level developments going on in the team."

Stella added that some of the car's potential may not be unlocked until the later in the season due to some areas of development not being realized until late in the process.

Mick Schumacher has been named as McLaren's reserve driver for 2023 after a deal was struck with Mercedes.

The 23-year-old, son of Formula One great Michael Schumacher, lost his seat at Haas following the 2022 season and was subsequently released from Ferrari's young driver programme.

Schumacher signed as Mercedes' third driver, behind Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, but will now deputise for Lando Norris or Oscar Piastri at McLaren in the event of either being unable to race.

Those opportunities would still be presented should either Hamilton or Russell have issues this season, though there is now a greater chance of Schumacher making an appearance on the grid.

In two seasons at Haas, Schumacher scored points on two occasions from 43 races and was replaced by compatriot Nico Hulkenberg for the 2023 campaign.

As pointed out by McLaren, representing the team brings the Schumacher name full circle as team principal Andrea Stella worked alongside Mick's father as performance engineer.

Lando Norris is a "franchise driver" and is as good as Formula One icon Fernando Alonso, McLaren CEO Zak Brown believes.

The 23-year-old is set for his fifth year with McLaren and has a new teammate for 2023 in Oscar Piastri, resulting in an exciting youthful pairing in F1.

McLaren have high hopes for their future in F1, with Brown recently outlining his objective of competing for the title by 2025, and Norris is an integral part of those plans.

The team have managed to keep Norris out of the clutches of Red Bull, whom he has spoken to in the past, with the young driver tied down until 2025 and seen as a figure McLaren can build around.

Though there is still plenty for Norris to achieve in F1, Brown suggests he is comparable to two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso.

"Lando's a franchise driver. Lando's one of those guys if we put everyone in a dirt buggy and we put all the F1 drivers in a race, he'd be at the front because he's got that kind of natural talent," Brown told ESPN.

"I think he is as good as anyone on the grid, and I've felt that from day one when I put him against Fernando in the 24 Hours of Daytona, foreign car, foreign track.

"I think Fernando is as good as any F1 driver there's ever been, and Lando matches him, and depending on what time of day it was, maybe he even got him a little bit, and vice versa.

"You see that natural talent. You do get some drivers who are a one-make discipline and you throw them in a unique situation and they don't get up to speed as quickly."

Norris is still waiting for a maiden victory in F1 but he did see Mercedes' George Russell – someone he raced alongside during their junior careers – secure a win last season.

Brown feels that will provide encouragement for the forthcoming campaign.

"He wants to be winning races, I'm sure he knows he can beat George and he has beaten George before... and he goes out and wins," Brown added.

"He's going to be anxious people he's raced with don't get too many more wins before he starts getting his."

Alex Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champion, has been named as one of McLaren's reserve drivers for the 2023 Formula One season.

The 25-year-old, who ran in testing with the outfit across the 2022 season, is set to balance his time in the cockpit with his schedule in IndyCar.

Earlier this year, Palou was involved in a dispute over his future, with McLaren and then-current team Ganassi both suggesting he was under contract for next year with them.

After the latter initially filed a lawsuit against the racer, it was settled for him to test, though now the Spaniard makes the step up inside McLaren's team structure.

"I'm excited to be part of the McLaren team as one of their reserve drivers in 2023," Palou said in a statement. 

"I can't wait for the involvement with next year's car.

"I look forward to continuing my development as a driver and I appreciate the trust McLaren have in me with this new role next year."

McLaren were involved in a dispute over new driver Oscar Piastri too, after the latter left Alpine amid a bitter fallout over his future.

The Australian will succeed Daniel Ricciardo for the team on a contract through 2024, and will partner Lando Norris, with McLaren yet to confirm the remainder of their reserve driver pool.

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