Formula 1 starting grid set for historic 'first' in 2024

Grid atmosphere. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Staley / XPB Images
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The starting grid for the first Grand Prix of the 2024 season will have a historic 'first' never before seen in over seven decades of the sport.

With confirmation that Logan Sargent is to stay at Williams for a second season alongside Alexander Albon, it's the first time that the entire driver line-up at the end of one year will be completely unchanged for the next.

However it's not the same as the driver who lined up in Bahrain at the start of this year: AlphaTauri began with rookie driver Nyck de Vries paired with Yuki Tsunoda, but he was dropped after 11 races following the British GP.

That saw Daniel Ricciardo return to the squad, although he was subsequently sidelined through injury with Liam Lawson sitting in for him for five races before Ricciardo was fit to race in the US.

Ricciardo saw out the remaining races of 2023 and will be back next year - although the AlphaTauri name will no longer be present as the squad prepares for its second rebranding in four years, possibly to 'Racing Bulls'.

The Alfa Romeo name will also be absent, as the Italian marque's deal to brand the Sauber team comes to an end. With two years before its takeover by Audi is complete, the team is expected to revert to the 'Sauber' name.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu will both be back with the team, whatever it's called. They missed out on this year's wooden spoon by finishing four points ahead of Haas which also sees an unchanged line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.

All the top drivers will remain in place - Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will be back for Red Bull hoping for another dominant season, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will be wishing for a change in the balance of power.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finished the season at the other 'in-form' team McLaren, while Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon worked well at Alpine despite pre-season expectations of fireworks between the two 'frenemies', while Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll return to Aston Martin.

Having missed out on the AlphaTauri seat for 2024, Lawson will continue as the team's official reserve driver. Other stand-by drivers include Theo Pourchaire (Alfa), Felipe Drugovich (Aston), Ryo Hirakawa and Pato O’Ward (MCLaren), and Mick Schumacher (Mercedes) with others still to be confirmed.

While there is remarkable stability on the driver front, it's likely to be the calm before the storm with the contract of 13 of the 20 drivers up for renewal by the end of 2024.

While the driver line-up is unchanged, the calendar will consist of a record 24 races and sees the return of China to the schedule on April 21, after an unforced absence due to the ongoing effects of COVID.

Pre-season testing will once again take place in Bahrain with three days of testing between 10am and 7pm commencing on February 21 and the first race of the season at the same venue a week and a half later on March 2.

Qatar has been moved later in the year to become the penultimate race of the season on December 8 after teams complained of the vicious back-to-back turnaround of finishing the year in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi.

There will be six sprint races again, with returns to Austria, the United States, Brazil and Qatar and two new events at China and Miami, but discussions are already underway to revise the format of the sprint weekend.

Teams will likely launch their new cars at the start of February. There are no major rule changes coming into effect other than new limits on running any brand-new components on an old car to get a jump on official testing.

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