The motorsport winter is quickly coming to an end, while several series across the globe have already begun their 2024 activities, meaning plotlines and talking points are unfolding right now.
The Dakar Rally and Formula E, now customary annual calendar openers, have already produced the first major winners of the year, as Carlos Sainz Sr took his fourth triumph at the iconic rally-raid for Audi while Pascal Wehrlein laid down the first marker in the all-electric series as he dominated the Mexico City E-Prix for Porsche.
But with a world of motorsport ready to get rolling this year, there are countless storylines that we expect to be covering – and plenty others that we cannot anticipate – so here are our correspondents’ nominations for what to look out for in 2024.
An explosive F1 driver market? Jake Boxall-Legge
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
There are plenty of F1 race seats up for grabs, but will teams and drivers stick or twist?
Watching the driver market for 2024 unfold was a wholly predictable experience, with no changes made from the 20 drivers who ended 2023. Set against the backdrop of the Max Verstappen-Red Bull dyad steamrolling the field, driver transfers would have been a palate cleanser had they actually arrived from the kitchen.
The market for 2025 might be a little bit more intriguing. Five drivers have contracts locked in for next year: Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. Charles Leclerc looks to be committed at Ferrari too, but everything beyond that? Up for debate. Red Bull’s second seat alongside Verstappen is the hottest property on the market; if Sergio Perez underperforms again, there will be numerous suitors all seeking to turn Christian Horner’s head over the course of the year.
There are further questions. Will Carlos Sainz continue at Ferrari? Will Fernando Alonso continue to prolong his evergreen career with Aston Martin? Can Alex Albon earn himself a return to a top team after two vastly impressive years at Williams? And then there’s the effect of convergence as the ground-effect revival enters its third year, which will also have its own effect on the market.
It may have been a static transfer period for 2024, but there’s a lot of potential for a reshuffle for 2025 as drivers look at opportunities to join those set to start the new engine formula in 2026 in the best shape. Oh, and don’t forget the influence of some of F2’s brighter talents…
More progress for Piastri, Alex Kalinauckas
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
A stunning rookie F1 season means Piastri is tipped for even bigger things in 2024
With the Formula 1 grid being identical to how the season finished in 2023, that zaps the upcoming campaign of certain narratives: how some drivers might settle into a new team, or whether a rookie will thrive or dive at the highest level. But that underwhelming situation can be cast aside considering the progress that the undisputed rookie star of 2023 might make in his second F1 season.
Oscar Piastri is heading into his second year at McLaren and has already shown plenty of superstar potential. The 22-year-old impressed the team with his nous and big capacity to learn last year, while his regular efforts to improve from quiet practice showings to deliver often devastating qualifying performances against as rapid a team-mate as Lando Norris demonstrates that the Australian knows how to peak at exactly the right time in a weekend. This is a trait shared by many motorsport greats.
He’s got a smooth and precise driving style, which reflects his seemingly unflappable nature outside the car. Plus, there’s that glorious deadpan delivery of specific soundbites, which reflects both his character charms and inner toughness. The smooth steering inputs also provide a good starting point to improve on in-race tyre management, where Norris maintained a critical edge through 2023.
Recently departed AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost famously insisted that F1 drivers had three seasons to show their potential or face a brutal exit. Well, Piastri, with his searing Suzuka qualifying showing, two rookie GP podiums and narrow pace gap to Norris on qualifying averages, has already shown his worth. Now that he knows the entire calendar bar the returning Chinese GP, that should provide a brilliant springboard to further success.
WRT getting a crack at outright WEC glory, James Newbold
Photo by: BMW AG
WRT is expected to be a real contender in the WEC Hypercar class with BMW
The entries of BMW, Isotta Fraschini and Lamborghini at the same time as Alpine’s return to Hypercar means that the World Endurance Championship’s top class will this year be richer than ever in variety and quality. There’s plenty to be excited by on the driving front too, with the arrival of Jenson Button, Callum Ilott and Mick Schumacher among others. But it’s a Belgian team getting its long-awaited crack at the pinnacle of sportscar racing that I’m most looking forward to.
WRT has won practically everything there is to win in GT racing. Numerous GT World Challenge Europe Endurance and Sprint Cup titles? Check; 24 Hours of Spa, Nurburgring and Dubai? Naturally. It also conquered the FIA GT World Cup in Macau and Bathurst 12 Hour, and set about immediately putting its stamp on prototype racing in 2021. That year it captured the WEC and European Le Mans Series LMP2 titles – and of course, that unforgettable maiden Le Mans win – then bowed out of P2 with another WEC crown last year.
Now Vincent Vosse’s squad gets to go for outright honours with BMW’s M Hybrid V8 which, although new to the WEC, has had a year of racing under its belt with the Rahal team in IMSA and took a first win at Watkins Glen. WRT has been testing the Dallara-based LMDh machine since June and, given its standards of operational excellence and as endurance racing’s gold standard for pitstops, can be expected to get everything and more from the package.
Muscling in on WEC and IMSA, Charles Bradley
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
The manufacturer presence in GT3 is currently booming
Name two famous American muscle cars… Chances are, the words you just said were ‘Mustang’ and ‘Corvette’. If so you’re in luck, because brand new racing versions of these legends are going to going head to head across the globe in 2024. Both the World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship in North America will boast these V8-powered leviathans in their ranks this year, going up against Acura, Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche GT3 machinery.
In the blue (oval) corner, Ford’s Mustang GT3 started life on its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant before Multimatic Motorsports took over to turn it into a thoroughbred. The 5.4-litre V8 is an enlarged version of the stock Mustang GT’s ‘Coyote’ powerplant developed by Ford Performance and M-Sport, its long-time World Rally Championship partner. In the yellow corner, Chevrolet has built a Corvette Z06 GT3.R to the FIA’s GT3 regulations for the first time, built up from an aluminium chassis produced at Chevy’s Bowling Green factory in Kentucky, and developed by Pratt Miller Motorsports. It boasts a 5.5-litre flat plane crankshaft DOHC V8 – designated LT6 – which shares 70% of its components with the standard Z06 motor.
Some cracking driver line-ups have been assembled across each series, starring Earl Bamber, Nicky Catsburg, Charlie Eastwood, Antonio Garcia, Dani Juncadella, Tommy Milner, Alexander Sims and Nico Varrone in the ’Vettes. They’ll be up against Ben Barker, Joey Hand, Christopher Mies, Dirk Muller, Andy Priaulx, Mike Rockenfeller, Harry Tincknell and Frederic Vervisch in the ’Stangs.
Not long to wait now until the Daytona 24 Hours, where the gloves come off and these two fierce rivals begin to duke it out. Can’t wait!
Van Gisbergen’s American dream, Sam Hall
Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images
Van Gisbergen’s stunning NASCAR Cup victory on debut makes him the one to watch this year
Shane van Gisbergen has been the dominant force in Australia’s Supercars series since Scott McLaughlin departed for IndyCar at the end of the 2020 season and, although dethroned last term by Brodie Kostecki (another driver showing keen interest in NASCAR), the Kiwi was still widely viewed as the man to beat.
His switch to NASCAR for the coming season came somewhat out of the blue after he initially signed a new multi-year contract extension with the Triple Eight Supercars squad in April, then announced his intention to move Stateside just three months later. While much was expected of him on his Cup debut on the Chicago streets, no one could have predicted the manner in which he would take to the category, storming to victory and showing the established order that he means business. Much like many of three-time Supercars champion McLaughlin’s performances in IndyCar, this was a statement that served to highlight the talent that remains somewhat hidden in Australia’s premier series.
My excitement for van Gisbergen’s season is not one of anticipation for championship success – that would be a foolish expectation of any rookie driver, no matter the racing CV they may boast – but comes from wanting to see how quickly he can adapt to the different circuit configurations and a very different style of racing from what he is accustomed to. Van Gisbergen has a welcome habit of winning and is not afraid to rub panels on the track when needed – both are traits that will endear him to the American public.
Marquez to wreck the MotoGP field in 2024, Lewis Duncan
Photo by: Gresini Racing
Marc Marquez’s potential on the Ducati is huge, but can it take him all the way back to the top?
This time last year, one Marquez’s move to Gresini Ducati had us intrigued for the year ahead. In 2024, it’s the other one of the brothers. Marc Marquez’s path to his Honda exit and move to Ducati with the Gresini team proved to be one of the defining stories of 2023. When he made his debut on the bike at the post-season Valencia test, it generated a buzz not even the championship battle just a few days earlier could match.
After several years in the wilderness due to numerous injury woes and the sharp decline in performance from the Honda, six-time MotoGP world champion Marquez’s switch to a year-old Ducati is as much about rediscovering his love for racing as it is about being competitive. But the fact that he was just 0.171s off the pace on his first test of the bike, while riding under his full potential due to a pre-existing arm pump issue he kept concealed, means we are yet to see the real Marquez. And that will have everyone on the grid, not least the rest of the Ducati stable, nervous as pre-season testing approaches.
Marquez will be gunning to become the first to win a world title with a satellite team, which would equal Valentino Rossi’s premier-class tally of seven. And should all this come to pass, it would surely become one of the greatest comeback stories in sporting history.
What we don’t know rather than what we do know, Marcus Simmons
Photo by: ACI Sport
Antonelli has jumped from Formula Regional straight to Formula 2 and is talked about as a star of the future
Tweaks to the qualifying format and a doubling of the hybrid boost allowance for the British Touring Car Championship in 2024, while interesting and perhaps even tantalising, aren’t exactly the kind of thing that will be keeping enthusiasts awake at night while they shake with excitement under their duvets. And that’s the biggest news to come out of the series this winter.
But the grapevine suggests that there are a couple of exciting things going on regarding who goes where. This certainly hasn’t been an F1-style silly season and, if what I’ve heard is true, at least a couple of absolute top-liners are going to be entertaining us on track in cars new to them.
Beyond that, my passion has long been the junior single-seater scene, where there is plenty to anticipate in 2024. There is more buzz around Andrea Kimi Antonelli than we’ve had about anyone since Max Verstappen a decade ago. How will he go in Formula 2? Well, don’t just focus on him, because his Prema sidekick Ollie Bearman, plus Victor Martins at ART, looked dynamite in their rookie seasons in the category last year. Martins, who is now confirmed at ART for 2024, is expected to be in the thick of the title battle.
F3 is shaping up nicely too, while Formula Regional and F4 are already rolling in the Middle East, where we’ll get a glimpse of some of those likely to shine in Europe. Among them is Deagen Fairclough, who built up a fair old fan club for his tenacious racing style and car control in his maiden single-seater season in British F4 last year. He’s back for more, which will give us something to enjoy at BTCC events in between the qualifying format and hybrid boost chat.
Arrow McLaren poised for a breakout, Joey Barnes
Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images
Can O’Ward lead Arrow McLaren to disrupt the big three in IndyCar?
There are a number of things to salivate over when it comes to the IndyCar Series in 2024, but the one that stands out is Arrow McLaren.
Despite not producing a win last season, the team was a thorn in the side of the long-established juggernauts of Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. That form resulted in Pato O’Ward claiming seven podiums and being in the fight for the win in the majority of the 17 rounds. The full-send mentality and outspoken nature have already established the Mexican as a fan favourite, and he continues to refine his racecraft into championship mettle.
Considering 2023 was the first year under team principal Gavin Ward, and featured an expansion to a third car and a 40% increase in staff (many without prior IndyCar experience), there’s reason for optimism in the days ahead. Alexander Rossi is going into his second year with the team, and showed pace that drew flashbacks of a time when he was a regular contender.
The wildcard is David Malukas, who comes into the squad after spending his first two seasons with Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) in the seat that reigning champion Alex Palou was expected – but rejected – to take over. When comparing those two drivers’ respective first seasons at DCR, where Palou also drove in 2020 prior to joining Ganassi, they are matched on podiums (one) and top 10s (three), but Malukas has the better finish with a runner-up at Gateway – and both finished 16th in the standings.
The championship has been won by either the Andretti team, Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske every year since 2003, but Arrow McLaren looks poised to change that in the near future.
Photo by: Brett Farmer / Motorsport Images
What are you most looking out for in 2024?