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F1 Midweek: Why Is F1 So Much Worse in 2023 Than in 2022?

No matter how much lipstick you can put on a pig, you can’t change that it’s a pig.

The 2023 Formula 1 season has turned into one of the most dominant displays in the history of the series. Max Verstappen has won eight of the 12 races contested, and has been absolutely unstoppable.

One problem with greatness, especially with how prolonged it has been for Red Bull (only one Grand Prix has been won by another team since the Austrian Grand Prix in July of 2022), is that it can only be appreciated in hindsight. The same people who blasted Michael Schumacher for being boring and winning far too often also cringed when Lewis Hamilton dared to start taking most of his records away.

Outside of F1, Jimmie Johnson is probably the most beloved (okay maybe just short of Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and respected active race car driver in North America whenever he shows up for a race. But in his prime, plenty relished in booing him and complaining that his dominance was “bad for the sport”. People hate greatness until it’s gone and only the memory remains.

But again, lipstick on a pig. 2023 has been a dreadful year for F1, with the most obvious reason being that nobody can stand up to Verstappen like Ferrari could at times in early-to-mid 2022.

Aston Martin seemed to have built a base to work on, but development wise they took a misstep. Fernando Alonso declared at one point that the team wouldn’t finish off the podium for the rest of the year; they haven’t had one since Canada in June.

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Ferrari has largely been lost at sea this year, stuck with a car too good to finish out of the points but also too slow to reliably contend for points.

Mercedes took a wrong step once again with the no-sidepods concept and finally gave up on it in May. Outside of Austria, they have shown speed since, especially Hamilton, but are still nowhere near Verstappen’s pace.

McLaren finally woke up in July and Lando Norris scored two straight podiums at Great Britain and Hungary. But McLaren’s performance comes at a cost of high aerodynamic drag, meaning they are out to lunch at high speed tracks like Spa and, in a couple of weeks, Monza.

And the most understated problem of this year? With Red Bull being amazing and four teams that should finish in the points every race, that makes it hard for much intrigue to develop in the lower half of the grid. Only the top 10 in F1 receive points.

Yes, Daniel Ricciardo’s mid-season return has been interesting to watch. But the bottom four teams in points only have 34 points amongst them for the entire year.

If you compare speed, results, and then the points system, you can see that AlphaTauri is much better than the three points they have generated and could really be as high as 8th in the standings. But because there are 5 cars in the top tier now and with them all fairly bulletproof, and adding in a sixth place Alpine that has speed albeit with reliability problems, it’s difficult for AT to do much points-wise.

Haas have virtually no chance to beat Williams in points, in spite of both of them being tied for seventh with 11 points each. The Haas is fast in qualifying but has problems with race pace, and can’t stay in the top 10 for very long even if they do qualify there.

Last year, there was a lot of movement in the back. Aston Martin rose from ninth and the battle for sixth between them and Alfa Romeo came down to the final lap at Abu Dhabi. Instead of enjoying his road to retirement, Sebastian Vettel had to furiously battle Ricciardo for ninth on track to get that last point Aston Martin needed to finish sixth in points, and ended up failing to do so.

Now, something like that has no chance of happening as the top-10 spots are already going to be filled almost by default.

So what to do going forward? I think, personally, that F1 should adopt a top-15 system (25-14-13… down to 1 with 15th). The reason why F1 had a top-six points system for many years is because the cars were so fragile that attrition played a factor in most races.

You could look at an F1 car funny and it would break down, which gave a chance if you started near the back in a slower car to maybe grab a point or two with some luck and skill.

Now, though, if you’re starting near the back in something that isn’t a top-three car, you’re very likely not to finish in points just due to how reliable the field is. In 2023, there have only been two races where three cars have finished with an unclassified result. Typically, there’s only one or two now.

I also think the finale should be double points now that there is a budget cap involved. Because of the lack of budget cap in 2014 when they first tried this, the doors were open for the top teams in a really close points race to potentially field a dramatically different car just for that particular track.

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Now, with the cost cap, you can’t afford to do that. This would encourage teams to be much more strategic with their upgrades spread development out more, while also discouraging tanking like Alfa Romeo last year.

They scored big points in the first month then finished sixth in points on that in spite of deliberately focusing entirely on the next season after around May or so. Teams should have to better manage their upgrades instead of just saying no more after the summer break.

These are easy changes to make- they don’t require complicated debate about if bigger teams should have smaller budget caps than smaller teams. It would make way more of the field interesting instead of just wondering if Ferrari can pass Aston Martin in points for third.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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I don’t watch F1 races very often so I can’t really comment on whether it is worse than last year. I do think that having one car/driver/team be exceptionally dominant is not great for any sport. Your statement that Jimmie Johnson is the the most beloved NASCAR driver other than Dale Jr is absolutely hogwash.

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