Max Verstappen celebrates winning ten consecutive races at Monza, setting a new Formula 1 record.
With Round 16 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship having just been completed, it’s time to take a look at the historic level of dominance from Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Two weeks ago, Verstappen set an astounding record that may never be equaled: ten consecutive race wins. Ten years before, another Red Bull driver, Sebastian Vettel, set a record that many believed would never be touched: nine consecutive race wins. However, Verstappen’s dominance quite easily surpassed that of Vettel’s. His absolute mastery over the rest of the paddock was on full display over this ten race span. In Spain at the Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen asked his race engineer, “What’s my fastest lap?” to which his race engineer responded, “A [1:17.3]. Like I said, you’ve been given a black and white flag [(for violating track limits)], so we cannot afford anything.” Essentially, if Verstappen had made the smallest mistake, he may have gotten a penalty, so his engineer wanted him to slow down and stay cautious. He was then told that the fastest lap of the race was set by his teammate, Sergio Perez, on a new set of tires with a Drag Reduction System (DRS) enabled. Verstappen then proceeded to annihilate Perez’s fastest lap for the race, with old tires and without DRS, showcasing his rule over the rest of the field.
With this historic run, many have complained about Formula 1 becoming boring. However, I believe that this is not the case. While this level of high performance is unheard of, the Singapore Grand Prix proved that there is still room for other cars and teams to win. Both Bulls were knocked out in Q2, and the race was undoubtedly the most thrilling of the year, showing everyone the competitiveness still present in the sport. Many fans forget that the fundamental principle of Formula 1 is engineering, specifically from the teams. It is not about the drivers. The idea that Formula 1 revolves around the drivers is an affectation created by the media and exacerbated by television, specifically by shows such as "Drive to Survive." People have forgotten that this is not much different from the dominance of Mercedes from 2014-2021, and of Red Bull from 2010-2013. This is just the next generation of domination. The engineers at Red Bull Racing, particularly Adrian Newey, have done an excellent job of engineering a masterpiece, and they should not be criticized or hated for doing so.
The argument that such dominance is "bad for the sport" is also quite false. While many newer fans, particularly those who learned of Formula 1 through the Netflix documentary series "Drive to Survive," believe that this is hurting the sport, it is quite the opposite. If anything, this just reinforces how integral engineering is to the sport itself. From the very beginning, the fastest driver was not always the one that won the races and the championships. The fastest car nearly always won the races, championships, and took the glory from the engineering done behind the scenes.
For example, let’s take a look at the career of another superstar Formula 1 driver, Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen, nicknamed the “Ice Man,” was known for his icy-cold persona and refusal to warm up his tires, was one of the fastest drivers in F1 history. This was particularly the case during his prime, around 2005 to 2008. The Ice Man was rapid in his McLaren from 2005 to 2006, but, due to the car’s unreliability, he was unable to win a championship. During the times his engine did not explode on track, he dominated — taking poles, wins, and fastest laps galore. However, frequent DNFs (Did Not Finish) doomed him to second place in the championship in 2005, and fifth in 2006. He was able to win his one and only Driver’s Championship in 2007 with Ferrari, winning by one point due to the poor teamwork at his former team, McLaren, and their drivers, Fernando Alonso, and the rookie Lewis Hamilton. If Raikkonen had the fastest and most reliable car from 2005 to 2008, it is very possible he would be a four time World Champion.
To sum it up, Verstappen and Red Bull’s utter domination of the 2023 Formula 1 season is not bad for the sport. On the contrary, it represents a team that has done the very best work possible, following the guidelines for how their car can be built. In addition, there are very promising signs for fans who love a multiple car battle for the championship. McLaren has brought drastic upgrades to their car, and have scored multiple podiums in the past few races. They continue to progress and improve, and represent one of the many threats to Red Bull in the future. In addition, Mercedes, the eight-time Constructor’s Champions, always lurk in the background, with their own ultra competitive engineers. In conclusion, Verstappen's dominance should not be viewed as a loss for the sport, but rather as an incredible feat of engineering. If you are not a fan, there are other teams to support and the future of the sport to look forward to.