Not another Red Bull domination

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates with his team after the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090535 // Usage for editorial use only //

Each Sunday after a race, I write a race review and this past Sunday I mentioned the Red Bull DRS system that many have been talking about this week. In that review and on Monday’s race review podcast, I discussed my thoughts on the system and possible fallout.

What many people are talking about this week is Lewis Hamilton’s comment that he’s never seen a car as fast as Red Bull’s car this year. Presumably he was talking about the rapid pace that Max Verstappen had when using DRS down the long straight.

I say presumably because Lewis and his Mercedes were far faster than any of the field from 2014 through 2020. I recall a two second gap during the Belgian Grand Prix in 2014. This leaves me thinking he clearly meant the DRS impact.

The discussion has also brought on many comments about another dominant season by Red Bull and how it’s boring and Red Bull is winning everything. I even saw a TikTok post saying everyone was bad-mouthing Lewis during their dominant years but he must have seen a different series than I did because for eight long years Mercedes pummeled the opposition like Whac-a-mole game that never ends snd I saw way more accolades and adulation than detraction.

Ferrari dominated from 2,000-2,004. Red Bull dominated from 2010-2013, Williams dominated in the 90’s and McLaren in the 80’s. Mercedes dominated for eight seasons with such a baked-in advantage that no one was going to touch them until the regulations changed. It also must be said that those were the longest-standing regulations I can recall in F1.

Regulations changed after 5 titles for Ferrari. They changed after 4 titles for Red Bull. The didn’t change until Mercedes had amassed 8 titles which would have ridden out the amount of time that the team and Lewis needed to win their and his 8th world championship but the problem was, he didn’t get his 8th title. The regulations were already too far down the road to be halted or changes so fate had other plans.

Many years ago, Ron Dennis once famously said that it wasn’t incumbent upon the FIA to change the regulations to hobble Ferrari, rather it was McLaren’s job to beat Ferrari and they simply weren’t doing it at the moment. That took a lot of self reflection from Ron but he was the kind of guy who wanted to beat Ferrari on merit, not random and frequent regulation changes.

F1 has backed itself into a bit of a corner here because any time you change regulations, you give an opportunity to upset the running order. This recent change caught Mercedes out and Red Bull advanced—as has Aston Martin—and with the cost cap and engine freeze, it will be hard for other teams to catch Red Bull.

F1’s intention to reduce costs is also creating a challenge on development although the success penalty of reduced wind tunnel time is being positioned as a grand equalizer. It may be but when you have Adrian Newey on your team, a man who can see air, that reduction has less of an impact as it would other teams.

I have little time for fans who bemoan the Red Bull domination while none of them grumbled about the Lewis/Mercedes juggernaut that ground the faces of their competition into the dirt for 8 years. The delicate balance of cost cap, development time and budget, frozen engine regulations all play a part in how difficult it could be to catch Red Bull until the next set of regulation changes in 2026.

Having said that, anything can happen and Red Bull could have a fragile car, Newey has been known to design those in the past. Mercedes could incrementally claw their way back up front. Ferrari could sort their issues out or Aston Martin could sprinkle more pixie dust on their car that has seen them leap from 7th to second over the winter.

A dominant run is a sign of a team that got it right so complaining about it is slightly misplaced in F1. No matter what the sport itself is trying to say or do, on track, it is still a meritocracy. I’ve seen lot of comments about Max not being good and he’s just in the fastest car. Part of being Schumacher, Vettel, Hamilton or Verstappen is getting yourself into F1 and then getting yourself into the fastest car. None of that is easy and you have to be damned good.

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Mike

Nobody likes dominance (in any sport) unless its their team that are dominating!!! RBR really have not dominated F1 in this current era – yet!! so those that are complaining about it – are perhaps Ferrari and Merc fans and not liking what’s on the horizon. This could be one of the most exciting season in F1 in decades with the possible title fight and drama within RBR; AM pushing and looking good to top Ferrari and Merc. Ferrari imploding! George upping Lewis. Several new rookies on the grid upping their teammates. I’m excited for it.

jiji the cat

totaly agree. i’ve lived thrugh all those dominant eras, totaly feel its up to the other teams to catch up.if they dont cathc up, epect RB dominance to the next reg changes 2026

Worthless Opinion

I think one of the problems with Red Bull domination is they’re much better suited to the underdog role. Red Bull in general and Max in particular tend to be a little more aggressive, a little more prickly, and just not very likable. What those qualities are great for is what Max’s driving style is great for – making established winners uncomfortable and knocking people off thrones now and then. When RBR is the one cruising, and they have no one to upset or annoy, it all just gets very boring. I personally don’t like Max as a person or… Read more »

Worthless Opinion

Excellent point, I think it’s easy to get lulled into thinking of Lewis as the gentleman he tries to be but he’ll really surprise you when he’s backed into a corner, at least he used to when he was younger. This new ‘elder statesman’ Lewis just fires his professional girlfriend when he gets frustrated : )

Myles

The period of F1 that was the least enjoyable for me were the Schumacher dominated Ferrari days. I watch F1 for the thrill of the chase and I only find it boring when it’s impossible to pass (some of the Schumacher years) or it’s trivial to pass (some of the DRS tracks these days). I think this season will be fairly exciting because you have three teams in Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin who can challenge for the final podium spot even in Red Bull is dominating. To be honest, that is enough excitement for me to keep watching the… Read more »

Glen Mhor

Very true, and those of us that secretly root for Williams and a return to some resemblance of midtable form at best, know this is the way of things. However, in this shiny new era of F1 and a new breed of fandom, you have to wonder if the F1 powers will shuffle things on a more regular basis, not for the benefit of teams, but for the show?