Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024

Is Verstappen right that Red Bull’s dominance is “completely gone”?

Lap time watch: 2024 Spanish GP

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Having been out-paced by Ferrari (and others) in Monaco and Mercedes in Canada, Red Bull were expected to be the team to beat once more at the Circuit de Catalunya.

But for the third weekend in a row one of their rivals have taken pole position. Lando Norris relegated the leading Red Bull to second on the grid, albeit by a margin of just two-hundredths of a second.

Max Verstappen was the driver to beat right up until the moment Norris deposed him. He was quickest after the first runs in Q3 and improved on his second, but Norris found just enough with his final run to claim pole position. Both drivers were at their absolute best, stringing their three quickest sectors together when it mattered most:

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P. # Driver S1 S2 S3 Ultimate lap (deficit)
1 4 Lando Norris 21.383 (4) 28.402 (1) 21.598 (2) 1’11.383
2 1 Max Verstappen 21.369 (3) 28.541 (2) 21.493 (1) 1’11.403
3 63 George Russell 21.342 (2) 28.597 (4) 21.684 (6) 1’11.623 (+0.080)
4 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr 21.333 (1) 28.625 (5) 21.69 (7) 1’11.648 (+0.088)
5 44 Lewis Hamilton 21.456 (6) 28.543 (3) 21.659 (4) 1’11.658 (+0.043)
6 16 Charles Leclerc 21.39 (5) 28.672 (6) 21.669 (5) 1’11.731
7 10 Pierre Gasly 21.547 (9) 28.677 (7) 21.633 (3) 1’11.857
8 81 Oscar Piastri 21.469 (7) 28.694 (8) 21.784 (13) 1’11.947 (+0.064)
9 11 Sergio Perez 21.494 (8) 28.79 (10) 21.725 (9) 1’12.009 (+0.045)
10 31 Esteban Ocon 21.608 (13) 28.765 (9) 21.698 (8) 1’12.071 (+0.038)
11 14 Fernando Alonso 21.583 (12) 28.79 (10) 21.755 (11) 1’12.128
12 77 Valtteri Bottas 21.58 (11) 28.843 (12) 21.726 (10) 1’12.149 (+0.078)
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg 21.555 (10) 28.935 (14) 21.78 (12) 1’12.270 (+0.040)
14 18 Lance Stroll 21.636 (14) 28.86 (13) 21.874 (14) 1’12.370 (+0.002)
15 24 Zhou Guanyu 21.686 (16) 29.004 (15) 22.041 (16) 1’12.731 (+0.007)
16 20 Kevin Magnussen 21.754 (18) 29.17 (16) 22.013 (15) 1’12.937
17 22 Yuki Tsunoda 21.665 (15) 29.21 (19) 22.11 (17) 1’12.985
18 3 Daniel Ricciardo 21.725 (17) 29.203 (18) 22.147 (19) 1’13.075
19 23 Alexander Albon 21.767 (19) 29.193 (17) 22.141 (18) 1’13.101 (+0.052)
20 2 Logan Sargeant 21.853 (20) 29.41 (20) 22.246 (20) 1’13.509

Verstappen, who took pole position 12 times last year and did so again in all of the first seven races this year, said the days of Red Bull’s dominance are “completely gone” and the team “need to really try and make a step ahead again.”

They may no longer be dominant, but the RB20 has been the superior car over the season to date. Their average deficit to the quickest lap time over the season to date is just 0.08%, significantly better than their rivals.

However the balance may have tipped in McLaren’s favour. Over the last four races, during which four different teams have taken pole position, the MCL38 has average 0.18% off the pace compared to 0.20% for Red Bull, 0.37% for Mercedes and 0.53% for Ferrari – the latter skewed by their sub-par showing in Canada.

Behind them, Alpine are enjoying one of their best weekends of the season so far. The team which was slowest of all over the opening four rounds of the year rank fifth in Spain, as they did in Miami.

Sauber have also rebounded – having been slowest over the last four weekends they were seventh-fastest of the teams in qualifying. This is a particularly encouraging performance for their team as they weren’t especially strong at this track last year.

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RB, however, will be deeply disappointed with the performance of the extensive upgrade package they introduced this weekend. Having experienced problems with their rear wing on Friday, they are quicker only than Williams, and their improvement compared to last year is markedly worse than all their rivals:

Norris’ pole-winning lap of 1’11.383 is the fastest ever seen at the Circuit de Catalunya, which is to be expected following the deletion of the slow chicane last year and the easing of turn 10 in 2021.

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2024 Spanish Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Is Verstappen right that Red Bull’s dominance is “completely gone”?”

  1. Red Bull and McLaren seem to have equal pace by now – Mercedes and Ferrari are in the mix on some tracks, but not others

    However, the Red Bull is still easiest on its tyres, and Max is still driving more consistently than anyone else.

    Beating him is possible, but demands a special performance. Or a high-risk overtaking manouevre

  2. Also very hard to beat Max when his stops are 1.9s, and (say) Russell’s are 5.x.

    Red Bull are top of the field in more areas than just the car – which makes it all that much harder for Norris/Leclerc/Piastri/Russell/Sainz/Hamilton to catch Verstappen.

  3. The laptimes are a tricky way to measure this; even last year Red Bull wasn’t necessarily dominant in qualifying.

    While dominance might be a bit of a stretch to describe the current field, we’re also yet to see Red Bull lose a race on pure pace (it’s just been Miami where Norris got a huge safety-car bonus and, well, Monaco).

    But it’s good to see McLaren is now getting quite close!

    1. I guess you’re saying that in monaco verstappen’s race pace wasn’t necessarily slower than the cars ahead, which is a bit hard to say, as leclerc pulled quite a gap in the end, but since it’s possible to hold off cars 3-4 sec slower there, a fast car could reasonably be stuck in the midfield.

    2. However in miami the last stint mclaren was significantly faster, the SC bonus wouldn’t have helped if red bull had been the faster car in the last stint, there were plenty of laps.

  4. Absolutely their dominance is gone. Dominance is a team qualifying and finishing 1-2 more often than not. Sergio is doing well to get into Q3 at the moment and he’s not a terrible driver. If the car was dominant, he’d be right up there. I can’t help but think Max is making the difference here.

    1. Harold Wilson
      23rd June 2024, 16:08

      In 1 lap pace undoubtedly that’s gone but on race pace their advantage is still there. It is nice to see more cars and teams getting it right as far as 1 lap pace is concerned but ultimately races are won in race pace and tyre management. In that red bull are still aces and good for them.

    2. Perez undoubtedly is not driving to the car’s potential, the car is not that bad, verstappen is doing well, but if you picked a good and adaptable driver for the 2nd red bull seat, he would also be fighting for position up there with norris and the likes.

  5. No, the Red Bull is still the best car. It’s qualifying advantage may have been eroded a bit but in race pace it can pull a comfortable gap on a whim.

  6. Difficult to say when you have no benchmark on the other car.

    Perez somehow manages to get worse in direct correlation with how good the car is.

  7. The last graph – “Spanish Grand Prix fastest lap times – all sessions” – should have it marked when the track configuration with a chicane was used and when not.

  8. Got to agree with Max. The car isn’t dominant anymore. Perez still can’t finish on the podium .. or even the top 5 anymore. Red bull is still consistently strong at almost every circuit (except for Monaco), but McLaren are with them almost every time.. and occasionally Ferrari gets the better of Red bull as well.
    I would say the car isn’t dominant, but the team (strategists, pit crew, etc) are still light years ahead of the competition. McLaren and Ferrari can’t seem to get their strategy and execution as on point as Red bull can.. as shown in Canada and Imola this year.

    1. Even Monaco. He hit the wall there and was out of contetion for something better, but the car was among the fastest.

      They may not dominate, but they’re at the top or very close to it in every single round.

  9. Look at where Max’s teammate is. Max is winning races in the 4th fastest car. Insane performance. The best driver on four wheels in the history of mankind.

    1. Janith, if your comment is valid then it is equally credible to say:

      Look at where Sergio’s teammate is. Sergio is coming 8th in the fastest car. Inept performance.

    2. If this comment is serious it’s a really bad look: what about putting one of us in perez’s car? That would make verstappen look even better and the car even worse.

      You can’t take what a terrible driver is doing in consideration when it comes to car’s potential, you have to look at the best driver, if you want to do a bad lap you can even stop on track, simulate a mistake or whatever, if you want to do a good lap you can’t afford mistakes and have to drive at the limit.

    3. In the complex system that is an F1 race, there are many bottlenecks that limit performance of other parts. Pérez is one such bottleneck. It’s not possible to say much about the performance of the car when it can be quite reasonably assumed that Pérez is nowhere close to getting the most out of it.

  10. It seems like McLaren has more pace when the car becomes lighter, Red Bull, in the hands of Verstappen, is still good in the opening section of a race.

    That said, I do think Verstappen is currently in such a great form, I doubt any

    1. Wups. Continueing:

      anyone would be able to do what he does in that RB20. It’s always a big guessing game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the RB20 in the hands of many other drivers would have been able to get a podium today.

      1. There’s a handful of drivers who would’ve got that car on the podium, the only really problem would’ve been beating norris for a good driver in verstappen’s place.

        There’s also the question: if we gave that red bull to alonso, what would verstappen drive? Cause by taking verstappen out of the equation we also take away one of the 2 real competitors, mercedes looked far slower than red bull and mclaren.

      2. real problem*

    2. That’s a great observation.. McLaren in the last stint at Imola, Miami and Barcelona looked really rapid.

  11. Mclaren clearly has the fastest car but Max is the fastest driver.

  12. RBR clearly has the fastest car still.

    1. I’d say at the very least red bull is up there with mclaren and so far is the car to have on balance this year.

      Some people are using perez’s performances to say “look how bad the red bull is”, but you can’t do that, it’s easy to find even worse drivers than perez if you go look in minor formulas, the barometer is the best driver, and verstappen proves the red bull is still a very good car.

  13. Their advantage is gone. Domination is an entire different game, way above having an advantage. That for certain is not the case for quite some races already. That is not even up for debate.

Comments are closed.