Assured of the world champion title since the beginning of October, the Dutch driver starts in pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, and could end the season with 19 victories in 23 races.
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The land of his first coronation, epic because he won in the very last round of the year, as the conclusion of a flying season. In Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen will start from pole position again, he who is guaranteed to win a third world championship in five races already. The Dutch driver stunned the competition in 2023, even crushing his own teammate Sergio Perez, with 18 victories, and perhaps 19 in Abu Dhabi. He is “the best driver, in the best car”summarizes Jean Alesi, the former French pilot.
Modern Formula 1 has experienced a few periods of almost unchallenged domination, such as that of Michael Schumacher, titled from 2000 to 2004. But that of Max Verstappen, who this year won his third title in as many seasons, East “unpublished” for Cyril Abiteboul, franceinfo: sport consultant. “Ferrari’s dominance was at a time when F1 was much less competitive than it is now. Ferrari dominated with budgets and a structure that had nothing to do with the other teams. For its part, Red Bull is a prestigious team, very well organized and financed, but it is not the only one. They dominate in an environment where others are not weak”, analyzes the former general director of Renault F1.
Aerodynamic innovations in quantity and quality
Since the introduction of the new regulations in 2022, including redesigned and heavier single-seaters, the Austrian team is the one that has done best.When there is a change in the regulations, we can have a team which has worked particularly well, and which finds a trick, but here in 2023, the regulations were already known. The other teams should have become more competitive.”, continues Cyril Abiteboul. With fairly similar engines, the Austrian team makes the difference in the aerodynamics of its car according to the consultant: “Red Bull has built itself as a team thanks to its ability to generate aerodynamic downforce, with very good modeling tools and a very good, very precise wind tunnel. They were also able to invest and concentrate on these specific points because they did not have to worry about the engine, supplied for a time by Renault and then by Honda.
The world champion constructors’ team can also rely on a very stable team at its head. Its director, Christian Horner, has been the same since the founding of the team. At his side he has Adrian Newey, technical director who designed the best single-seaters in F1 history, as well as Jonathan Wheatley, sporting director who has been there since the team’s early years. “They know each other by heart. They are formidable. On top of that, they have a team that has a colossal strike force on productionadds Cyril Abiteboul. It’s something we don’t talk about much, but their teams are very responsive throughout the chain, and they have a production agility that allows them to have very regular parts and innovations in quantity and quality.”
Sergio Perez’s double points
But if Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have the same car, that did not prevent the Dutchman from outperforming his teammate this season, with more than double the points scored before the last Grand Prix of the season (549 against 273). “Max is exceptional, but Perez is far from a handle or a junior,” tempers the former director of Renault F1. The Mexican still did not have a great season, with two victories, but above all three Grands Prix without scoring a point. “He did his best, but he suffered from the fact that Max has a very special way of driving, with a car with a very light rear axle. It’s sure that it’s Max Verstappen’s car, which is designed for him. He is pampered in this team. Very good drivers like Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon were also his teammates and failed to drive the car.”adds Jean Alesi.
With such a car, Max Verstappen never had trouble getting to the front, even when he started a few positions behind his competitors on the starting grid. In Saudi Arabia, where he started 15th, the Dutchman finished second, then he won in Miami after starting the race in ninth position. “He has a psychological ascendancy and such a single-seater. The apparent ease that he can have in overtaking is also linked to the fact that the drivers do not fight against him. They know that they cannot race with him . Rather than wearing out their rubber holding it back, they let it pass.”analyzes Cyril Abiteboul.
The Red Bull driver has only finished beyond second place once this season, in Singapore, leaving little suspense, which could have caused fatigue among Formula 1 fans. But if we are to believe the audiences of Canal+, the French broadcaster of the discipline, this is not the case. According to the encrypted channel, the Grands Prix scheduled in the afternoon brought together 1.2 million spectators on average, a level similar to that of last season, which then represented a historic record for an F1 season for it. .
For Cyril Abiteboul, nothing says that the scenario will be the same indefinitely. “It’s a championship that has remarkable commercial dynamics, because it brings new things every year like the Las Vegas Grand Prix. There are many other interests than first place in the drivers’ championship. If this situation If it drags on too long, it would cause problems, but I would be surprised if this dominance, as we have seen it this season, remains intact next season. By the next rule change in 2026, Red Bull will face more competition.”.