Race Weekend Central

F1 Midweek: Can Red Bull Remain Undefeated?

With eight wins to start the season, is it a foregone conclusion that Red Bull will win every race this season?

I broached this subject back in March after Red Bull’s dominating performance in the opening race at Bahrain. My answer then was “no,” and I’m sticking by that answer now, despite all signs pointing to an undefeated season for RB. 

Sure, logic does not support my reasoning, but Red Bull still needs to win 15 more races to finish the gauntlet. That’s a lot to ask of a team and even more to ask of one driver. That would be asking it of Max Verstappen, who, based on his teammate Sergio Perez’s recent form, may have to handle all the wins by himself.

Remember, Perez won in Saudi Arabia and Baku, though he was aided in Saudi Arabia, when Verstappen started well back in the field (15th in Saudi Arabia after a drive shaft failure in qualifying). In Baku, Perez out-qualified Verstappen, and used the luck of a safety car deployment to aid his win. My point is this: when Verstasppen hasn’t been able to win a race, Perez has been there to pick up the pieces. But Given Perez’s recent struggles (missing Q3 in three straight races; no result better than fourth in the last three races), he’s likely not to be in position to win the races in which Verstappen has any struggle.  

And then there’s the issue of luck. If one form of luck can be defined by the incompetence and inability of rival teams to technically keep up with Red Bull over the last three years, then Red Bull has been showered with good luck. The Milton-Keynes outfit is so far ahead that this luck probably will have staying power throughout the season, although just one instance of bad luck could easily lead to a Red Bull defeat. 

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F1 Review: Max Verstappen Writing the 2023 Storybook Season – Same Story, Different Track

In addition, RB’s biggest rivals and threats to ruin an undefeated season, Mercedes, Aston Martin, and Ferrari, are making gains. Mercedes especially has drawn closer to Red Bull, and while there’s still a lot more work to do, Mercedes has more upgrades in the future. If these upgrades to the Mercedes package continue to result in improvements, then at some track, these improvements may align perfectly with a track layout more suitable to Mercedes strengths, and Mercedes might possibly maybe snatch a win. Would it be such a shock if Lewis Hamilton, the all-time Formula 1 wins leader, won a single race in the last two years? Not at all, and that’s all it would take to end a Red Bull undefeated streak. 

Not to mention the threat of Fernando Alonso winning a race, or Ferrari doing the unthinkable by running a perfect strategic race while also not making unnecessary pit stops and miraculously winning. These scenarios are no more out of the realm of possibilities than Red Bull winning every race. 

All it takes is one to end a Red Bull streak. That “one” could be a victory by any other team. That “one” could be one flat tire on a Red Bull. That “one” could be a blown engine. That “one” could be another dead bird in a Red Bull brake duct that, this time, actually causes a problem. That “one” could be an untimely downpour of rain. That “one” could be a safety car that doesn’t work in Red Bull’s favor.

Max Verstappen ran nearly half of the Canadian Grand Prix with a bird lodged behind his right-front brake duct. How is it that this didn’t seem to affect his car’s performance?

This just goes to show you the power and invincibility of the current state of Red Bull—-even the animal kingdom can’t stop them. Sure, Red Bull can give you wings; they can also take them away. 

Did Ferrari finally make a good strategy call by leaving Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the track on medium tires when the safety car was deployed after George Russell’s collision with the wall?

Just as “A bird with good eyesight can find a brake duct” describes Red Bull’s fortunes, Ferrari’s expression must be “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.”

Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes needs to immediately start focusing on 2024 if they intend to have any chance of catching Red Bull. Is this the right thing for Mercedes to do?

You mean Mercedes is just now conceding the 2023 championship to Red Bull? I thought they did that back in early March after George Russell opined after the opening race in Bahrain that “They (Red Bull) should win every race this season is my bet.”

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Could Jenson Button Succeed a Retiring Aric Almirola?

Mercedes has known since last year that they had no chance of challenging Red Bull in 2023, so Hamilton’s statement is little more than a much-delayed concession speech.

But Hamilton is correct.  Mercedes should use the rest of the 2023 season as an extended testing session in preparation for 2024.  

Bridgestone will challenge Pirelli for Formula 1’s exclusive tire contract in 2025. Can the Japanese tire maker replace the Italian company that’s provided F1 tires since 2011? 

Finally, a competition in F1 in which we don’t know what the outcome will be!

F1 is banning the use of tire warmers in 2024, and many drivers are concerned that blanket-less Pirelli’s could present safety concerns. So, one of the deciding factors in F1’s choice likely hinges on the ability of each tiremaker to create a tire quick to acquire heat while maintaining integrity. 

It will be a heated and lengthy battle between the two tire behemoths, but ultimately, in the world of Formula 1, money talks. I hesitate to say the word “bribery,” but I just did, and it’s likely F1’s palm will be greased before they shake hands with either company.

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