1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve is confident that Red Bull and Max Verstappen can be caught before the new power unit regulations are introduced in 2026, something many believe is unlikely.
Lewis Hamilton and many others are expecting Red Bull and Verstappen to continue dominating throughout 2024 and 2025, given that the current regulations will still be in effect.
The Milton Keynes-based outfit have been exceptional since the new aerodynamic regulations were introduced in 2022, to the extent that they’ve won 38 of the last 44 races.
34 of those wins have been claimed by Verstappen, with 19 of them having been in 2023 alone.
Verstappen cruised to his third consecutive Drivers’ Championship this year and topped the standings by 290 points.
He was so unbeatable, that his 575 points would’ve been enough for Red Bull to defend their 2022 Constructors’ Championship without even needing Sergio Perez’s points.
Verstappen finished outside the top-two just on one occasion, at the Singapore Grand Prix where he had to settle for fifth.
The Dutchman’s dominance was terrifying in 2023, as nobody was able to get close to him on a Sunday.
It’s for this reason why it’s expected throughout the paddock that until the new regs are introduced, Red Bull and the 26-year-old will remain superior.
However, Villeneuve doesn’t think Red Bull are “that far ahead” of the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren.
Whilst Verstappen did start from pole position on 12 occasions this year, the field were significantly closer to Red Bull over one-lap.
Ferrari in particular were right with Red Bull for the majority of the year when it came to qualifying, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz having claimed seven pole positions between them.
Even when Verstappen was on pole, a lot of the time his best lap was only a tenth of a second or so quicker than the driver in P2, which is hardly dominance.
This is a point raised by Villeneuve, who admits that with Red Bull only just being faster over one-lap in 2023, it’s “not domination”.
In his view, Mercedes were dominant for the bulk of their superior era, as even in qualifying they’d often be nearly a second if not more than a second faster.
“Red Bull is not that far ahead,” Villeneuve told PlanetF1. “When they got all their poles, it was a tenth, half a tenth… super close. So that’s not domination.
“That’s not the years of Mercedes when they were a second ahead of everyone, and everybody was OK with that, there was not an issue.”
“Max makes the difference because he’s at it 24 hours a day. He’s never getting tired. He gets out for the race car, and he’s still thinking about racing.
“That’s all that exists. If they all focused like Max, then maybe they would be at Max’s level.”