Start, Yas Marina, 2023

F1 should stay ‘sport before spectacle’ despite Red Bull dominance – Wolff

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In the round-up: Toto Wolff insists that Red Bull’s dominance of F1 is not a concern for the health of the sport

In brief

F1 should be ‘sport before spectacle’ – Wolff

Mercedes team principal says he is not concerned about reports that F1 viewing figures have dipped slightly in regions such as the USA in second-straight year dominated by Red Bull.

“The numbers that we are seeing are strong,” said Wolff. “We’re growing on social, we see races that are packed and sold out. As a matter of fact, it is an all-around spectacle. If the spectacle is not good, our fans are going to follow us less.

“But what I always say in this sport, I like the ‘honesty’ [of racing]. The spectacle follows the sport. And the sport – this is a meritocracy. Whoever is doing the best job wins. And if somebody is doing a much better job than everybody else, then they’re winning 19 races – and you can’t stop that, as a matter of fact. So it is up to us and Ferrari and all the other teams to have to do a better job in order to compete with Red Bull Racing.”

Japan was Verstappen’s favourite victory

Max Verstappen says that the Japanese Grand Prix was his favourite race weekend of the season.

Verstappen took his third championship title in 2023 with a record 19 race victories. Speaking at the Honda Thanks Day event at Motegi, Verstappen picked the round at Suzuka as his favourite weekend of the season.

“I have to say Suzuka was really good,” he said. “We were very strong the whole weekend, the car was really, really nice to drive there. Also the track layout – it’s so much fun always to race there. It’s one of my favourite ones.”

Lack of early upgrades hurt – Zhou

Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu says his team lost out due to their relative lac of upgrades relative to their rivals.

The team fell from sixth in the championship in 2022 to ninth this season, while rivals Williams and AlphaTauri overtook them.

“A lot of our main rivals from the beginning of the season, they were able just to change massively – completely introduce a new car, or ‘B’ car over the season and made a very good step forward,” Zhou explained.

“We knew we’re going to get that plan for next season, so this year was more about suffering at the last few races. Then it’s been a little bit inconsistent, unpredictable in terms of performance track-by-track. But we definitely, in general, didn’t really have the pace, especially over the race distance.”

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Comment of the day

With the F1 calendar growing to a record 24 races next season, Tommy C finds that modern years

I must say I feel like grands prix are diluted a little too much now. I used to be able to remember every single race of a season quite well, including most podium positions for the entire season and the highlights and battles. Sadly I simply can’t anymore. There’s just so much racing I struggle to really take it all in. It probably doesn’t help that periods of dominance like we’ve had for the best part of the last decade make it a bit less memorable. I reckon I’d be able to recall the 2009 season more accurately than 2023, for example.
Tommy C

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On this day in motorsport

  • Born on this day in 1957: Raul Boesel, who raced in F1 for two years with March and Ligier, enjoyed a longer spell in IndyCar racing, and later became a DJ.

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23 comments on “F1 should stay ‘sport before spectacle’ despite Red Bull dominance – Wolff”

  1. Honda’s Thanks Day is one of the best motorsport events anywhere in the world now, such is Honda’s motorsports diversity.
    It’s about celebrating the fun side of motorsports as much as the engineering – something F1 (looking at you, Toto, and many of commenters here) seem to forget all too often. Nothing about of the entire motorsports industry is necessary – first and foremost it needs to be enjoyable.
    If it’s not fun, it’s not worth watching – and if there isn’t enough viewer interest, the funding won’t be forthcoming either.

  2. Toto couldn’t be more right. Sport before spectacle or entertainment should indeed be the priority order.

    1. If the spectacle is not good, our fans are going to follow us less

      but this is rather inconsistent in his messaging. Perhaps he does an effort to keep all his option open for the future (he likes Stefano’s position).

      While on the subject of Toto; leaking gate? Toto is accused by rival teams of leaking confidential information to the FOM and Liberty and also his wife playing a role through her position in the F1 Academy. Some outlets state Ben Sulayem reports to be aware of the concerns expressed by other teams, but ‘hasn’t determined whether it is a genuine issue’. Is this off-season media self created or a genuine issue? Seems a bit thin so far..?

      1. There was that incident around the time of the Red Bull cost cap breach coming to light, where Wolff seemed to have inside info on the breach before it had been communicated. Nothing was ever confirmed, but shortly afterwards a former Mercedes employee left her position at the FIA in something of a hurry. So it might not be the first time, if indeed there is anything to report.

      2. I don’t know who the “we” is he keeps referring to.
        I thought he was 70% owner and TP of Merc . Probably just me but seems to be speaking for F1. FOM. Liberty et al. Meh

        1. The Mercedes-AMG F1 Team is equally owned by Mercedes-Benz AG, Toto Wolff, and Ineos (controlled by James Ratcliffe).

        2. I thought he was 70% owner and TP of Merc . Probably just me but seems to be speaking for F1. FOM. Liberty et al. Meh

          It seems you’re wrong on all counts other than it just being you.

    2. And the sport – this is a meritocracy. Whoever is doing the best job wins. And if somebody is doing a much better job than everybody else, then they’re winning 19 races – and you can’t stop that, as a matter of fact.

      These sentences are incomplete. ‘Doing the best job’ needs to be followed by ‘at…’. This ‘at’ part has become ever more limited, and has prevented teams from people competitive in a massive way. Wolff himself, as principal of the Mercedes team, has approved a complete freeze on engine development. How’s that for doing a good job?

      It’s in the interest of F1 as a sport and as a commercial venture to address this unintended, but not unpredictable, situation where a new set of very restrictive regulations has produced another lengthy dominance lock-in.

      With ever more restrictions, it’s more important than ever that the FIA and F1 are on top of these situations. If you’re going to prevent teams from being competitive in areas B, C and D – then it’s only fair to limit the advantage another team can gain from their particular proficiency in area A.

      1. Agree with this, after all it’s only recently that dominance has been this prolonged, while it existed in the past it was usually 2-3 years, but now after 2009 it’s been only mercedes and red bull winning titles, many of them in a dominant fashion.

        1. In the 80s and 90s, McLaren and Williams won 10 consecutive drivers championships (11 consecutive constructors championships) between them, including 4 (4) in a row for McLaren.

          In the 00s, Ferrari and Renault won 8 consecutive drivers championships (10 consecutive constructors championships) between them, including 5 (6) in a row for Ferrari.

          Long periods dominated by 1 or 2 teams didn’t start in 2009. If you didn’t know Ferrari won more than 2-3 years in a row… congrats! You learned something today.

          1. Ferrari won six titles in a row from 1999 through 2004, yes. But many of thos years were very competitive, and only in the second half of 2001 through 2002 did Ferrari maintain a clear dominant position for more than a season. This is pretty similar to the situation in the 1980s and 1990s. There’s just 1988-1989 (McLaren) and 1992-1993 (Williams) where a big advantage was maintained for more than a single season. It’s true that those teams remained competitive in other years, and sometimes even won (as with McLaren in 1990 and 1991), but the fans still got great and competitive seasons out of that.

            Even if the result would be a bit boring, F1 would be much better off with more 1990 and 1991-style titles for Verstappen than a repeat of this season. Since 2009, and especially 2014, this ‘lock in’ has become much more pronounced.

  3. But what I always say in this sport, I like the ‘honesty’ [of racing]. The spectacle follows the sport.

    Ah yes the same Toto that is in love with the Las Vegas ‘spectacle’.. a clear example of the exact opposite.

  4. Re COTD, i also recall better 2009 than 2023. But that’s not because of too many Grand Prix, it’s purely because of getting old!

    My first full season was 2005. I can recall every single point scorer from every race, even the top half of many grids of that year. But last week I was wondering “err… why didn’t Piastri score in Brazil?” and I had struggles to remember.

    The answer? During the first years you follow something new, your memory can retain more data in the long-term area. Now your memory is filled up and there’s only space in the short-term area.

    Believe me: within 20 years there will be people who will recall 2022-2023 seasons with positive feelings and knowing every single result, purely because there were their first F1 seasons in their memory.

    1. Re COTD, i also recall better 2009 than 2023. But that’s not because of too many Grand Prix, it’s purely because of getting old!

      Quite the contrary for me; I find it’s becoming easier to recall recent individual race winners.
      For old season I struggle to get above 50%, but for the 2023 I can name the winner correctly for at least 19 out of the 22 race.

    2. I don’t remember anywhere near that much about the 2009 season, I wasn’t following it but I wouldn’t be able to do that even for an interesting season I was following; on other hand I remember why piastri didn’t score in brazil.

  5. Eesh, the news really is a bit thin on the ground in the off season isn’t it?

    1. well there’s always complaining, to pass the time, had you thought about that? :)

      personally I’m disappointed at the timid muzak on the Aston video, that’s the exact opposite of bold and exciting!

  6. I agree with COD. Sprints do further dilute the value of a Grand Prix. Rarity, exclusivity are words that belong to Grand Prix. Now it is simply not special anymore as there is something to win every week and in a Sprint weekend even two winners are produced. I have seen the same in other sports. Ice skating for instance used to have one Champion a year who’d be best over the total of 4 distances to be raced. Now every weekend some one becomes the Champion of something: some distance, geographical region or event/variation or whatever.. that is the point.. I actually do not know anymore since I stopped watching because it doesnt mean anything anymore if you become the champion as there are 10 others also the champion. The relentless race for generating more revenue from sport events is destroying the essence of the sport.

  7. It’s impressive to see the work Stroll & Co. are doing on the Aston Martin team. Whatever else is true, they’re making big investments and taking this challenge seriously. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for a bunch of other teams.

    I wouldn’t blame them for not doing it in public, but do hope they’ve also given Lance Stroll a sort of ‘final warning’ that if he doesn’t improve in the 2024 season he’s out. When those facilities become operational, and they want to make that step to being consistent front runners, they need a solid driver pairing.

    1. I can’t see that happening, lawrence stroll is a good businessman, but I really doubt he’d get to the point of firing his son.

  8. Coventry Climax
    4th December 2023, 12:02

    For a change, nice words from mr. Wolff. Now all he has to do is act accordingly.

    Wow, bracelets. At least they’re Goodyear rubber, so won’t desintegrate within 10 revolutions around your wrist.

    Hamilton not sure of next year’s car competivity level. Hard to interpret.
    Despondent? Sandbagging already? A change to general lack of confidence in his team? Covering for possibly being beaten by Russell already? Preparing for his farewell? Still recovering from this season’s mental and motivation dip?
    Maybe that’s what you get when over time, it’s never quite certain what the value of your words is exactly.

    1. I wonder if any of those Pirelli wristbands are still in one piece? (They sold sets of coloured ones a few years back. Avoid the blue Wet ones, they make you fall over.)

  9. I agree that the issue isn’t particularly the fact that there are so many races in a season, it’s just age and longevity that creates the memory problem. I can barely remember a single race from the past 9 seasons. Yet I can remember who came 4th in the 1993 Brazilian Grand Prix, or 3rd in the 1994 German Grand Prix etc.

    By the end of the 93 season I only had 16 races to remember. By the end of 94 I had 32 races to remember. My memory starts breaking down after 1999, which is 114 races.

    As the chequered flag waved in Abu Dhabi that was race number 569 for me. No wonder I’m having trouble remembering all these races!!

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