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OPINION: Has Max Verstappen Winning really Ruined F1?

Written by Maria Gadalla, Edited by Debargha Banerjee

Verstappen took his 10th win in 12 races in 2023; Image credit - Red Bull

Now that it's the summer break, we have time to consider something.


And it starts with this: About 50 laps or so into the Hungarian Grand Prix, I realised something - no one was talking about Max Verstappen.


The commentators rarely mentioned him. If they did, it was an aside with the undertones of yes, of course he’s first BUT more importantly - and then they would continue on with something interesting. Even if that something interesting was a random fact about the Hungary circuit, some new tidbit in the F1 rumour wheel or, of course, a recent development in the race. It was as if the commentators were avoiding any chance to have to talk about Verstappen. Then again, why would they? What could they say about him? He was winning. The gap was big. No one could touch him. First place was a guarantee. Cue the Dutch national anthem.


Of course, we can’t be too laissez-faire about Hungary: Red Bull did break a F1 record that had been upheld since McLaren in 1988. They’ve written themselves into history with their 12th consecutive win! And Christian Horner’s excitement in telling Max Verstappen was met with the driver’s relaxed ‘lovely!’ response that seems a bit too chill in comparison. Of course with a 30 second gap, why would Max Verstappen be bursting in disbelief and jumping up and down on the ground? He knew he broke the record before the race had even finished. He knew this. Everyone in the paddock knew this. The commentators, the fans at home - we all saw it coming. So, without any anticipation build up, there was no climatic cheer or hoorah. If anything, it was all a little bit delayed. Social media had more buzz about Lando Norris breaking Verstappen’s $40’000 trophy than the fact an F1 record had been broken. Why bother, right? The 12th win record was old news even before it had happened.

Max Verstappen's broken trophy at the Hungarian Grand Prix; Credit - Red Bull Racing

It’s not just the response to the record, though. In a time when society’s attention span has dwindled that we’re always needing something new, Formula 1’s predictable first place winner doesn’t do anything for the sport. This makes sense why commentators, presenters and the media as a whole try to make a story about anything other than the actual winner. Ricciardo pitted early - why is that? Ferrari’s team orders don’t make sense - Sainz has fresher tyres! Pirelli’s blanket regulations have caused some interesting results - let’s discuss! Everything in F1, it seems, is trying to avoid talking about Max Verstappen because that story is now too predictable. And, as such, it has become boring.


There have been several memes circulating about this. My favourite is that the cool down room has become a Max Verstappen podcast with new guests every week.

The Max Verstappen podcast; Image credit - Instagram

Of course, this is no insult to Max Verstappen. It isn’t like this is the first time we’ve seen a driver/team have a run dominating the field. Not too far back we had Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes coming first all the time. Not to mention how even non-Formula 1 fans can still recognise Michael Schumacher. I have friends who know nothing of the sport but still know the name - and that he drove for Ferrari.


So if this is the norm in Formula 1, why is there an issue? Surely we just ride it out until someone else comes out and challenges Red Bull, the same way they did Mercedes?


No.


Formula 1 has had an immense surge of popularity thanks to Liberty Media and the strategies they put in place. The group acquired the sport in 2016 for 4.4bn. Now, in 2023, Formula 1 is worth 17.1bn. Those figures alone speak to how much Formula 1 has grown. So, with the limelight on F1, we can’t keep having the same story running otherwise people are gonna get bored. The new fans Liberty Media roped in won’t stay for long if every weekend they pay the big bucks only to see Max Verstappen win once again.


How do we solve this?


I’m glad you asked - recently the FAC (F1’s Financial Advisory Committee) had a meeting. Recently there has been a push for financial equilibrium across all teams. There has been much speculation as to how this could occur. Will there be more regulation about spending? Or will the FIA go about approving checking each team’s individual receipts? After the Spa Commission, it was agreed that… nothing would happen just yet.


So I say we go to the other option. The report entailed Red Bull’s very clear dominance with how the FIA’s analysis of PU performance only found “one such notable performance gap between competitors.” So maybe we just need to tell Red Bull, and Helmut Marko, to chill out.


Surely Alpha Tauri, the weakest team on the grid, could benefit from the goings-on over in Milton Keynes? It’s most definitely not just Red Bull. This goes beyond giving you wings. Maybe Max Verstappen could swap with Daniel Ricciardo!


Or maybe it’s just what was outlined from the start. This is the Verstappen era and we should enjoy the positive of watching a F1 legend drive in real-time.



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