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Red Bull Racing

How Red Bull is ruining F1's perfect storm

The dominance of Red Bull and Verstappen has masked the success of critical changes in the sport.

When F1 introduced its new technical regulations at the start of last season, the aim was to create a more exciting racing spectacle.

The change to ground effect aerodynamics targeted the inability of cars to follow closely through medium-to-high-speed corners in the previous formula, in theory creating more overtaking opportunities.

In tandem with the new-for-2021 financial regulations, the sport's hierarchy hoped the gap between top and bottom on the grid would close.

But boredom is beginning to creep into the fanbase as Red Bull and Max Verstappen run away with their second titles in as many seasons, with no other team achieving victory this season and the Dutchman 99 points ahead in the Drivers' standings after 10 races.

So is it all doom and gloom for F1 and its rule change aims?

The target

When addressing whether F1's rule change has been successful thus far, it is worth looking at what the sport was attempting to achieve.

Speaking to this writer in 2020, before the regulations were introduced, F1 Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds explained: "When Ross [Brawn] and I were first talking about this in 17, we established there were certain pillars we couldn't deviate from.

"One was that F1 is a meritocracy and the best people must win. People try to liken it to football - one of the great things is that the best team at the end of the season wins the league, but along the way, they have lost some matches.

"I'd love it if F1 was like that. We will never make it artificial but I would like it if we could get other people winning races.

"We have only had a handful of drivers on the podium, other than freak results, since 2014 and that's not great. The reason you watch sport is the unpredictability and F1 is becoming too predictable.

"We probably won't be able to close the gap until the new regulations, or at least until a couple of years after we get the new regulations."

Red Bull's dominance

Since the regulations were introduced, Red Bull has been utterly dominant.

Ferrari started in the best form, securing the championship lead after the opening four races last term. But Red Bull roared into a commanding lead soon after, with Verstappen clinching the record for most wins in a single season with 15.

That form has continued into the new campaign, with the Milton Keynes-based outfit's rivals concerned by the prospect it could become the first in F1 history to secure every race win on the schedule.

With dominance often comes disappointment from those that follow the sport. Everyone is hoping for a repeat of the 2021 championship battle between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton that has set the bar so high.

But looking down the grid, there is an indication the new rules have actually worked.

Race for second proof of F1 success

Aston Martin began the season as Red Bull's nearest challenger and made the most of its performance with six podiums from the first 10 races.

But Mercedes fought back with a significant upgrade package and has leapt into second in the Constructors' standings.

Ferrari secured pole at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and, although it was no match for Red Bull in the race, secured a podium to announce itself as a challenger for the runner-up spot.

Alpine made a brief appearance in the same battle with a well-deserved Esteban Ocon podium at the Monaco Grand Prix, whilst McLaren has recently thrown its hat into the ring with its own upgrade package that saw Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri push Verstappen for pole at the British Grand Prix.

That's just the battle for second behind Red Bull, with the pecking order changing at each and every race, presenting the unpredictability Symonds had eluded to.

In the minor placings, it is anyone's guess which of Alfa Romeo, Williams, Haas and AlphaTauri will come out on top.

The latter props up the table at present, though again, the order reshuffles so often from race to race that one perfectly timed Safety Car or red flag could completely change the points outlook.

For the most part, the racing has been good down the grid too. Austria and Silverstone in particular have been good, hard races that, whilst not going down as classics to be replayed in years to come, the sport and fans would surely settle for as a baseline for excitement.

But Red Bull's command at the top has put this regulatory success in the shadows. Just because one team has stolen a march, it does not mean F1 has failed. It is a meritocracy after all.


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