- Red Bull closes its sixth title at Suzuka
- Japanese GP Qualifying and times
- Verstappen 2023 World Championship, with 177 points advantage
On Saturday he had caught pole with the widest margin of the year (58 hundredths) and yesterday he won, without squeezing thoroughly, with more than 19 seconds of advantage to secure the constructors' title. Max Verstappen certified in Suzuka the overwhelming superiority of Red Bull in a World Championship where he already has 15 victories in 16 races, exactly the same record with which McLaren closed the 1988 season. This sixth crown for the Austrian team, the fastest in history, deepens a debate that seems rather serious concern in the paddock. Is Red Bull's hegemony a real threat to F1 itself?
As soon as he got off the RB19, with which between May and September he linked a record of 10 consecutive victories, Verstappen admitted yesterday the evidence: "Once the start was overcome it was quite easy." It was another example of the superiority of a car whose race pace has been unapproachable for Ferrari and Mercedes, its traditional perpetrators, or Aston Martin and McLaren, entertainers in two specific sections of the season.
In addition, the amazing reliability of the car designed by Adrian Newey was based on a devastating fact: yesterday's abandonment of Sergio Pérez, author of a disastrous race at Suzuka, was Red Bull's first in 2023. So the only vulnerable point of the RB19, to name a few, was felt on the only lap during the qualifying sessions, when they ceded four poles to Ferrari and another to Mercedes. Of course, of those five occasions, only Carlos Sainz knew how to translate it into victory in Singapore. Questioning Verstappen on the long runs was simply a pipe dream.
"At the top of the game"
"Max is absolutely at the top of the game," Christian Horner praised yesterday. "Everything has to go together, car, driver, team, in total harmony. And he has an inner hunger, enormous determination and capacity. He knows how to channel everything and does not let himself be distracted. He's a driver from head to toe," Red Bull's main team said of the next champion. In two weeks' time, Verstappen will secure his third title at the Qatar GP. Right now he has 177 points over Perez, the biggest lead in history, so he only needs to finish sixth in Saturday's sprint race to match Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart and Jack Brabham.
Of course, on his agenda – and Red Bull's – is a much more ambitious plan. Because in the remaining six rounds, the Austrian team aims to break that historic 94% of victories with which McLaren, commanded by Ron Dennis, Alain Prost and Senna, rounded off 1988. Right now, it has 623 points and another record is drawn on its horizon: the 765 added by the Silver Arrows in 2016. Without counting the bonuses of fast laps and sprint races, they would be enough with a help from Pérez, undoubtedly the weak link in their machinery throughout 2023.
The promising start of the Mexican – as capable of winning in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan as of reaching the fifth race with only six points of deficit – ended up diluting before the #1. With 400 points, Verstappen accumulates more than the entire Mercedes team (305) or the sum of the four Aston Martin and McLaren drivers (393). Toto Wolff, head of the Silver Arrows, illustrated this in a striking way last July in Budapest. "It's a Formula 2 grid against a Formula 1 driver."
Of course, under that praise of the Austrian was also hidden a more or less encrypted message. "This sport is a meritocracy, so as long as they're within the rules, they've certainly done the best job." Doubts about the legality of the RB19, which increased in tone after the technical directive approved by the FIA just two weeks ago, have been floating in the air for a long time. At the moment, beyond the rumors, nothing clouds the success of Red Bull. Neither in the present, nor in the immediate future.
Stefano Domenicali, executive director of F1, has flatly denied that the Great Circus will interfere, through restrictions in the regulations, in this hegemony. But a simple review of the history of this sport is enough to clarify in the past forceful measures were taken. At the moment, the next revision in the regulations is planned for 2026, with important changes in both aerodynamics and engines. By then, Red Bull will have ended this happy partnership with Honda to fly solo with its Red Bull Powertrains project.
- Red Bull Racing
- Max Verstappen
- Sergio Perez
- Mercedes GP
- Lewis Hamilton