Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

The first undefeated team? F1’s reckoning with the Red Bull era

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Long-suffering Formula 1 fans will know that the 2021 world championship battle was an anomaly.

As Max Verstappen fought hard for his first ever world title, Lewis Hamilton was ultimately denied a record-breaking eighth crown. The sharp twists and turns of the fight between the pair kept all of us on our toes as race after race delivered the thrills and the championship went down to the showdown in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes’ seven years of dominance finally ended as Verstappen was crowned drivers’ world champion, with 2022’s technical regulations revolutions giving hope that we’d continue to see close and unpredictable racing at the front of the field.

That was not the case, however.

Despite an initially strong start from Ferrari, it was Red Bull who eventually looked almost untouchable last season. But they were far from unbeatable over the year. Max Verstappen won all but seven races with his team mate Sergio Perez picking up two, but the remaining five were shared between Charles Leclerc, who won three for Ferrari, his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr taking a maiden win at Silverstone with Mercedes’ George Russell holding out in Brazil to emulate Sainz’s achievement. Still quite a dominant season for Red Bull, but, at least, others were still winning.

The 2023 season however has told a very different story. Over 12 rounds, Red Bull have been literally unbeatable. Verstappen has won every single race this season bar two – who were won by his team mate Sergio Perez.

Heading into the second ten-round leg of the championship, there’s an inevitable question: Will Red Bull finish 2023 season unbeaten across the entire season? And, if so, what will that do for the popularity of the sport?

Over the past half decade, Formula 1 has seen a boom in popularity – especially within the United States. Much has been said about the “Drive to Survive” impact, especially after crowds flocked to last season’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix and the United States Grand Prix in Texas has delivered record attendances. In under three months’ time, the Las Vegas Grand Prix will be the third F1 race in the USA this season.

The first Miami GP broke US ratings records
The numbers didn’t lie as last year’s Miami Grand Prix, which was shown on ABC, one of America’s largest TV networks, had a record-breaking 2.6 million viewers. Yet this season there was a striking drop as ABC lost 25% of its audience for the same race. Although the two Red Bulls were separated by only six points in the championship heading into this year’s race in Miami, perhaps it had something to do with the fact Red Bull had won 22 of the previous 27 grands prix leading up to it.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has been adamant that Red Bull’s dominance would not have a negative effect on the sport’s popularity – especially with new and casual viewers. He insists that the figures reflect the more “avid” fans switching off.

“What is interesting to see in the new markets when the new audience is coming in, is that [Red Bull’s dominance] is not a real important factor,” Domenicali said.

“It’s more for the avid fans that if you see a car that is dominant, that’s creating a level of less interest. For the new market, for the new fans that are coming to the business, this is not really very important.”

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Dominant periods in Formula 1 are not a new thing. We’ve seen it with McLaren with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes – but it can’t be ignored that this current Red Bull era comes at a critical moment of growth for the sport.

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2016
Rosberg and Hamilton battled regularly together
Speaking during the British Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff admitted from a “fan’s perspective” there is a concern some could start switching off as Red Bull continue to hold sole possession of the top step of the podium.

“I look at it and say, ‘yeah, the risk is there’,” Wolff said. “But the risk was there over the eight years that we were winning, and I would have said the same thing back then.

“You have the same team, the same driver winning all over, it becomes less variable. But as I said then, being in the positive situation, I would also say today that this is a meritocracy. And it’s honest.

“When a team and the driver are just so far ahead, it’s because they’re simply doing a better job than everybody else, within the regulatory framework. And there is no way around it.”

There’s no debate whether Red Bull are the top team in the sport for now. Verstappen has won the last two drivers’ titles and their current RB19 is set to go down in history as one of the most dominant and successful cars in the sport’s history. But a crucial difference to, say, the Hamilton-Nico Rosberg years of Mercedes’ stranglehold over the sport is that the last two seasons have seen Verstappen dominate single-handedly, with Perez offering little challenge to his team mate.

Hamilton had some memorable clashes with team mate Rosberg, who beat him to the title in 2016 before retiring. Valtteri Bottas was summoned from Williams to race alongside one of the best ever, but he was no match for Hamilton who beat him to four titles over five seasons.

“I don’t know whether our dominance was similar or less,” said Wolff. “I think we had years where we did it in the same way, but at least we had two cars that were fighting each other so that caused a little bit of entertainment for everyone and that’s not the case at the moment.

“It’s up to us to fight back. Did we expect that gap? Certainly not. I think with the last step of the upgrade it seems they have another advantage that they were able to exploit.

“But again it always gets me back to the point of we’ve just got to dig in and do the best possible job.”

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When any one team runs away with the championship, it’s inevitable that others will complain. Red Bull has been in a class of its own this season and in serious threat of making history by winning all 22 grands prix this year.

Neither the FIA or F1 wish to intervene to slow Red Bull down
But even with that possibility, any suggestion that the FIA or F1 would step in and make any mid-season rule changes to curb Red Bull’s advantage is out of the question.

“It’s not correct, because we cannot be seen as part of the manipulation,” Domenicali told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast. “This is not correct, and this is not fair. I am not [imagining] at all this kind of approach.”

“F1 has been always a sport where there have been cycles, where teams were very dominant and then some others came into the equation.

“So, I would say our objectives should be – if you take this strategic approach – to make sure that these cycles in the future will be shorter.”

“I’m sure that the other teams are watching how they can catch up with their development in the context of the budget cap,” Domenicali added. “It will be interesting to see if the development curve of the team that today is leading will slow down because, at the end of the day, they did a better job in the shorter term. That will be very interesting to see in the next couple of months.”

It’s not like F1 hasn’t tried to level the playing field either. Over recent seasons, the top team in the championship has received only 70% of the total aerodynamic testing allowance of the team that finished seventh in the constructors’ championship, with the second team having 5% more, third another 5% and so on. The sport also introduced the budget gap to try and equalise the financial advantage that bigger teams hold over those lower down the order. And yet, Red Bull are still running away with it.

Ultimately, this ‘problem’ is not Red Bull’s fault – it’s that of the other teams not being good enough. You cannot berate Red Bull for building the fastest car, nor can you say Verstappen is undeserving of his third world title this season. But the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin and now even McLaren all need to step up.

This year’s titles both seem entirely out of reach with focus likely to switch to next year’s cars soon, if not already. But it’s fair to say there that it’s not going to be easy for anyone to chase down Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

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Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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86 comments on “The first undefeated team? F1’s reckoning with the Red Bull era”

  1. This is the first season I think one team could win all the races. Obviously they have the best car but we’re also in an era of extremely high reliability so we’re not seeing the breakdowns and following ‘lucky’ results for lower teams that have happened in the past. Also the lack of fighting between teammates at Red Bull eliminates that risk.

    Dominant teams always seem unbeatable at the time though and then suddenly they’re not so I hope to see another team, or more, improve instead of artificial closing of the field. It’s a team sport so Red Bull deserve their success.

    1. Too be honest that was i also thinking when McLaren won 90% of all races. Can they win all races sure but there can always something unexpected of Max get a DNF i am not so sure if Perez can win if that happens.
      Max can be on the wrong tyres on a wet track and getting past due that.

      It would be a wonder if they win all races as statsomething that is impossible.

      1. Max can be on the wrong tyres on a wet track and getting past due that.

        Red Bull has been so on point with strategy that it seems unlikely that Max will lose a race due to that.. even if they do make a blunder and lose a few seconds, Max can still weave through the field in a handful of laps and take the lead.

        Their only chance at not winning a race is a mechanical DNF for Max, or first lap contact that has race ending consequences for him. Perez is entirely capable of not winning a race with the fastest car and Max out of contention. The only hope is that a Charles, Lewis, Fernando or Norris are on it that particular day.

  2. Newey and Verstappen is a deadly combination. Max is kind of expected to win all races unless something outside his control goes wrong. Weird situation and season this turns out to be.

  3. The only thing that should be done is Max released. Smash track records. Lap the field. None of this coasting to the finish nonsense.

    1. I’m a way many people would like to see this. But it is bad policy for a racer. Most drivers follow JM Fangio’s advice, win while going as slow as possible. It is not very popular with the viewership, tough.
      Alain Prost always followed this principle, and being clearly superior than his archrival Ayrton Senna (except in the wet) most people remember Ayrton (who mostly did not follow the principle) as the best driver (the other factor is that Ayrton bought the farm being still in his prime or little past it which unavoidably rose-tinted his memory)

      1. Not sure if you’re joking, melanos?

        The result of their head-to-head at McLaren was Senna had 14 victories and 26 pole positions, whilst Prost had 11 victories and 4 pole positions.

    2. None of this coasting to the finish nonsense.

      If Red Bull wants to sweep the wins they need to preserve the power units and win as slowly as possible. Reliability may ultimately cost them the record.

      1. Agreed. As unsatisfying as it is to see Max looking as if he’s out for a drive in the countryside while still being over a pit stop ahead of everyone else, it makes sense for him to do so. That’s enough to give him a buffer against most mistakes or issues, it puts less strain on the engine and tyres, reduces the chance of him making a mistake, and ensures he spends the minimum amount of time lapping traffic (which is also a risk). All in all, it’s dull to watch, but it’s the best way to do it.

  4. To be honest, I don’t understand why are people so upset about somebody dominant winning week in week out. There’s much more depth to the sport than just who finishes in first place. We have ten teams and twenty drivers.
    Besides, if we do end up seeing the sport’s first clean sweep, it would be a historical achievement that might never be repeated. And we’ll be able to say that we were there to witness it.

    1. Because it drives the audience away. Yes, a core will remain and because F1 has a lot of history and momentum, that’s still a sizeable viewership. But you can already see it; (far) fewer views on F1’s YouTube highlights, fewer discussions online, fewer articles in mainstream press, etc.

      F1 needs a huge global audience if it is to sustain 10 teams with a budget of over 150 million a year, and that’s not even counting all the non-capped expenditures that mean the budgets of Red Bull, Mercedes, etc. are certainly many times higher.

      1. Because it drives the audience away.

        Not really. Dominance in any sport can often yield increased viewership. Athletics would love to have someone like Bolt again who was all but unbeatable. Also dominance creates a giant… and giant who will be eventually felled in spectacular fashion like what we saw in 2021.

        F1 has many issues, and the mistake is to think “it’s because it has a dominant driver”. It is a bit stale and there’s a lack of development. A lot of homogeneity… no new teams… less new drivers. And there’s also a LOT of races. In some way that can make dominance feel a bit more overwhelming, especially in the age of super reliability. I don’t think dominance is always a good thing, but it’s not the enemy and certainly no governing body should interfere otherwise we may as well watch WWE.

        1. With respect, watching Bolt dominate took approximately 10 seconds of the viewer’s time.

          Watching Red Bull/Max dominate takes about 2 hours.

          People are less prepared to give away that much of their time when the outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

        2. There’s a reason people in the know, and not of the fancied-up PR statements, were desperate to bring in double point races after the – to them – horrific end to the 2013 season.

          They were getting calls from the broadcasters who paid money for a product that F1 told them would attract X number of people, which they in turn sold to their advertisers. When those people don’t show up because this German kid with Red Bull is winning everything by a country mile, a lot of people with a lot of money are going to complain.

          And anyone can see some of this on YouTube, where viewing figures compared to the start of the season are down by sometimes as much as 50%.

        3. Dominance in any sport can often yield increased viewership.

          Not in motorsport – does not and never has.
          The dominance in this game comes mostly, if not entirely, from a machine – which consistently prevents the best human athletic (sporting) performance on the day from being the ultimate determining factor in the result.

          I don’t think dominance is always a good thing, but it’s not the enemy and certainly no governing body should interfere otherwise we may as well watch WWE.

          Dominance is never a good thing from either a competitive aspect or a spectating aspect – it’s only good for the competitor doing it in the short term. It is, by definition, the enemy.
          For there to be a healthy competition, there needs to be control exerted and changes made for the good of everyone involved – including the team dominating (due to the likelihood/guarantee of shrinking audiences and sales).

          As for WWE – I’ll admit I’ve never seen the comparison fitting.
          It’s very much the opposite, actually. Dominance in F1 is very much a case of acting out a rehearsed play for the audience under a pre-prepared and already publicly known set of conditions and leading to a known result, rather than a sporting competition where anything can happen at any time and the best sporting performance on the day decides who wins and who doesn’t.

          Have you ever asked yourself why WWE chose the direction they did? It’s because it’s a better product for more people the way it is now.

    2. It’s simple really; the dominant team were found to have broken the cost cap, ergo cheated. All the praise they’re getting is nauseating.

    3. @johnbeak it’s also the fundamental hypocrisy that we are seeing from a number of posters who complained that Mercedes dominance was so terrible for the sport, but want to portray a similar level of dominance by Red Bull as being positive for the sport (and often citing factors that they criticised Mercedes for, but praise Red Bull for when they do it).

      1. That’s certainly true.

        Throughout Mercedes’dominance, there were people complaining that it was boring, predictable etc. Yet now, while some of those have remained consistent, a significant number of them have switched positions completely.

        That said, the same can be said on the other side: there are a sufficient number who had no problem with Mercedes’ dominance, but who are now against RBR’s.

        I can understand it for fans of a particular team or driver. Seeing your preferred driver or team winning all the time is much more enjoyable than seeing a different one do so. The difference I see today is that many of those who have decided that RBR’s dominance is good when they considered Mercedes’ bad are not fans of RBR, Max or Sergio. They are often anti-fans of Lewis. They just don’t want him to win, and generally didn’t from day one, and are happy with any state of affairs as long as it’s not one where Lewis is winning.

        1. I agree. The thing that does stand out to me however -on top of all of this- is that RBs dominance is little (yet) compared to Mercedes and everybody is already all over it (Mercedes 112 vs RB 57 in the hybrid era, Ferrari 21). Maybe because it is consecutive to the previous dominance?

          1. Possibly also because it’s single-driver dominance. We know which driver is going to win, baring something going spectacularly wrong for him, whereas in most earlier dominant-car periods there was a good chance of at least their teammate putting up a fight. Given the reliability shown by RBR thus far, it’s also even less likely than normal that something will go wrong.

            Even when Max started in 6th, there was no jeopardy for the top step of the podium. Everyone knew he’d be through in a handful of laps and still win by a comfortable margin. We also know that Perez isn’t up to the job of racing his teammate.

            This is further highlighted by how competitive the field is behind him. Nearly half the teams on the grid have a reasonable shot at a podium on any given weekend, but it would take a miracle for any of them to get onto the top step. Knowing how interesting and competitive the season would be without Max being so far ahead does make it feel worse.

          2. I get your point and agree although the “Valtteri, it’s James” made it also quite predictable in the past. Albeit with some tension whether this message would come and what situation it would create post-race.

          3. although the “Valtteri, it’s James” made it also quite predictable in the past

            True, but we did also get it the other way around, too. Bottas was certainly second driver, but he was also given help when it was beneficial for the team, and both Lewis and the team werr much more willing to do so than certain others we could mention lol

      2. @anon I agree. There’s a fundamental difference though. Mercedes were a two-driver term with Rosberg and Hamilton. Their ethos was to allow both to compete and – more importantly – they didn’t necessarily expect one driver to dominate. And indeed we had at least some competition between those drivers. After Rosberg left, Mercedes really had few drivers to choose from and Bottas was arguably the best available to them at the time. Bottas was less able to compete but ny then Ferrari posed at least some threat. Likewise Red Bull eventually.
        Verstappen versus Perez just isn’t a serious rivalry, though. So imagining the same 3-4 year time scale of the other teams playing catch up, the prospects for Formula 1 really aren’t that good. Red Bull seem uninterested in providing a semblance of competition.

        1. Yep. Let’s imagine that, back in 2014, Hamilton’s teammate was someone of Perez’ standard. In that first 4 years or so, it would have been just as nailed on as now that one driver was going to win, and there wouldn’t have been any real challenge for that. As it was, although we knew it was very likely Hamilton was going to win, we saw many close races for that between the two. Rosberg came away with about a quarter of Mercedes’ wins in the first season and a half, whereas Perez has an eighth or RBR’s. It makes a big difference.

          That said, it isn’t RBR’s job to provide competition between their drivers. They don’t need to be interested in it, in fact it makes more sense for them to discourage it. The ideal situation for them would be Max winning every race, Perez coming second in them all, without them being very close on track at any point. It would yield better results for them in the long run, makes strategic calls easier, and generally is the best option for the team. It’s not great for spectators and it was generally disliked just as much when Ferrari operated like that, but it’s the optimum strategy over a season.

          1. @drmouse

            That said, it isn’t RBR’s job to provide competition between their drivers.

            True, I mentioned that in another comment right at the bottom of the page :P
            The only disincentive for Red Bull is precisely the prospect of FIA/Liberty deciding to try reeling them in because of the lack of competition. Maybe wrong but I read Ricciardo’s promotion to the B-team as ‘preparation’ for ousting Perez if the pressure on the A-team to provide some rivalry mounts. Although the championships are wrapped up already, we’ve still half a season to go.

    4. It does remove a certain amount of interest in the race weekend if you know who’s going to win the GP before the pit lane opens on Friday.

      What the FIA should be worried about is they have created massively restrictive, complex rules about how you can and can’t build an F1 car, for the express purpose of leveling the field– and in the second year of these rules, the field has never been more unequal in the history of the sport.

      Domenicali in particular is totally incapable of seeing anything but the party line, and has zero comprehension of the fanbase.

      In the USA, for instance, a market that F1 and Liberty are truly desperate to exploit, the most uninteresting year of racing happens to coincide with the first drop in F1 viewership in the US in 10 years.

      I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

  5. But even with that possibility, any suggestion that the FIA or F1 would step in and make any mid-season rule changes to curb Red Bull’s advantage is out of the question.

    That’s highly debatable, and something F1 – if it currently holds that opinion – should reconsider as soon as possible. F1 had no problems introducing new point systems, new tyre regulations, new qualifying systems and on and on all in an effort to dislodge Ferrari’s grip on the title in the mid 2000s. While arguably unfair, it also paved the way for the 2005-2013 series of seasons which were very competitive and only really had one classic walkover season in 2011.

    It’s high time they take a good look at these ill-conceived 2022 regulations and especially the tampering with them at Mercedes behest. So far, they seemingly have only one real solution. That’s the antithesis of F1’s claim to being an engineering series; it’s more like a puzzling series in that regard. Either they figure it out, or they lose – all the time. It’s irrelevant if a teams can make ten clever designs if nine of them are not allowed to be used.

    1. Good point about there only being a possible design.

    2. I agree with the majority of what you say regarding the early noughties and the 2005-13 era but I think there were a lot of external factors that changed the sport as much by accident as by design.

      2005: this was a slam dunk “Stop Ferrari at all costs”, I totally agree
      2006: was the fruition of the tyre war with Bridgestone and Michelin having 2 top teams; whilst that was always the intention it didn’t work in a lot of other years if one team didn’t work the tyres as well as the Renault, for example McLaren well off the pace
      2007: the title was close due to Spygate destroying McLaren internally, but also Kimi and Alonso moving teams with new tyre suppliers and brakes and a new rookie. The races that season weren’t super close either though, it was just a tight Championship
      2008: really a continuation of 2007, just with some comically poor errors up the front
      2009: most of the main manufacturers limited or pulled out following the credit crunch and new regulation set. Some teams also had more advanced tech like KERS also
      2010: new refuelling rules with the 2 big teams recovering. Red Bull being fairly junior at the front from a team and driver point of view cost them a lot of points too
      2011: whitewash, even with DRS
      2012: Pirelli season with DRS, KERS but mostly tyre issues. A great season but viewed as a lottery at the time
      2013: a whitewash once the tyres changed midseason (not dissimilar to 10 years later)

      So there’s clearly a lot of outside influence which made that period great. Teams seem to be a lot more stable now and I’d be surprised if we ever see a Red Bull type swing from midtable to utter dominance in such a short time without a big driver change at the team. For me tyres are really the key factor, the tyre war and the 2012 season were hated at the time, but looked back on with fondness during eras of domination. Personally, I’d rather have 2012 without DRS than what we have now. Either way, as you say these regulations aren’t perfect and we’ll almost certainly not legislate our way out of it.

      1. That’s true, and the desire for brevity simplified it perhaps too much. But importantly, some of those external influences are things F1 and the FIA can control. That they don’t want to, or at least say they don’t want to – because that’s not necessarily the same thing given that they’re all perfectly okay with what is, in essence, a BoP scheme for engines – is still a choice. If this current situation goes on into 2024, it seems reasonable to expect some of those attitudes to change.

        And as noted above, the budget cap breaking is a sour note in this whole thing. It probably doesn’t matter, but still. The optics are bad, and like the infamous Mercedes tyre test, it’ll continue to be a stain on the successes they’re now enjoying.

    3. First of all FIA should stop introducing major technical regulation changes so often. Continuity of the rules is the best way for the competition to catch up and for the field to get (even) closer. Secondly the budget cap idea was ill conceived and not thought trough – the big teams had such a huge advantage on all fronts that smaller teams will never catch up without breaking the budget cap (look at Vowles comments on the lack of infrastructure at Williams compared to Mercedes and how Williams will never be able to catch up within the budget cap). There are probably to many loopholes in the whole budget cap system anyway. So I think there are the options- 1. no more major rule changes and 2. either stop the whole budget cap rule – or use it as a tool to stop teams from dominating depending on where a team has finished in the constructors champion they will get a cut on their budget cap for the next season (the handy-cap). So for example nr 1 -50m nr2 -40m nr3 -30m etcetera.

      1. @streydt

        First of all FIA should stop introducing major technical regulation changes so often. Continuity of the rules is the best way for the competition to catch up and for the field to get (even) closer. Secondly the budget cap idea was ill conceived and not thought trough – the big teams had such a huge advantage on all fronts that smaller teams will never catch up without breaking the budget cap (look at Vowles comments on the lack of infrastructure at Williams compared to Mercedes and how Williams will never be able to catch up within the budget cap).

        Agree with you on the regulation changes. In recent history, its not shuffled up the order or closed the gap in team performances.. instead its been domination by one team who has gotten it right, and then other teams taking seasons to catch up. Once they catchup there’s another regulation change and we’re back to square 1.

        Regarding the budget cap though.. I think currently, its a good approach. The big teams will always spend more and pull away from the rest of the grid, so its better to put everyone on a level playing field. With the development restrictions for top teams, todays system, at least theoretically, should work.

        I’m pretty sure that even under the current regulations, the only season we’ll see a close fight will be 2025… and then another regulation change will take it back to domination by one team, with the rest playing catchup for another 4 to 5 seasons.

    4. I mean, lets not ignore that Mercedes had their wings clipped in ’21 via the floor changes.

      1. True, although that was perhaps less directly aimed at their performance than some of the “Stop Ferrari” changes. As Toto Wolff has said, even Mercedes wasn’t expecting it to make a big difference (which in retrospect is interesting, given their current struggles with a floor-dominated set of aero-regulations).

  6. ‘He insists that the figures reflect the more “avid” fans switching off.’ My experiences and seeing the comments on this and other F1 sites suggest otherwise. The avid fans are still tuning in, albeit for part of the the race. Plus, thats kind of the definition of an avid fan, innit?
    Many of Domenicali’s comments about fans make me seriously question where hes getting his data and just how reliable it is. He seems seriously out of touch with the average or even avid fan.

    1. I agree that, if anything, the opposite seems more accurate because newer ones would have less idea of F1 already having had different single-team or driver dominance phases, with seasons of tight championship battles between drivers from different teams being more an exception than rule.

      1. Agreed. Many of the more casual fans, especially those who started seriously following in 2021, have turned off already. It’s the core, “avid” fans who are sticking around, because they know that periods of dominance are a part of F1.

        1. Plenty of long-term viewers are also switching off too – even those sticking around are complaining louder and more often than ever.
          Prior to Schumacher’s Ferrari era, dominance in F1 typically meant a season or so, maybe two. It has now come to mean something different altogether – and not at all in a good way.

          1. I can’t disagree, though that’s a combination of not remembering myself what happened before and being too lazy to look it up lol.

            While I watched avidly from a young age, I don’t remember much more than it being exciting to see all the cars zooming around the track until the late 90s, so the majority of my memories of F1 have involved significant periods of dominance. That’s rarely bothered me much, though, as I was generally a fan of the sport (and, even more so, the technical competition) rather than any particular team/driver. It could get a bit dull at times when Schumacher or Vettel were in dominant positions, but there was normally plenty going on both on track and off to keep me very interested.

            That did change when Lewis came into the sport. I liked his driving style (except for a couple of messy seasons) and his personality (when he was allowed to show it). I was well aware that the car was playing a large part in his success in the hybrid era, but it’s always nice to see your favoured driver doing well. It doesn’t get boring to see them succeed.

            This time feels very different. I’m not a fan of Max, though I don’t dislike him, so it should be similar to the Schmacher and Vettel years. It isn’t though. It seems like it’s nailed on that Max will win unless he has a race-ending problem. Nobody can get close. Even his teammate doesn’t present him with a challenge.

            Even worse, the rest of the field is closer than I have seen in a very long time. If you took the RBR out of the equation, we would have the most competitive season I can remember. That was never the case in the Hybrid era, nor in RBR’s previous dominant period, and I don’t think it was during Schumacher’s reign, either. We have fantastic, wheel-to-wheel racing, but it loses something because none of it is at the sharp end of the field. Seeing Max cruise to victory nearly half a minute ahead, getting out of the car looking like he’s just had a nap, massively devalues the rest of the action.

            We have the perfect storm, here, IMHO. The closest field in ages, except with one team who have smashed it out of the park, who have one of the best drivers of all time and an average one. We would have the best and most competitive season I have ever seen, if it wasn’t for the amazing job RBR have done.

          2. Just imagine if you’d been a neutral motorsports enthusiast through all those years… Every period of dominance is the same, regardless of who is doing it.

          3. But I don’t think even that would have been as bad as this season, because at least there was some competition for the top spot. Even when another team was unable to challenge, there was normally a reasonable chance of the second Mercedes taking a win, and the cars were also far less reliable for most of the period, so a double-DNF was never off the table.

  7. Max is a genius but this is an insult to him – greats need competition.

    Imagine he was fighting a semi decent teammate, no team orders or Alosno,/Hamilton – what a season.

    What we have however is a car 2 seconds faster than its closest competitors and 1 second faster than his second fiddle teammate.

    Shame on F1.

    1. Yes, that’s terrible competition, we only have some battles for 2nd, 3rd, etc., which aren’t as interesting.

  8. It’s a difficult one because Red Bull have done a fantastic job and Max is clearly the best driver in F1 right now. It’s just… a bit boring!

    I’m part of a group of 5 friends that love F1. We’ve travelled abroad to see races together and Monday mornings during the season often consist of us talking or texting about the previous day’s race. Or at least, they did.

    Now I find that I’m the only one who regularly watches races (and even I’ve skipped a few) and literally none of us watch the Sprint Races. It’s a huge shame.

    It would be wise for F1 not to just casually accept that the “avid fan” is switching off. People are fickle, especially in the non-stop stimulation-fest that is the 21st century. How long before the sport’s new followers lose interest and F1 is left to find a way forward without them and its hardcore fanbase?

    1. When is it your friends lost interest, after a few races into this season? Perhaps later on last season, since red bull was quite dominant already?

      1. It started last season. From a starting point of watching the races religiously, one by one their/our interest got less and less.

        I’ve gone from being shocked if one of them missed a race to being shocked if two or more have actually watched it.

        1. Ah, wow, so 2022 was dull already for them; so far I kept watching the races (and sprints since I prefer them to practice sessions) anyway despite the dominance, also since I’m generally bored, so I’m always waiting for another race weekend to watch, but indeed without competition for first place it gets boring quickly. I was a schumacher fan, stopped watching quickly after he retired the first time (probably only watched 2007 seriously at that point), then missed all the vettel era and part of the hamilton one, I started giving a look again late 2016, but not the full races and then got back into it in 2017 again, which was an interesting season, as well as 2018, then we had 2021 which was very interesting and early 2022 as well.

          At least in seasons like 2019 we knew there were 2 other teams capable of winning races on merit, and they eventually won a few, unlike this season.

          1. I think it also has to do with peoples time. 24 rounds is way too much time for most people to invest in an interest, people have other things to do!
            With 16 rounds a year there was a decent gap to build anticipation and it also meant teams had longer to bring updates. Every race had a greater impact on a drivers year, now if a driver has a bad weekend it gets brushed aside and they can have another go the weekend after.
            When I think of races around the world, Le mans, Indy 500, Bathurst 1000, these are all special and they happen but once a year, if they were to run any of these races twice or 3 times a year it would ruin the event.
            Vote 1 for less races.

          2. Nice to read your journey of F1 watching. I may have had a similar pattern. I was a fan of Senna and switched off after Imola 1994 and therefore missed Schumachers Benetton wins. Stepped in again when he was already some years winning at Ferrari as I realised history was being made. Then tuned off again when Hamilton got Bottas as team mate since there wasn’t a competition to watch really. Max is now in his second year of dominance so history might repeat itself if the situation remains unchanged.

  9. The issue isn’t dominance. It is competition.

    During the Mercedes years, there was intra-team competition between Hamilton and Rosberg with other teams also winning races. That made it far more exciting.

    In fac, one of the most exciting races of that era was the “Duel in the Desert” race at Bahrain between both Mercedes drivers.

    However, with Red Bull hobbing Perez’s car, and no other team getting within a whisker of the other car, twee is simply no competition for Verstappen.

    This is why this period of dominance is concerning.

  10. We have an awesome fight from 2nd to 7th best teams where ultimately drivers are making the difference. I find plenty of entertainment in races and season development between these teams.
    Gap from Red Bull to 4th/5th teams seems the same as 3 years ago. It’s just Ferrari and Mercedes that became 1.5s slower and now fight the midfield.
    We know the car is bad please drive it. Standby, we are checking. LOL

  11. People have short memories

    Mercedes in 2014 to 16 had seasons where they would have won all the races but due to misfortune and internal team accidents (ras ham crashing each other) they didnt.

    Also, merc dominance was statistically greater in win ratio, over a longer period of time.

    The narrative that the RB is the most dominant car of all time is not supported by the facts.

    Rb simply are continuing an F1 tradition of one car dominance, in context of rules ostensibly created to prevent that. Tbh its a nice change after 7 years of merc dominance.

    1. Yes, I remember, I think in 2016 for example they lost spain where they crashed into each other, malysia where rosberg lost a lot of time as he ran into someone at start and hamilton got an engine failure while dominating the race, and red bull won both of them.

      But the mercedes era was absolutely boring, take even 2020, I never said I wasn’t bored by such a season, but I’m also bored by 2023.

      And as it’s the case it’s now even worse because verstappen doesn’t make any mistake that prevents him from winning and reliability is foolproof, so it looks even likely they will win every single race, and that’s never happened before.

    2. Also 7 years of merc dominance are exagerated, there’s been 5, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020 and in terms of fighting for race wins, 2019 was MUCH more competitive than this season.

      1. Not really. This idea that 2017 and 2018 were somehow competitive because Ferrari and Vettel managed to string together a few good results at the start of the season needs putting to bed. In both cases, once Mercedes worked out how to get the best out of their car after a few races, they were cruising.

        2019 was the opposite case. Mercedes were so strong at the start of the season that they could afford the odd bad weekend once the other teams started to get their act together. Ferrari managed three in a row towards the end of the season, but then we found out how they did it.

        1. That’s definitely true for 2017, where Mercedes and Hamilton had a rather uncharacteristic messy first half of the season.

          However, in 2018 Ferrari was quite competitive for a long time until they completely bungled the upgrade path to the point they took months of upgrades off by the US Grand Prix. There were other issues too, like their inability to control Räikkönen (which cost them in Germany and Italy), some rather unfortunate big consequences for small incidents (Vettel’s spin in Monza) and a generally much stronger Mercedes in the second half of the season. Too much is also made of Vettel’s DNF in Germany putting him off balance; because he was perfectly on point in the subsequent Spa race where he won in a great way. It just didn’t work out, but it was quite close for quite a while.

        2. This idea that 2017 and 2018 were somehow competitive because Ferrari and Vettel managed to string together a few good results at the start of the season needs putting to bed

          And revisionism like yours needs putting to bed. The best thing to do is to go back and watch 2017 and 2018 and read expert articles on these season. All of them will tell you the two seasons were competitive, with Ferrari and Merc producing comparable cars. In fact, serious analysts such as AMuS and Mark Hughes actually rated Ferrari the best car of 2018. As for 2017, Vettel led for most of that season. The SF70H wasn’t as quick as the Wo8 in qualifying, but it was an equally strong car in race trim.

    3. There were two significant differences:
      1) Where there was no other team in contention for a win, at least there was competition between the two Mercedes drivers.
      2) Reliability was significantly less, the Mercedes broke down fairly often.

    4. Not withstanding drmouse remarks, that is indeed true. Stats are Mercedes 112 wins vs RB 57 wins in the hybrid era, Ferrari 21.

      1. In the past season and a half (which constitutes the current era), RBR have 29 wins (85%), Ferrari 4 (12%), Mercedes 1 (3%). Comparing it to the first season and a half of the hybrid era, that stood at Mercedes 25 (86%), RBR 3 (10%), Ferrari 1 (3%). It’s a very similar split.

        That said, over this period Rosberg claimed 6 of Merc’s 25 wins, 24%. Perez has claimed 4 of RBR’s 29 wins, 13%.

  12. My recollection of Mercedes dominance from 2014 onwards is F1 introduced a “token” system, where an engine manufacturer needed to save up tokens before they could introduce a new update to their engine. Tokens were handed out on the basis of how successful and engine was, so the more successful an engine was the more tokens the manufacturer got. Meaning the team which won the first few races was better placed to improve their engine. I know that sounds ridiculous now, and it seemed to me to be ridiculous then, but that was how F1 worked then. So the dominance of Mercedes was partly created by the rules.
    Today we have a similar nonsense, where engine manufacturers can only bring in updates for reliability reasons. Those sorts of rules need to be gotten rid of because they can hinder other teams from trying to catch the dominant team. So again, we have the rules allowing Red Bull to stay ahead of the competition. The problem isn’t Red Bull, the problem is the rules. The surprise isn’t Red Bull dominating the season, the surprise is the FIA didn’t think one team was going to dominate this season and next year as well. What needs to change isn’t bringing in rules which slow down Red Bull, it needs to be removing rules which prevent everyone else from catching them.

    1. That is not how the token system worked at all. The token system though did artificially limit how much development was allowed thus meaning the best engine would have an advantage for longer. Not too dissimilar to how the budget cap restricts teams spending more to catch Red Bull.

      1. Not too dissimilar to how the budget cap restricts teams


        One team getting a jump on everyone else has been a part of F1 for a long time, but the top teams have normally been able to throw money at catching up. The two biggest attempts to make the field closer, with the engine token system and the budget cap, have stopped this and actually led to a team gaining a locked-in advantage that is very difficult to break.

        I don’t want to abandon the budget cap. I think it’s a sensible idea. But it is almost guaranteed to cause any team which gains a significant advantage to keep it for several years, where without it the Big Boys would generally be able to catch up over the course of a season and start the next season about on par.

    2. Tokens were handed out on the basis of how successful and engine was, so the more successful an engine was the more tokens the manufacturer got. Meaning the team which won the first few races was better placed to improve their engine. I know that sounds ridiculous now, and it seemed to me to be ridiculous then, but that was how F1 worked then.

      I mean, either you misunderstood how the system worked or you’ve deliberately misconstrued or misinterpreted it to make a point…

      To quote Joe Saward:

      To achieve this the regulators came up with the idea of dividing the parts of F1 power units into three categories, ranked 1, 2 and 3. The total ranking for the parts in an F1 power unit is 66. From this total was derived a system of “tokens” that allow for change. If you redesign your pistons, for example, it will cost you two tokens, while the ignition system is worth only one point. Each year, each manufacturer will be allowed to choose what parts of the engine they wish to develop, based on these tokens, with the annual number of the reducing each year. For 2015, therefore, there will be 32 tokens available, which means that almost half of the components in an engine can be changed. Each year the number of tokens will reduce by around nine percent so that by 2018 there will be only 15 changes allowed each year, which will mean only 23 percent of the parts can be developed. Thus, there are increasing financial restrictions but there is still much development possible. As a result, over time the engines should become more closely-matched. New manufacturers can still come in and are not really handicapped because they will inevitably hire staff who know the answers to lots of the pitfalls, so they will not be greatly disadvantaged.

      Source –

  13. Willingly watched multiple seasons of dominance before, perhaps skipping one or two races only. Not willing to do so for a season of this length so largely skipping this season.

    In relation to shaking up the rules, I think an unwritten rule should be that after two seasons of dominance the rules will be slightly altered to inhibit whatever the dominant team is doing so well. From memory, this occurred during Red Bull dominance and Mercedes dominance, cannot remember about Ferrari dominance though.

    1. Ferrari wasn’t dominant in 2000, so I would think the fia didn’t think “let’s make ferrari worse” that season, in that case they had 2001 and 2002 which were dominant, and then in 2003 already they did something with tyres which made the championship fight very close between ferrari, mclaren and williams, then they went back to dominating in 2004 and then they made the rule where tyres had to last the whole race, and that completely killed ferrari in 2005 and was scrapped after 1 season, and the result was a competitive but not dominant ferrari in 2006, 2007, 2008 and it didn’t go back to dominating any more, ever.

    2. So it’s more or less what happened and I wouldn’t mind your rule, in a way it’d be unfair to future drivers in dominant cars, because for example hamilton had 5 years in a dominant car, but it gets incredibly dull when you have something like 4-5 seasons in a row of dominance, and as things are looking red bull is likely to continue to dominate after this season, 2024 would be the 3rd season already.

      1. @esploratore1 Hamilton had ‘5 years in a dominant car’, but don’t forget there was a significant change to the aero regs halfway through that run that Mercedes managed better than any other team.

  14. 2002: Ferrari won 15/17 races
    2004: Ferrari won 15/18 races

    2011: RedBull won 12/19 races

    2014: Mercedes won 16/19 races
    2015: Mercedes won 16/19 races
    2016: Mercedes won 19/21 races
    2020: Mercedes won 14/17 races

    2022: RedBull won 17/22 races
    2023: RedBull won 12/12 races (so far)

    2014-2016 Mercedes won 51/59 races. Incredibly dull. And the ‘inter-team battle’ wasn’t interesting to me as someone who didn’t like Nico nor Lewis, nor Mercedes for that matter. I don’t think an inter-team battle would spice this season up either.

    But I’ve watched every race since 2005 and I’ll continue to watch. The best thing about the Mercedes dominant years was it forced me to look at racing outside of F1. There’s really competitive racing out there! 2 and 4 wheels, on and off-road as well!

    Has this season been ‘boring’? Not any more than other seasons, IMO. I still look forward to every Formula 1 weekend.

    1. And McLaren won 15/16 in 1988.

      For anyone who’s an F1 fan for some time, it’s not completely new and seasons like 2006, 2010 and 2021 are the exception not the rule. What makes this different is probably teh possibility of a team winning all the races and of of their drivers winning over 90% of the races. F1 has historically been a tale of dominance by design.

      They change the rules, someone finds something everyone else missed and they dominante for the first years of the new regs until the others catch up years later and we get a season or two with multiple teams fighting for WDC and WCC and then the cycle restarts when they change the rules again… I’m expecting Red Bull to be the class of the field at least one more season and then other teams will be good enoughto challenge them consitently in 2025 and in 2026 new major rules will be in place to show us how great it was in 2025… for some reason we, the real fans, will still be dedicating hours of our time to this sport and the new people they seem so keen to atract with Maimis and Vegas of the world, will be gone.

      1. I have combines the two posts above to illustrate my point. Which is that you can see how ‘predictable’ the races were during the Mercedes era of dominance over most others. They were invariably on Pole and would win the race.

        2002 – Ferrari 10/17 Poles – MS(7) RB(3) – Montoya(7-Williams)
        2004 – Ferrari 12/18 Poles – MS(8) RB(4) – Trulli(2-Renault), Alonso(1-Renault), Button(1-BAR), Raikkonen(1-McLaren), R.Schumacher(1-Williams).

        2011 – Redbull 18/19 Poles – SB(15) MW(3) – LH (1-McLaren)

        2014 – Mercededs 18/19 Poles – LH (7) NR(11) – Massa (1-Williams)
        2015 – Mercedes 18/19 Poles – LH(11) NR(7) – Vettel (1-RedBull)
        2016 – Mercedes 20/21 Poles – LH(12) NR(8) – Ricciardo (1-Redbull)
        2020 – Mercedes 15/17 Poles – LH(10) VB(5) – Stroll (1-Pacing Point), Vestappen (1-RedBull)

        2022 – RedBull 8/22 Poles – MV(7) SP(1) – LeClerc(9-Ferrari), Sainz(3-Ferrari), Russell(1-Mercedes),Magnussen (1-Haas)
        2023 (so Far) RedBull 9/12 Poles MV(7) SP(2) – LeClerc (2-Ferrari), Hamilton (1-Mercedes)

        Sorry for repeating myself!

        1. Poles only matter, though, if you convert them into wins. Max may not be finishing on pole in qually, but his race pace is such that it doesn’t matter. He will be in first after a handful of laps anyway, build a pit stop’s buffer, and then cruise to the line never looking close to being challenged.

          In 2014 and 2015, Mercedes got all but one pole, but split evenly between their two drivers. However, two of those in each season they failed to transform into a win and 12 were won by the driver who didn’t qualify on pole. In each season, the race they didn’t get pole for they didn’t win.

          So far this season, RBR have won all the races, which means that they have converted all 3 races where they didn’t qualify first into wins. They haven’t been close wins, either.

          The race is where it counts, and in the race Max and RBR are a country mile ahead of the competition. Max looks like he could start from the pit lane and still win fairly easily.

          1. Poles only matter, though, if you convert them into wins. Max may not be finishing on pole in qually, but his race pace is such that it doesn’t matter.

            That is the point though, for the majority of the Mercedes era, you knew before the weekend started that Mercedes would be on Pole and that it was more than likely that they would sail off into the distance and win.

            In the Ferrari Era and to an extent the last couple of years there was at least the possibility that Redbull wouldn’t be on Pole and if for some reason Vestappen is starting down the order, there is the chance that something can happen as he worked his way to the front to deny him the win. Which just wasn’t the case in the Mercedes era.

    2. Just speaking of the Ferrari years, the difference was that Ferrari wasn’t on Pole for every race.

      In 2002, Ferrari were on Pole for 10 of the 17 races, MS(7) RB(3)
      Interestingly The 7 remaining Poles were all JPM in the Williams

      In 2004, Ferrari were on Pole for 12 of the 18 races MS (8) RB (4)
      The remaining were Trulli(2-Renault), Alonso(1-Renault), Button(1-BAR), Raikkonen(1-McLaren), R.Schumacher(1-Williams).

      1. I suppose I should do the other seasons quali that you mentioned:

        2011 – Redbull 18/19 Poles – SB(15) MW(3) – LH (1-McLaren)

        2014 – Mercededs 18/19 Poles – LH (7) NR(11) – Massa (1-Williams)
        2015 – Mercedes 18/19 Poles – LH(11) NR(7) – Vettel (1-RedBull)
        2016 – Mercedes 20/21 Poles – LH(12) NR(8) – Ricciardo (1-Redbull)
        2020 – Mercedes 15/17 Poles – LH(10) VB(5) – Stroll (1-Pacing Point), Vestappen (1-RedBull)

        2022 – RedBull 8/22 Poles – MV(7) SP(1) – LeClerc(9-Ferrari), Sainz(3-Ferrari), Russell(1-Mercedes),Magnussen (1-Haas)
        2023 (so Far) RedBull 9/12 Poles MV(7) SP(2) – LeClerc (2-Ferrari), Hamilton (1-Mercedes)

        1. Thanks for building on my post, sincerely!

          Mercedes only missing Pole Position 3 times in 3 years = total domination. Something we aren’t even seeing now. Quite impressive, even if it was ‘dull’.

  15. Yellow Baron
    22nd August 2023, 8:46

    Short answer is yes. There were several attempts to nerf mercedes.

  16. “Are You Not Entertained? Are You Not Entertained? Is This Not Why You Are Here?” – Max “the Maximus” Verstappen

  17. Yeah, they are most likely to achieve this.

    Why? They have by far the best-ever driver F1 might have seen so far, in a car that is comfortable best across a variety of tracks and even if it is close their driver can make the difference like at Monaco, and reliability should be okay given they presumably turn down engines after getting a decent lead.

    Irrespective of the weather, they are on top, which is even more impressive.

  18. Watching the sport through a period of utter domination is a rite of passage for F1 fans.

    The ultimate objective is to win every single race. While it may seem boring to viewers when the same driver wins over and over, what you are watching is the absolute pinnacle of performance. A performance so far above the rest of the field is something to be remembered.

    In many years’ time, fans can say “I was watching the sport when Verstappen was at his peak.”

  19. What are people referring to when they talk about slowing down Ferrari in the 00s?

    Is it the 10-8-6 points system that favoured bullet proof cars?
    Is it the sudden 2003 tyre rule change that killed off the charge of the michelin teams?
    Is it the reversal of the 2005 tyre rules that they could not get on top of despite unlimited testing and bespoke tyres?
    Is it the financial reward system?

  20. Coventry Climax
    22nd August 2023, 15:52

    This is an audience statistics graph, from 2008 to 2021.

    This is a list of world champions on wikipedia.

    There is no relation between the two.

  21. Coventry Climax
    22nd August 2023, 15:57

    Which name does not belong in this list:

    Jacob and Wilhem Grimm
    Charles Perrault
    Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy
    Stefano Domenicali
    Hans Christian Andersen
    Joseph Jacobs
    Andrew Lang

    Answer: Stefano Domenicali, because the others mostly collected fairy tales, while Domenicali invents them all by himself.

  22. For me the problem isn’t Red Bull being ahead – if it’s legal, then it’s the problem of the other teams (leaving aside their ‘minor’ cost overrun). The issue is the lack of competition between their drivers. Again there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with that in terms of FIA regulations. They can put a basically fast driver and slow driver in their two cars and watch their number one win everything. With us looking on in a mixed state of admiration/tedium/resentment that they don’t care about offering more entertainment or about their top driver facing some real competition.
    Fine. But no. It isn’t as much fine to watch and I pay less attention now during races and skip the sprint races and even qualification sometimes. I guess that paradoxically makes me an ‘avid’ fan for Domenicali. He seems a smart guy but that really is some nonsensical reasoning.

  23. The 1972 Miami Dolphins faithful will ask again for another team to beat Red Bull. How will the late Don Shula intervene?

  24. “It’s more for the avid fans that if you see a car that is dominant, that’s creating a level of less interest. For the new market, for the new fans that are coming to the business, this is not really very important.”

    That’s some serious spin from Domenicali, considering that the truth is the exact opposite.

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