Race Weekend Central

F1 Midweek: Can Red Bull Run the Table?

Can Red Bull win every race this season?

Short answer: no. Long answer: also no.

Sure Red Bull’s dominance on Sunday (March 5) was overwhelming, but to suggest they can win all 23 races this season seems preposterous. Or “Insane in the Bahrain,” if you will.

Don’t get me wrong, Red Bull’s domination in 2023’s inaugural race was downright scary. Max Verstappen finished almost 12 seconds ahead of teammate Sergio Perez and nearly 40 ahead of Fernando Alonso in third. Carlos Sainz (48 seconds behind), Lewis Hamilton (51 seconds back), and George Russell (56 seconds back) were even less competitive. In a sport where the outcomes are often decided in fractions of seconds, Verstappen might have just made minutes the new standard. It’s a sad state of affairs for competition when, as the race leader, you’re closer to seeing the back of your rivals than they are to seeing yours. 

And Red Bull’s 2023 car appears miles, and I mean miles figuratively and literally, ahead of the competition. Let’s face it, even Ginger Spice could finish on the podium in a Red Bull. Additionally, Red Bull probably didn’t even show their full hand, mostly because they didn’t need to. 

But, winning all 23 races is expecting too much even for a team like Red Bull that looks like it has no weaknesses whatsoever. They don’t need any luck to win both the driver’s world championship and the constructors’ championship. But Red Bull would need lots of luck to run the table. And for RB not to win every race would require only a single instance of bad luck. And bad luck in F1 can arise from many places, in an instant, often without warning. That one instance of bad luck could be a rogue engine failure, a missed shift on a start, an inexperienced driver who fails to move out of the way, a tire failure, or Mercedes or Ferrari finding lightning in a bottle for just one week. And that’s not even mentioning the weather. A wet race is always a chaotic affair and historically has often resulted in surprise winners. 

If I were a gambler, I would much rather put my money on a non-Red Bull driver winning just one race than on Red Bull winning every race.  

But can Mercedes actually win a race?

I could answer that, but I’ll let the experts do it. That would be Mercedes themselves. George Russell said after the race that he thinks Red Bull “should” win every race this year. This was just a few days after Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said team engineers needed to go back to the drawing board, basically hinting at a near-complete overhaul of the W14. It sounds like an admission of defeat and possibly the first time that a white flag waved in F1 has meant “surrender.” The adherence to the zero-pod design that was thought to be revolutionary is faltering as the results continue to indicate that it is not the advantage it was meant to be.

And it must be embarrassing for Mercedes, knowing they can’t even beat an Aston Martin that uses Mercedes engines. And could barely outpace the other Aston Martin car, driven by Lance Stroll, with two broken wrists and a broken big toe. On that note, what a gutsy drive by Stroll, and what an endorsement for the power steering in F1 cars.

Realistically, Mercedes won’t be fast enough to challenge Red Bull at all. In fact, the only time you might possibly hear Mercedes simply say “fast enough” is when they say “This season can’t end fast enough.” 

Mercedes certainly has the budget and the technology to make improvements. It will take hard work, diligence, and patience. I’d like to comfort the team by saying “It’s not rocket science.” But it actually is.

If Mercedes is in trouble, can Ferrari feel any better about their outlook?

When you suffer an engine failure in the season’s first race, it doesn’t exactly breed confidence. It’s not like Ferrari needs to find new ways to lose or more feet to shoot themselves in. I hate to make a horse pun, but the Prancing Horse is “saddled” with problems. Here’s another: if Ferrari happens to find themselves leading a race this year, it won’t be “furlong.” I’ll stop. 

But at least Ferrari is not admitting that their immediate future is bleak, as Mercedes has. It is, but they’re not admitting it.      

From a fan’s perspective, what could make this season more exciting and competitive as opposed to Verstappen running away with the world championship?

One solution is to force Verstappen to race under the previous points formula (10 points for a win, 8 for second, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) while everyone else abided by the current system. Verstappen (and only Verstappen) would earn a bonus point for each car he laps. So, under this radical new system, the standings after one race would be: Verstappen (19 points), Perez (18), Alonso (15), Sainz (12), Hamilton (10). See, it’s working already.

Let’s get on to more important business, like Valtteri Bottas’ new mustache. Yay or nay?

Hmmmm. Does he drive an F1 car or wear a smock at the Walmart in Hot Springs, Arkansas?  

It’s certainly not going to make Bottas faster in F1, but give him a newsboy cap, and he’s instantly the favorite to win at Mario Kart. I think Bottas’ skill set lines up best at the Koopa Troopa Beach circuit. 

Williams’ Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant finished 10th and 12th, respectively. Has Williams turned a corner?

Sergeant finished out of the points, in 12th, one lap down, and Williams was thrilled with that result. That tells you that, yes, they have turned the corner, based on the mere fact that they’re celebrating such a mediocre result. 

And that’s great, because the former F1 powerhouse hasn’t been good at anything lately, including turning corners, or going straight, for that matter. Sure, it’s only one race, but based on early returns, it looks like Williams is no longer the worst. 

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