Welcome back to another edition of F1 talking points as we go over the first of three races in the US this year in the picturesque setting of Miami.
It was another race that didn’t blow any F1 fan away but there as always are plenty of things to talk about. So let’s get into it.
Red Bull so far ahead they’re in their own league
Five races into the season and no team besides Red Bull has won a race. In fact so far ahead are they of the rest of the field, no team has remotely looked close to winning a race. Red Bull are just simply so far ahead right now, they may as well be in F1 and the rest of the field in F2.
The interesting thing about this ‘dominance’ is that it weirdly doesn’t feel tiring yet. It feels different to our last three dominant eras that many bemoaned about.
The Mercedes era between 2004 and 2020 was just incredibly tedious, the Red Bull era of 2010 and 2013 was somewhat interesting, unique and exciting but also tiring while the Ferrari era of 2000 and 2004 was incredible and I won’t hear a bad word about it.
Yes I am a biased Ferrari fan so we’ll move on from that point…
My point being is that it almost doesn’t feel like Red Bull have been that dominant. The fact that Max Verstappen broke the record for most wins in a single season by a driver last year is still somewhat of a shock, given for at least the first half of the season it was a tight battle between him and Charles Leclerc.
The season before that, well we know how close it was and what happened. This actually really is the first time that Red Bull have actually ‘dominated’ a season so much early on, which shows a big turn of form from the Austrian team who were always renowned for starting slowly and finding form when it was too late by the end of the season.
With three races set to take place in three weeks as of next weekend, it will be a true test for the team to see if they can continue this dominance and look at setting records along the way with more consecutive wins.
If they can get a sixth at Imola next go around, they’ll equal Mercedes opening six wins from the 2014 season. If they win the next three, they’ll equal the eight Mercedes won from the opening of the 2019 season.
And if somehow they can win the next six and make it to Silverstone without having dropped a win, they’ll equal the longstanding record of 11 consecutive wins by a team to open the season set by McLaren in their near perfect 1988 season.
Sounds impossible? Maybe. In F1 anything can happen (and it usually does, thanks Murray) so never be certain of it. But with each race that passes by and the team continues to dominate, these records like way more achievable. Verstappen is unstoppable
What else can you say about Max Verstappen that hasn’t already been said?
Even when he has an issue that sees him start from ninth on the grid, you just know he’s still going to win somehow. And he did exactly that on Sunday to win his third race of the season and hold on to his Championship lead just as Sergio Perez looked to take it form him.
This is a driver who only a few years ago was still being touted as too immature and reckless to ever fully come out on top. A driver who although incredibly gifted had too many lapses of judgement to ever fully take control of the sport he now owns. It’s a truly incredible turnaround and somewhat scary one to see just the level he is driving at right now.
Verstappen says records don’t phase him and that he doesn’t care about breaking them.
You know who else always said that? Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. And look where we are now.
The difference here being that Verstappen is still only 25.
If he kept racing until he was Fernando Alonso’s age, he still has another 16 years in the sport ahead of him. Imagine what he could do in that time frame if he kept up this current form.
While some may find the sport “boring” with a driver dominating like this, we certainly have to take a step back sometimes to marvel at what we are witnessing and the fact we can say we were here to witness one of the future all-time greats of Formula 1.
Booing is okay and not a big deal
Seems topical given it’s a big talking point in another sport this week, but since when have we turned into a society that is too precious around booing at sporting events?
After the Miami race, Max Verstappen was booed on the podium by some fans. Now, obviously we can assume it was due to the fact that he is winning still and that’s not good for many casual fans of the sport who expect it to be like an episode of Drive To Survive each week.
We will never know. But what that does is perhaps reflect more on the casual fans of the sport who purely don’t understand what they are watching outside of a streaming service.
The fact being that even if that is the reason he is being booed, he’s not alone. Sebastian Vettel was booed constantly at the peak of his powers. Nico Rosberg during his heated rivalry with Lewis Hamilton. Lewis Hamilton by his nemesis Dutch fans. Michael Schumacher back in the day by British fans and during his dominance. Ayrton Senna. Alain Prost. You name it, they’ve all been booed.
(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
And you know what each of them did after that? Took it as inspiration to become even more stronger and dominant and silence their critics.
Fandom is part of any sport. And fandom isn’t always cheering. There is booing. There is criticism. There is passion. That’s why we love it so much. Take that away, and you just have a bunch of robots watching something that becomes more and more artificial.
Perhaps I should summarise this point best with a quote by Verstappen himself when asked about the booing.
“I think it is normal when you are winning, and they don’t like who is winning. It is something or me, which is absolutely fine as long as I am standing on the top.”
Let’s take a step back from the “Americanisation” shall we?
I absolutely love America and all of its pomp and pageantry that make their sports so damn entertaining to watch and experience. It’s so unique and grandiose and just so damn fun.
But here’s the thing: it only works in America for American sports. It doesn’t work in Formula 1.
It’s so great to be able to see this boom in the one place F1 has been so desperate to crack for many many years but at the expense of the history and culture of the sport? No thank you.
The cringe factor of having LL Cool J announce the drivers on to the grid while will.I.AM conducts an orchestra was beyond any measurable scale.
Having Michelle Rodriquez and Vin Diesel introduce the race in an awful video was embarrassing. And presenting the drivers with mock NFL jerseys as part of their prize for finishing on the podium? Ugh. No.
This also stems to the absolute farcical scenes we now see on the grid at every single American F1 race. Let’s bring in the big name celebrities.
Great. But why do you need to cordon them off and protect them from the media personalities and stars of the sport that everywhere else make it run and know what they’re doing, when they’re doing it and how to properly engage with F1 fans?
Sure it was fun to see Sir Jackie Stewart ignore every security guard and risk getting shot in order to get Roger Federer to do an interview with Martin Brundle for Sky Sports F1, but why was that even an issue?
This is Sir Jackie Stewart and Martin Brundle. Two legends of the sport who are highly regarded and respected beyond measure and two people who Roger Federer should be beyond honoured to speak to in the environment he stands in.
How do we think people would react if at the US Open Tennis, Roger Federer attempted to interview Lewis Hamilton in the stands, only to be blocked and warned by thug security guards who think they’re the coolest people on the planet in a country that makes such a big deal over things that don’t need to be made a big deal of?
Growth is great. But calm down and respect the sport you’re attempting to grow. F1 is at the core of it a European product that doesn’t need to be Americanised. Never forget that.
Tsunoda is the most underrated driver of 2023 so far
While all the praise of this season, and rightfully so, is on a certain Red Bull team and both of its drivers, one driver in another Red Bull car is doing a lot with a little and getting no praise. That driver is Yuki Tsunoda.
(Photo by F1-Gate.com)
The popular Japanese driver had all the pressure on his shoulders this season after two so-so seasons with AlphaTauri and lining up against a red-hot rookie in Nyck de Vries who finally got his big break on the F1 stage with a full time drive in 2023.
The opening five races have seen Tsunoda blow de Vries away in a car that, let’s be honest, is rubbish.
Tsunoda has finished every race in either 11th or 10th, somehow always finding his way in the battle for points in a car that really has no place getting points right now. De Vries on the other hand has struggled big time, is one of only two drivers to have not scored points in 2023 so far, finished no higher than 14th and looks like the driver most under pressure to retain his seat into next season.
The best part of all of this for Tsunoda is that he can continue to lay his claim by driving strongly and putting in the performances and not only help push him towards the senior Red Bull team, but potentially for other seats in the sport and showcase his true skills that perhaps haven’t quite shone through yet.
Expect many more strong finishes and points to come for him in 2023.
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here