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Brown exclusive: F1 'not boring' despite big three 2022 domination

In an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, McLaren boss Zak Brown believes the big three teams domination in 2022 masked F1's revolution.

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To news overview © XPBimages

There is a hope in Formula 1 that a brand-new rules cycle is what is needed to bring the field closer together and foster more overtaking.

The general idea is that giving every team a blank sheet of paper to design a car to all-new regulations could give a previously unfancied runner a shot at challenging for the title or tripping up an established front-runner and knocking them out of contention: read Brawn 2009 and Mercedes 2022, respectively.

However the convergence of performance throughout the field that is craved is best achieved by letting the ruleset mature so that the big teams reach the end of their cycle and allow the midfield runners to catch up as opposed to the divergence brought about by the onset of sweeping changes.

For 2022, after a long research period (and further delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), F1 re-introduced ground effect aerodynamics to the championship for the first time since the 1980s - with the hope being that the way downforce is created - via the underbody and floor - would make overtaking far easier as turbulent air from a car ahead would be significantly reduced.

While the racing certainly improved with over 700 overtakes across the season, up from around 500 in 2021, the rules further entrenched the advantage of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Of the 66 Grand Prix podium spots available across the season, these three teams hauled 65 of them.

However, the team boss of the one team who prevented a clean sweep does not believe this means F1 is "boring" despite the domination.

Brown: Dominant seasons used to be more boring

"I do think the regulations need time to bed and that they are good," Zak Brown tells RacingNews365.com in an exclusive interview whose McLaren squad prevented the clean sweep through Lando Norris' third place at Imola in round four of 2022.

"The racing was great and while the season was absolutely dominated, it didn't feel like a boring season at all.

"If I go back to when [Michael] Schumacher dominated, the races were a yawner from the word go, whereas these [races] were all exciting.

"They looked and felt a lot more exciting than the results look on on paper."

Emphasising how the field has been shaken up through the new regulations, Brown highlighted McLaren's own benchmarks for comparing their pace deficit to the frontrunners.

"At the same time, all of our competitors had podiums in 2021 and we were the only team to get one outside the big three [in 2022]," added Brown.

"So from that perspective, we kind of have two data points.

"Are we closer to Mercedes, because they've got the same engine, and therefore, they're a comparison, and we were closer to Mercedes this year, so in that sense it was a step forward, but we were further away from pole position than we were in 2021.

"But I think in 2021 we benefited form the rules being in place with the cars predominantly a carry over from '20 - and so it naturally closed the field up because we weren't the only ones to get podiums in '21."

The comparisons with Ferrari

In 2021, McLaren were vying with Ferrari for third place in the Constructors' Championship as the Scuderia rebuilt themselves following a dreadful '20 season.

Although McLaren did win a race - ironically at Ferrari's home race of Monza - more consistent points scoring allowed the Italian team to nip ahead and clinch third place by 48.5 points.

However, while Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were in a title fight for most of the 2022 season with the F1-75, McLaren were left where they had ended the previous season - still in the midfield.

Despite the disappointment of seeing their close and old rivals pulling streaks ahead, this does not affect Brown - who believes McLaren's fighting Ferrari was a mirage in the first place.

"Ferrari has had all the tools in place to produce the type of race car they've produced this year, [such as] the wind tunnel, they have all their equipment," says Brown.

"Don't forget that they had their engine issue [in 2019/20] which seemed to hurt them once the FIA stepped in, so when I look at how quickly they rebounded, they should have been there in the first place.

"They've got the drivers, they've got the budget and the technology infrastructure.

"We've got the budget, we had a really good driver line-up, but obviously we had a challenges with Daniel, but Lando rings the neck out of our car, but we don't have the technology infrastructure yet but our simulator and wind-tunnel come [online in 2023].

"I am not surprised Ferrari rebounded as quickly as they did, and I wouldn't have expected us to be able to rebound as quickly as they have, because we are still missing some of our infrastructure."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Infrastructure boosts might have helped push

McLaren actually slipped to fifth in the 2022 standings as Alpine leapfrogged the Woking squad, with the team hampered by a below-par season for Ricciardo, who could not match Norris's ability in driving the tricky MCL36.

He will be replaced by rookie Oscar Piastri for the coming season - with further changes set in McLaren's senior management following Andreas Seidl's departure as Team Principal to become Sauber CEO ahead of Audi's 2026 entry.

It was Seidl who pushed for infrastructure updates to the McLaren Technology Centre when he assumed his post back in 2019, with the team currently using Toyota's wind tunnel in Cologne.

After Seidl's departure and Andrea Stella's promotion to team boss, Brown feels McLaren, despite being satisfied with the Toyota facilities, just need both major projects to come on-line to progress.

"We're planning on challenging and being in the mix of the top three [teams] when we have all of our equipment [available]," he says.

"That's certainly our ambition - so I don't see any reason why [this wouldn't be the case especially] if we had what we're going to have here in the next 12 months, 24 months ago.

"Our race team is operating extremely well and we know some of the deficit we have the pace of our car comes from not being at the top of our game with our technology infrastructure - which is fortunately around the corner."

Also interesting:

Video: How expensive is champagne in F1?

Although champagne has not been exclusively used on the podium, with F1 recently moving back to using sparkling wine, it forms a key part of post-race celebrations.

But what are the origins of this world-famous tradition? And with so many litres of this luxury drink sprayed throughout the season, how much money does such a champagne shower actually cost?

Check out our handy explainer video below.

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