According to Lewis Hamilton, periods of dominance in Formula 1 need to be addressed. In an article over at Autosport, Hamilton is quoted as saying:
“I was really fortunate to have one of those periods that Max [Verstappen] is having now. But with the way it’s going, it will continue to happen over and over again. And I don’t think that we need that in sport.
“Just in my personal experience, when you’re so far ahead, when you’re 100 points ahead, you don’t really need to do a lot more development on your car, and you can start earlier on your next car.
“And with a budget cap that means spending that year’s money on the next year’s car.
“But if everyone had a time for example, if everyone knew when we can really start, whatever date it is – October is way too late probably, but 1 August, something like that – then no one has a head start, and then it’s a real race in that short space of time for the future car.
“I don’t know, maybe that would help everyone be closer the following year, maybe. I might be wrong. But something’s got to change. When we were winning world championships, we could start earlier than everybody else.”
It’s a bit of an odd statement. It would seem to suggest the notion, “I got mine but you can’t have yours” sort of vibe to it. The comment, “and I don’t think that we need that in the sport”? It served him well with 7 titles and 8 titles for the Mercedes team.
Apart from the notion that it was fine for Marc but not fine now, I’m not sure the idea is on solid footing either as you could never really prevent people from working on next year’s car in theory and design. Sure, maybe wind tunnel would wait until August but initial design can start whenever.
It didn’t take long for the guy currently winning to dismiss the idea out of hand. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said:
“We weren’t talking about this when he was winning and I don’t think we should now,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.
“This is just how Formula 1 works. When you have a competitive car, that’s great, but at one point you have to look ahead to the next year, of course.
“It’s normal people behind us say these kinds of things, but they should not forget how it was when they were winning themselves.”
I don’t dismiss Lewis’s point that a good baseline car gives you an advantage with regards to when and how much you have to develop. His Mercedes in 2014 onward was so dominant that there’s little doubt they could easily focus on the next car much earlier than other teams.
However, I would suggest that Mercedes missed the mark on the new cars in 2022 with a dogged determination on zero sidepods and a design that didn’t work. IT wasn’t that they didn’t start earlier on the 2023 car, it’s that they stuck with a design that didn’t work.