Max Verstappen and Red Bulla have formed a brilliant Formula One partnership, but their dominance is a problem, according to many pundits.
By Graham Duxbury
With its win at the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix earlier this year, Red Bull surpassed the record 11 consecutive wins McLaren scored in 1988. And the win at Monza saw Max rack up 10 wins in a row – a new record.
Why is Red Bull so dominant?
According to Sky TV reporter Ted Kravitz it’s because it runs its car’s floor flat and low to the track which produces immense useable downforce. “This also means that the car can keep its tyres in great shape,” he notes.
Against this backdrop, could F1 rule-makers take active steps to artificially restrain the Milton Keynes-based squad?
According to F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali this is a distinct possibility: “F1 has always been a sport where there have been cycles, where teams were very dominant and then some other came into the equation,” he says. “Our objective should be to take the strategic approach to make sure that these cycles in the future will be shorter.”
Will the FIA find a clever way to clip Red Bull’s wings?
In the past, rule changes – some of them delivered in short order – have successfully pegged back dominant teams.
For example, when Mercedes dominated the field at the start of the hybrid era in 2014, there appeared to be one easy solution to reign in the speed of the Brackley-based team. And the FIA used it: They banned the FRICS system.
FRICS (front and rear interconnected suspension) was outlawed in the middle of 2014, with the FIA claiming the system was not in line with its interpretation of the technical regulations. Despite the technology having been in use for five years, FRICS was said to be targeted because the use of it by the Mercedes W05 was particularly effective.
The Renault team won six of the opening nine races of the 2006 F1 World Championship which was seen as an unacceptable level of dominance back then. The solution was a rule change.
The Enstone-based team had discovered the “mass damper”, effectively a counterweight designed to keep the car settled and allow for more compliance over kerbs.
While stewards at the 2006 German GP interpreted the device as legal, the FIA incredulously appealed the decision of its own stewards claiming it contravened the technical regulations.
The resulting ban was effective, in that the team only managed to win one race of the season’s final nine. But it did not prevent Fernando Alonso from claiming the 2006 world championship title.
In 2004 Ferrari dominated the F1 season with Michael Schumacher and teammate Rubens Barichello winning every round in the 18-race championship with just three exceptions.
In a bid to end Ferrari’s dominance the FIA introduced a ban on tyre changes during a race. This strange rule – with obvious safety concerns – was targeted at Ferrari, one of the few teams to run Bridgestone tyres which had longevity challenges compared to rival Michelins.
Again, the ban was effective with Ferrari and Schumacher managing only one race win in 2005 – the infamous USGP where all the Michelin runners refused to race. The FIA’s mission having been accomplished; the rule was immediately scrapped.
Probably the most legendary and obvious attempt to denigrate a dominant team came with the FIA’s banning of active suspension, ABS, traction control and launch control for the 1994 season.
All these features were found on the Adrian Newey-designed Williams FW15 with which Alain Prost coasted to the 1993 championship win.
Williams was predictably hit hard, with the FW16 proving cumbersome and tricky – even in the hands of new signing, three-time world champion Ayrton Senna.
Other rule changes introduced by the FIA to end a particular team’s dominance include the banning of Red Bull’s blown diffusers in 2011 and the outlawing of Mercedes’ DAS (dual access steering) system a decade later.
Perhaps fans should pay attention to seven-time World Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton who, while having enjoyed his dominant years, sees the need for change.
He proposes banning teams from getting an early head start on the design of their cars for the following year.
Will such a ban stop Red Bull from consolidating its current pace advantage in future seasons?