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Max Verstappen

Why Verstappen could enjoy another highly dominant F1 season

Max Verstappen was adamant at the end of 2023 that another season winning 19 races wouldn't be possible - but after watching Red Bull at pre-season testing, it is certainly not out of the equation.

Verstappen Bahrain
Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

“At the moment, we just have to watch them and see how they perform. I think 19 drivers in the paddock now will think that [they] will not win the championship.”

Those words were spoken at pre-season testing by Fernando Alonso as the competition gets ready for the start of the new season after the test period in Bahrain.

Red Bull surprised friends and foes when it presented a radical concept and left a great impression at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Max Verstappen, the driver Alonso refers to, was still very cautious about his chances at the end of 2023. The Dutchman seemed to thunder that everyone would be watching Red Bull and, like team boss Christian Horner, spoke of the difficulty of maintaining its advantage. Within the current ground effect regulations, it would be harder to make much progress. The RB19 was extremely fast - so how on earth would the team improve it?

By adapting the concept AND optimising it, it now appears. Adrian Newey, Pierre Waché and the rest of the designers have not been idle.

Vertical inlets for the sidepods and two 'bazookas' on the engine cover, the competition was already at a loss after the Red Bull launch and their fears were not eased after the test days. Verstappen was lightning fast and even managed to record 11 laps within 0.2 seconds of each other in a longer run on the medium tyre.

The well-known slap on the wrist

Verstappen and Red Bull are obviously not bragging too much yet. Lap times during testing mean nothing and Ferrari, for example, was also quite strong. There is a grain of truth in that, but no one can ignore the fact that Red Bull seems to be the benchmark in 2024.

The distinctive smile on the faces of Verstappen, who again looked very relaxed, Helmut Marko and his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase says it all - the signs are solid and that is a special achievement.

Red Bull, despite its 2022 and 2023 dominance, does not seem to be slacking off and within the current regulations, is 'just' managing to take another mega-step. It was not just Verstappen and Horner who cried out that this would be difficult, but the competition also expected to see some convergence at the top this year.

Daniel Ricciardo knows Red Bull inside out from his past - the Australian explained after the test days how Red Bull has stayed sharp.

“I feel it's a team that operates at its best when they're winning. I feel like when they're winning, it's like they want to just completely crush the competition. It's not like: ‘Okay, now we're winning. Let's go on holiday.’ It's like: ‘Let's really put our feet down.’”

The text continues below the image.

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

Opposition

At the moment, it looks like Red Bull has indeed pushed on and wants/can crush the competition this year. Nothing is certain, but in its current form, no one seems able to threaten the team from Milton Keynes.

In the longer runs, Verstappen was at least three to four-tenths faster than the entire field. Ferrari came the closest, but that's all that can be said about a threat. The Scuderia was happy with the stable car, although Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had to conclude that Red Bull's advantage is still too big.

All indications are pointing to the possibility that the upcoming season will be another dominating year for Verstappen. While it will be great for Dutch sport, the intensity and excitement of the 2021 title fight live fondly in the memory.

For that matter, the term "dominant" can also refer to 10 to 15 wins by Verstappen. Of course, if Sergio Perez delivers on his promise and performs better, he will have equal material and could also win more races.

And if Ferrari takes another step, it can certainly compete at times as well. In that sense, Verstappen was right: it will be a hefty challenge to win 19 again. However, it is certainly not out of the question...

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