Since the beginning of the hybrid turbo era in 2014, Formula One has more often than not failed to deliver close and exciting racing throughout the field and has thrown up championship after championship won with ease by either team or driver. The problem was birthed in the early discussions around the 2014 power unit regulation changes which began around the time Red Bull were winning their first title.
Formula One had recently lost two manufacturers in Honda and Toyota and Bernie Ecclestone was desperate to entice Mercedes into committing to F1 long term. With a new power unit on the horizon the German global car auto manufacturer realised there was an opportunity to seal their place at the top of the sport.
Mercedes dominate V6 design
Reportedly Stuttgart ploughed in over $1bn into R&D for the power unit with the result Mercedes came to dominate the V6 hybrid turbo era.
The Silver Arrows dominance was such that the team won an unprecedented back to back 8 constructor titles and only Max Verstappen’s titanic battle with Lewis Hamilton in 2021 prevented the German sponsored team cleaning up with 8 drivers’ championships too.
The FIA have been trying to level the playing field over the past few seasons with regulations introduced like the handicap allowance for aero testing. This provides for each position a team is placed higher in the constructors’ championship there is a reduction in wind tunnel and CFD time allowed for the following 12 months.
FIA regulate to level the playing field
Further capping the price a power unit manufacturer can charge its customers and the architecture freeze on power units until the new regulations are enforced in 2026 are all designed to bring the field back towards the all dominant Mercedes.
Of course the biggest shake up in car design regulations introduced for 2022 has had the biggest effect and as the cost cap matures and develops to include the cost of power units together with other planned changes the F1 field should continue to close up.
However, speaking to Sky’s every driver Monday Jenson Button believes we will see something “epic” during the 2023 season.
Stable F1 regulations for 2023
Next year the car design regulations are fairly stable so the march Red Bull Racing stole on the field should begin to shrink. Further under the handicap system Red Bull Racing have the least aero development time and a further reduction for their minor cost cap breach.
Next season will be the second with the current technical rules, which were brought in to promote closer racing. Mercedes adapted poorly last year while Red Bull and Ferrari came flying out of the traps, in terms of car performance.
“It’s going to take a couple of years even with the cost cap, for the teams that are closer to the rear to really fight at the front, but it’s possible, definitely. There’s no reason why they can’t, especially if they have the right personnel and the right driver line-up. Anything is possible.
“Three teams would be mega. We all love it when there are more teams involved. When it’s two drivers in the same team fighting for a championship, yeah, it’s fine if the racing is good. But we like other teams.
“We love the teams fighting as well as the drivers. I loved that fight between Toto and Christian off-track as well as the action on-track. The last time we had three teams was back in 2010, where it was McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull all fighting for the world championship. Bring it on. I think we’ll have an epic season next year.”
Red Bull worried about Mercedes 2023
Interestingly despite Mercedes woeful 2022 season, Red Bull Racing appear to be more concerned about their revised challenge than that of Ferrari.
Ferrari had by far the better car at the start of 2022 but a series of operational and mechanical failures saw them slip back towards Mercedes by the end of the year. Further, the Maranello team appear bent on pursuing the Manchester United post Fergie view of management and got rid of Mattia Binotto.
Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko recently declared they are “definitely” the team most likely to threaten Red Bull, adding: “They are the more stable team. And they have Hamilton.”
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