Formula 1

Has Max Verstappen’s dominance led to viewership decline in F1?

Rahul SahaRahul Saha
October 31 2023
Max Verstappen

The Mexican GP would mark Round 20 of the 2023 F1 season. With the fates of the drivers’ and the constructors’ championships both long-forgotten conclusions, it makes us wonder whether this Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s dominance has led to a falling rating and less exciting races in Formula 1.

Max Verstappen’s dominance

Ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, Max Verstappen sits 226 points clear of his nearest rival and teammate, Sergio Peréz. What’s more damning is the fact that the first non-Red Bull driver (Lewis Hamilton) in the championship is another 39 points behind Sergio Peréz, which is likely to grow given the characteristics of the circuits coming up in the final four races of the season.

Now, one of the key aspects of an interesting and engaging season is a close title fight. While no one team has been able to come close to thwarting Red Bull on race pace, Max’s teammate, Checo, too, hasn’t been able to keep pace with him.

Until Miami, both Max and Checo exchanged race wins, with Verstappen leading the championship by 14 points following Round 5. This was precisely what made the 2014 and 2016 seasons worth watching when Mercedes was at the peak of its dominance as the Drivers’ Championship went down to the wire.

On the contrary, from Monaco onward, it has been a downward spiral for the Mexican driver, who missed out on Q3 in five consecutive races as he lost 85 points in just five races to his teammate.

Let’s not beat around the bush here; 2022, too, was a dominant year for Red Bull, as they won 17 out of the 22 races. But no one could claim that they ran away with those races. The Ferraris and the Mercedes were always keeping them honest, with Christian Horner and his team needing to be at their optimal best to eke out those victories.

The 2023 season always had this air of inevitability about it, right from the get-go. For instance, the worst finish for Verstappen this season has been a fifth-place finish in the Singapore GP, which was an anomaly given the Red Bull team struggled to find the right set-up all week long. Leading many pundits and fans to claim that Max Verstappen has made F1 boring in 2023.

One of the worst things that can happen in our sport is if one of the elite drivers on the F1 grid gets a car that is far better than anything else on the grid. This happened in the past with Michael Schumacher in the early 2000s, Sebastian Vettel in the 2010s, Lewis Hamilton from 2014 onwards, and now with Max Verstappen.

Besides, something that was notable during both Lewis and Sebastian’s dominant years was the element of unpredictability. In Hamilton’s case, Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas kept him on his toes on multiple occasions, with Rosberg eventually getting one over Hamilton in 2016. While Bottas was arguably a step down from Rosberg, he at least kept Lewis honest.

Both Vettel and Hamilton had races where their teammates were simply better than them over a race weekend. However, this has happened only once in two-and-a-half seasons for Max Verstappen.

At Red Bull, the only time Sergio Perez has gotten the better of Max Verstappen in a straight fight was in Baku this season. Just to put things into perspective, in their three years together at Red Bull, this has been the only race where Perez has gotten the better of Verstappen on pure pace.

When you have that kind of generational talent in arguably the best Red Bull car ever, even before a race weekend starts, the smart money is on Max Verstappen to deliver, and most of the time, he has done exactly that.

So much so that the unpredictable sport of Formula 1 has become monotonous, and it’s all because of one man.

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