Christian Horner scandal won’t stop Verstappen – Giancarlo Fisichella’s 2024 F1 preview

It’s lights out and away we go… F1 is back! (Photo: Getty / AP)

After the craziest winter break in history, Formula 1 is finally back this weekend with the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen is the favourite to win a fourth-straight championship but all is not well at Red Bull with team principal Christian Horner about to learn the outcome of the investigation into his alleged ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

Meanwhile, Sir Lewis Hamilton is looking to get back to winning ways in what will be his final season before he joins Ferrari, with various drivers up and down the grid aiming to show that they should replace the British sporting legend at Mercedes.

Speaking exclusively to Metro Sport via Betway, former Renault and Ferrari driver Giancarlo Fisichella, shared his thoughts and predictions ahead of what promises to be an epic year of racing:

Verstappen racing at the ‘maximum level’ and Horner scandal won’t stop him

‘The favourite is for sure Max with Red Bull. Last season he was so strong with the car and his performance.

‘Verstappen has been always so quick, in a qualifying session and in the race. But, since he had an accident in Monte Carlo a few years ago, he changed, and now with experience he is always quick but also consistent.

‘He doesn’t make mistakes. I think Verstappen is already near the maximum level.

‘I don’t know Christian very well, but he has done a fantastic job in 20 years for the team. They’ve won a lot of championships.

‘I don’t know if he’ll stay or not. But if he’s not, for this year, it shouldn’t be a big problem because the car is already done. The sponsors and everything are closed.

‘It could have an effect for the future, maybe in 2025. It’s not easy to find another who can replace him because he’s done so well.’

Max Verstappen during F1 testing in Bahrain

Can anyone catch Max Verstappen and Red Bull? (Photo: Getty)

Alonso would be ‘immense’ for Mercedes, but they’ll back Hamilton until the end

‘I thought it [Hamilton to Ferrari] was fake news at first, I couldn’t believe it! It’s amazing! It’s good news for the sport, for the Ferrari fans and for everybody.

‘Lewis has got a lot of experience, a great, great driver, he won seven world championships. I think his experience could be a good thing for Ferrari. It will be nice for them to have a new driver, have some feedback, maybe bringing some secrets from Mercedes…

‘Lewis is still an important man for Mercedes this year and within they need to try to bring back the championship or win some races again. So, for me, it will be a normal season for them. Lewis and [George] Russell will be given the same car.

‘Maximum effort from them. And then towards the end of the season, they will see if they are in a good position for the championship. If so, they will still be pushing on Lewis, or they will decide to change.

‘There are a few replacements on the list. One could be [Fernando] Alonso because he is still very, very quick. He’s got a lot of experience, he could be immense for the team. Also Carlos [Sainz], Daniel Ricciardo…

‘If I was the team principal, I would put on the top of the list Fernando. Why not?!

‘But I think they need a younger driver to be with them a few more years. Carlos maybe has a contract with Audi for the future. I don’t think they are looking for a driver for just one year.’

F1 drivers on a photo call

Lewis Hamilton will be teammates with Charles Leclerc next season but could Fernando Alonso take the Brit’s place at Mercedes? (Photo: Getty)

Ferrari to win best of the rest battle and watch out for ‘fantastic’ Albon

‘After Red Bull, I would say Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and then Aston Martin.’

‘I think Ferrari and Mercedes will close the gap to Red Bull. I wish for Formula 1, for everybody to see more fighting for pole position and especially for the race. Obviously, I hope for Ferrari!

‘At the end of the season Ferrari was scoring lots of points but also the race pace was a bit better. So this year, they’ve probably improved a bit more the car so it can be quicker than Mercedes.

‘Last year, Fernando at the beginning of the season was amazing, scoring points and podiums everywhere. Then, the development of Aston Martin wasn’t good enough compared to Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren.

‘McLaren in the first two or three races were at the back of the grid. But they did a fantastic second and last part of the season.

‘Other teams can be quick on some specific circuit but fighting with the top teams is quite difficult. Williams have made a completely new car. It could be good but could be even worse, you never know.

‘With a Williams car, which was not the best car, I think Alex Albon showed a fantastic performance last year. If the car is good, Albon could be a surprise.’

Williams could be the surprise package of 2024 (Photo: Getty)

Perez in for ‘difficult season’ but Red Bull should keep him

‘It’s not easy. It’s not just because it’s a world champion, it’s just because being alongside Max Verstappen must be very difficult. So, I think it’s going to be another difficult season for [Sergio] Perez.

‘But he’s a good man for Red Bull. They need a guy who does good work without complaining too much and gives a lot of points for the constructors’ championship.

‘If Perez is close to Max and scores a lot of points, there is no reason to change to another driver.

‘Obviously, if Perez is far away from Max, makes mistakes, doesn’t score a lot of points… they’ll need to look around to another driver. And [Daniel] Ricciardo could be one of them.’

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