This year in Formula 1 was Max Verstappen's 19 victories in 22 races signalled one of the most dominant campaigns of all time.
Verstappen is now a three-time World Champion and has won his titles amid a period of change in F1 with new ideas being implemented to boost the show.
The calendar has been expanded, with 24 races scheduled to be held next year, marking a new record for the sport. When Verstappen made his F1 debut in 2015, the number was set at 19.
“It is too many for me, but we just have to deal with it,” Verstappen stated earlier this year. “I think it is a bit more logical the way it’s planned at least, I guess that’s better for everyone.”
Verstappen is currently contracted to race in F1 with Red Bull until the end of 2028 and the Dutchman has already sparked suggestions that he won't stick around any longer after his deal expires.
“More things have to come together for me to make my mind up if I stay longer or not. All these things are definitely not helping, for sure.”
Verstappen has also taken issue with the injection of sprint races, which doubled from three to six events for the 2023 season. The format has changed year-on-year from its inception in 2021 but Verstappen has consistently not been a fan.
“When we're going to do all that kind of stuff, the weekend becomes even more intense and we're already doing so many races. I think that is not the right way to go about it," he said.
"I understand they want to have basically everyday exciting, but then I think maybe it's better to just reduce the weekend; only race and Saturday and Sunday and make those two days exciting. Because we're heading into seasons where you have at one point 24 or 25 races, if you then start adding even more stuff, it's not worth it for me. I'm not enjoying that.
"For me a Sprint race is all about surviving, it's not about racing. When you have a quick car, there's nothing to risk and I prefer to just keep my car alive and make sure that you have a good race car for Sunday."
Verstappen also suggested that F1's DNA is being threatened by the new ideas.
"I don't find that it's the DNA of F1 to do these kind of sprint races. F1 is about getting the most out of it in qualifying and then having an amazing Sunday," he said.
"That's the DNA of the sport and I don't understand why we should change that.
"Because I think the action has been good, and how do we get even more action is about getting the cost closer, getting more teams able to fight for the win.
"I think naturally the show will be great. If we have six, seven teams already fighting for win, that will be insane.
F1 is about getting the most out of it in qualifying and then having an amazing Sunday
Frustration point removed
However, there is one positive for Verstappen as F1 has opted to abandon its plan to scrap tyre warmers after a series of tests throughout the year.
Verstappen took part in one such test and was far from impressed by the performance of the tyre without it being pre-heated in the pit lane by blankets.
“Yes, it was not enjoyable,” Verstappen said. “I drove on 50 degrees [tyre temperature] I think it was, and I almost spun in the pitlane already.
“Of course, I also had the hardest compound, but I think there's a lot more to it. If we have the tyre blankets anyway, why don't we just use them to the fullest because they're there?
“You either go just full blankets or zero, not middle way because we have them already. We don't need to buy new ones.”
The plan for the ban on tyre blankets circled around improved sustainability but Verstappen suggested that it would have created safety concerns.
“I think we're going to have a lot of crashes,” he said. “That I know already compared to what we have at the moment. But yeah, it's tough.
“Also, your tyre degradation is going to be completely different because your tyres are very cold. You are sliding around a lot in the first few laps.
“Your tyre pressures are going to go through the roof, so your tyres are going to degrade [the tyres] a lot more. And at the moment I don't really enjoy but I mean, a lot of drivers say the same and we have to of course find a solution to that.”
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New qualifying format
A new qualifying configuration was trialled this year, known as the Alternative Tyre Allocation (ATA) format.
Drivers had fewer sets available to them throughout the weekend, dropping from 13 to 11, and during Q1, the Hards were mandated, Q2 saw Medium tyres and the Soft tyres were compulsory in Q3.
The change was also done for a sustainability push but once again Verstappen was unimpressed by the decision.
"Totally rubbish," he said. "That's how I feel about it. Worthless. You just can't use enough tires during free practice “You don't actually need an hour for practice either. On Friday I also said to my engineer: 'Let's just wait 15 minutes, because I only have one set of tyres anyway,' so you can't do much at all.
"As a result, people see a lot less. As a driver, you just want to keep the tyres for qualifying and the race, because that's the most important thing."
"If you use everything in free practice, then of course you don't have any tyres left in the race. So everyone tries to be as economical as possible on the tyres and those practice sessions are obviously for using at least two sets of tyres. Sometimes they like to make it difficult. And this set-up I think is really ridiculous, but yes, we have to put up with it and they figure it out."
It seemed that the ATA format would be seen at all rounds from 2024 but as one team opposed it - it's unclear which team - it was scrapped for next year.
Emotional Verstappen in Las Vegas
Verstappen's frustrations reached a tipping point at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, on the eve of his 18th victory of the season.
Verstappen pleaded for fewer artificial interventions and manufacturing spectacles in the sport at a location where F1 invested heavily into the spectacular showing in the Nevada City.
“When I was a little kid, it was about the emotion of the sport what I fell in love with and not the show of the sport around it,” he said. “As a real racer, that shouldn't really matter.
"A Formula 1 car on a street circuit doesn't really come alive. It's not that exciting. I think it's more about proper racetracks. When you go to Spa, Monza, these kinds of places, they have a lot of emotion and passion.
"Seeing the fans there, it's incredible. When I jump in the car there, I'm fired up. I love driving around these kinds of places.
Passion and emotion
F1 has pushed the entertainment factor in recent times but according to Verstappen, that does not connect him with the fans, at least not in the long run.
"I understand that fans, they need maybe something to do as well around the track. But I think it's more important that you actually make them understand what we do, as a sport.
"Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play or a performance act. I can do that all over the world. I can go to Ibiza and get completely shitfaced and have a good time. But that's what happens [at races].
"People, they come, and they become a fan of what? They want to see maybe their favourite artist and have a few drinks with their mates and go out and have a crazy night out. But they don't actually understand what we're doing and what we're putting on the line to perform.
It goes against what F1 stands for, according to Verstappen who once again highlighted that certain venues don't have “passion” and “emotion” to other historic tracks.
“I think if you would actually put more time into the actual sport and what we are actually trying to achieve here — because as a little kid we grew up to be a world champion — if the sport would put more focus onto these kinds of things and also what a team is doing, what they are achieving and what they are working for then these kinds of things are way more important to look at than having all these random shows all over the place.
“For me, it’s not what I am passionate about and I like passion and emotion at these kinds of places. I love Vegas, but not to drive an F1 car. I love to go out, have a few drinks, throw everything on red, be crazy, have nice food … but like I said, the emotion and passion is not there compared to old-school tracks.”
The recent F1 developments are seeing Verstappen look ahead to his future in the F1 with less pleasure. Perhaps a competitive Red Bull will ease his pain but in the years to come there's a chance Verstappen will love the sport less and less. At some point the candle may extinguish and he'll be driven to the exit doors.