Why Red Bull’s dominance can have severe consequences for F1

Max Verstappen and Red Bull might just be the most dominant partnership F1 has ever seen. The Dutchman will continue his relentless pursuit of a third F1 World Championship on home soil at the Dutch Grand Prix as he aims to stretch his massive lead at the top of the Driver’s championship further still.

He already holds the record for the sport’s youngest driver, winner and podium finisher all at the age of 25-years-old and his record breaking run is far from over. Last year Verstappen smashed the record for most wins in a campaign with 15 first place finishes from the 22 races on the calendar, nine of those coming in the last 11 contests.

Remarkably though he is already on course to beat that record this season having already claimed 10 victories before the summer break, leaving him in need of just six more triumphs out of the remaining 10 races to break his own record this year. In 2022 he scored the most points any driver had in a single F1 season with a massive tally of 454 with the second largest margin of victory over second place with 146 more points than Championship rival Charles Leclerc.

But again, he is set to obliterate those records set last year having already tallied 314 points this term with a current lead of 125 points over Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez. Verstappen’s superiority of the sport is undeniable but is the lack of competition affecting entertainment value for fans? And what can anyone do to close the gap on the dominant Dutchman and Red Bull?

It’s a line we’ve heard countless times this season and until someone can knock the World Champion off his perch for at least a race or two, it is a narrative that will likely persist beyond this season and into the next. The assertion is that with Verstappen and Red Bull dominating, the season lacks the excitement that normally goes hand in hand with a raceday. While there are some who would decry the argument as bitterness and jealousy over the team’s success, no one can deny that healthy competition certainly helps improve the product and overall entertainment for fans.

After all, the more teams capable of winning races and championships, the more intrigue and suspense there is over the course of the season. To that end, the argument does have merit. Domination is nothing new in this sport, just look at some of the legendary seasons from Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, and Sebastian Vettel for evidence of that, but Verstappen seems a very different entity to his predecessors.

The manner of the Dutchman’s victories are emphatic. He breezes past drivers like they’re not even there; even his teammate who is in the same car struggles to keep up. The Belgian Grand Prix was the final race before the summer break and there Verstappen passed the chequered flag in first place despite starting from sixth on the grid courtesy of a five-place grid penalty.

It’s not unheard of to claw places back from a position further down the field but to pass your teammate on lap 17 of a 44 lap race and end up 22.3 seconds ahead at the finish line having eased up in the final third while driving the same car is ridiculous by almost every metric. It’s not the first time he’s pulled off this magic trick either, finishing second in Jeddah having started the race back in 15th place. It’s a performance that is symbolic of the driver’s entire season to date.

No matter the position, no matter the start, no matter the conditions, the Dutchman almost inevitably wins out and it’s understandable how people have grown tired of it.

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Given the current landscape of the sport it is unlikely we will witness many thrilling Championship contests in the near future. According to this list of the best betting sites, Verstappen is the overwhelming favourite again to win the upcoming Dutch GP. Credit does have to go to Christian Horner and his team for their performances as they have been a cut above the rest and are reaping the rewards of their hard work now more than ever.

Their strategy with each race has been immaculate, they possess the best driver in the world right now and undoubtedly have the best car on the grid with its improved suspension systems giving them the competitive edge; it’s really no wonder they’ve managed to win all 12 races thus far. However, that doesn’t stop the fact that this level of domination isn’t healthy in the long run.

Even for some of the most dominant World Championship victories in recent history there was some manner of competition; Hamilton was pushed by Nico Rosberg, Vettel given a run for his money by Mark Webber and Schumacher kept waiting by Mika Hakkinen.

Teams did not inevitably win every race and drivers had to settle for spells away from the podium whereas Red Bull have a monopoly. They’ve led for nearly 700 laps this season with the other teams collectively having to settle for just 30 laps between them, that is not sustainable for a sport looking to draw in a viewership. Furthermore, if we remove Red Bull from the equation entirely this season would amount to an all-time classic battle.

Hamilton, LeClerc, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris would have been the four to have won a race with Alonso and Hamilton renewing their storied rivalry battling it out for the title. It’s a similar story for the Constructors Championship with Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mclaren all vying for top spot. It’s a damning state of affairs when the hypothetical situation of removing your best performing side would provide a far more appealing viewing experience.

The sport has done well to draw an audience over recent years with projects like the TV series Drive to Survive introducing F1 to new audiences and the expansion into the US market proving a success off the back of the thrilling 2021 Championship contest. However, if the governing bodies don’t take action then the sport is in real danger of losing that ground.

Viewing figures are already down from last year in large part because of a predictable championship being won without breaking a sweat. In 2020 and 2022 regulations were introduced to curtail one side from becoming too dominant in the sport and one set has clearly proven more effective than the other in doing that.

Rumour has it a rule change is in the works yet again to try and reduce the gap between Red Bull and the chasing pack. While it seems wholly unfair on Red Bull and Verstappen who have earned their accolades, at this point it also seems necessary for the sport’s long term betterment.