May 8 (GMM) As Formula 1 drivers hit out at the wild, celebrity-fuelled pre-race proceedings at the Miami GP, the other hot topic is that the sport is not living up to the same hype on the actual track.
Many thought the problem at Baku was that a DRS overtaking zone was too short, but a wider debate has now broken out about the success of the new-in-2022 ‘ground effect’ regulations as well as Red Bull’s utter dominance.
Indeed, after back-to-back title winner Max Verstappen raced through half the entire field to win on Sunday, sections of the crowd actually booed the championship leader.
“I think it’s normal when you’re winning and they don’t like who is winning,” the Dutchman said afterwards.
“So this is something for me which is absolutely fine as long as I stand on the top. I take the trophy home and they go back to their houses and they can have a nice evening.”
Many observers were not even impressed that Red Bull is – for now – allowing Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to freely fight at the front.
“We have said, as long as there is no danger for our drivers from behind, that we let them drive freely,” team official Dr Helmut Marko told ORF.
“Thank God they’re both sane enough not to do anything stupid.”
Arguably, the true source of F1’s ‘boredom problem’ at present is that Red Bull’s top rivals are too far behind to create a true competitive situation in the sport at the moment.
“There was nothing really to do in front of us, with the Red Bulls, and behind us,” admitted Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who has been on the podium with the two Red Bulls after most races so far in 2023.
“Maybe we did expect a little bit stronger opposition the two Red Bulls they are always unbreakable and they are always super-fast,” the Spaniard added.
“Eventually you are in the position you deserve with your car pace and there is no more overtaking from that point. But it’s not a problem of the rules or the circuit.
“It’s just the nature of Formula 1,” the 41-year-old said.
The missing element in 2023 is, in large part, the struggles of Red Bull’s usual top team rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
Both of those teams are claiming they do not understand their current cars.
“Every weekend we try things,” said Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, “and then Sunday arrives and they slap us in the face in the race.”
Team boss Frederic Vasseur is declaring that even rapidly-accelerated car updates, with the first major developments due at the next race at Imola, will not solve the problem.
“It’s not a matter of degradation because the pace at the end was there,” said the Frenchman. “First we have to understand the reason for the inconsistency.”
Vasseur’s counterpart Toto Wolff has a very similar tale to tell about the 2023 Mercedes.
“It is a lack of understanding that makes this car rubbish,” the Austrian said forthrightly.
Driver George Russell admitted: “They (Red Bull) are so far away from all of us, I always wonder if they’re using full power or they have something else up their sleeves.
“It’s actually a shame for the sport, although of course you have to congratulate them on doing such a good job.”
Even Red Bull agrees with Sainz that the Verstappen and Perez-piloted 2023 car is “on another planet”.
“We are wondering where the others are,” admitted team boss Christian Horner.
“We made a normal step over the winter, but where at Ferrari and Mercedes?”
Seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton, Russell’s teammate at Mercedes, admits that Formula 1 has raced into a situation in which a huge global audience is now wondering if it is too boring to keep watching.
“It’s not my job to convince people to watch a sport,” he said. “I’m not watching so it’s not boring for me.
“But as a fan watching, I can understand because it’s not as competitive as maybe the NFL or the NBA at the moment. As a sport they (F1) have tried to bring the teams closer but it never seems to work.
“All I can say is that we’re working as hard as we can to close up and get back and give them more of a fight,” Hamilton added.
“It’s just unfortunate that we still see the same sort of gaps between the teams. I don’t know what the solution is for the future, but we are going to have to adapt to these regulations.
“Otherwise it could be the same as it is now for years.”