Verstappen is driver of the century! What we learned from the F1 year

This year saw F1 conquer Vegas, Toto Wolff’s bark is now worse than his bite and dominant Dutchman Max Verstappen stands tall as the driver of the CENTURY! Nine things we learned from the F1 season

  • Max Verstappen broke records yet again in another supreme season at the top
  • Mercedes failed to win a race and Toto Wolff cut a frustrated figure this season
  • Las Vegas brought the razmatazz to the F1 calendar for the first time since 1982

Max Verstappen’s haul of 575 points this season was the most F1 has ever seen and with three titles to his name he stands in a pantheon of five greats.

Only Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, and Juan Manuel Fangio have reached that total and next year he could become the second man to clinch four in a row.

Red Bull swept away the competition, leaving Toto Wolff’s Mercedes trailing in their wake and Ferrari wondering how on earth to come close. 

It was another year of progress for McLaren, who could be Red Bull’s closest competitors in 2024, while George Russell should consider his future after playing second fiddle to Hamilton again. 

With the engines turned off after a marathon 22-round season, Mail Sport’s Jonathan McEvoy looks back on a year dominated by one man and his machine. 

Max Verstappen won a record 19 races out of 22 to steam to his third Drivers’ Championship

He now stands tall with the all-time greats of Formula 1, setting another points record for a year

Driver of the century

Never mind driver of the year, Max Verstappen has not only made a bonfire of the record books, but barely had an off-day en route to the most foregone conclusion of a world championship ever witnessed.

It turned into a bore and then into a phenomenon. 

Trying to pinpoint an aspect of Max’s unique talent, someone at Red Bull told me they marvel at his extreme fearlessness.

Mercedes mirage

An even worse year than last for the Silver Arrows, if only for revealing that muddle and indecision is ingrained. They ought to have ditched their car concept earlier – it was fundamentally a dud. Lewis Hamilton realised this earlier than the boffins, demanding change.

Mike Elliott, technical director, decided to move himself (ahem!) sideways and later departed the organisation altogether. But who gave him the job in the first place, and who kept him there too long?

Their most competitive showing came driving an illegal car in the US. Then it was back to normal.

It was a challenging year for Mercedes which only improved after Lewis Hamilton demanded that they ditch their concept car 

Technical director Mike Elliott left during another woeful season for the Silver Arrows 

Viva Las Vegas!

So sang Verstappen on winning the inaugural race on the Strip. But he was also very outspoken about the elevation of the ‘show’ over the ‘sport’, as he perceived it.

His words were a timely warning to the sport’s owners Liberty Media not to trade in the DNA of motor racing for endless Superbowl-style glitz. 

But agree or otherwise, it was welcome that the world champion broke through the banalities of press conferences to state an opinion.

Formula 1 hit the streets of Las Vegas for the first time since 1982 with no expenses spared 

However, Verstappen questioned the elevation of show over sport, with Vegas the third US-based race on the calendar

Ferrari frustration

A small tip of the hat to the Scuderia for breaking Red Bull’s monopoly in Singapore through Carlos Sainz. But, that apart, it was another dire year for Formula One’s most successful team.

Charles Leclerc, very fast, still has to show he can operate at Verstappen’s level. 

Trying to prove that to himself may be why he is prone to overextending to the point of making errors. 

Sainz had a decent year, finishing six points behind Ferrari’s top earner, Leclerc.

Carlos Sainz (left) was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race but Ferrari will be disappointed with finishing third

McLaren revival

Aston Martin started as the nearest challengers to Red Bull, but fell away somewhat. 

It is McLaren that improved in leaps and bounds. Credit to chief executive Zak Brown for making Andrea Stella his team principal. The Italian’s clear-headed technical leadership has worked wonders.

The best chance of a contest breaking out in 2024 lies with the British team, 16 years since Hamilton won their last world championship.

British boys

Lando Norris has impressed hugely, but he can be his own worst enemy with irksome mistakes, including his latest qualifying slip in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps notching his maiden win would settle him.

Red Bull are among those keeping an eye on Norris, but McLaren’s upturn means they are hopeful of keeping hold of their protégé when his contract expires post-2025.

George Russell has not been the force he was last year, when he outperformed even Hamilton. The pair are level in qualifying, but Russell has not raced as guilefully as Hamilton for the most part.

The team is geared-up to serve Hamilton. Russell should seriously consider whether he is happy to play second fiddle to the main man for the foreseeable future.

Applause for Russell’s best mate, London-born Thai Alex Albon, a consistent star at a Williams team improved by new boss James Vowles (up to seventh from 10th last year).

McLaren could become Red Bull’s closest challengers next season after a year of progress

They have hope of holding on to Lando Norris beyond 2025 despite Red Bull taking notice  

George Russell should consider his Mercedes position as Hamilton remains their main man

Alonso’s Peter Pan

The Spaniard remains impressive into his 43rd year. His brilliant third place in Brazil for Aston Martin was a case in point as he held for so long and finally re-passed the superior Red Bull of Sergio Perez.

His form sustains 38-year-old Hamilton’s belief in his own longevity.

I am pleased Alonso’s team-mate Lance Stroll has shrugged off his mid-late season torpor and apparent loss of confidence. 

People say he has it easy being the boss’s son. Yes, in a way. But it can act as a golden cage. Good luck to him.

Fernando Alonso came fourth for Aston Martin this season and his form sustains Hamilton’s belief in his own longevity

Horner’s triumph

Christian Horner has orchestrated a remarkable feat at Red Bull. 

History indicates F1 empires crumble in the afterglow of sustained success, which Red Bull enjoyed in spades between 2010 and 2013. Williams are the best example of decline. McLaren, too. 

But Red Bull are back riding a second high wave, and under the same leadership. So acclaim where it is due.

Christian Horner deserves credit for orchestrating a second era of success at Red Bull

Toto’s tantrum

Of several ungracious remarks from the ostensibly urbane Toto Wolff, take his reaction to Verstappen’s unprecedented perfect 10 wins from 10 races.

‘I don’t know if he (Verstappen) cares about records,’ said the Austrian, showing the pressure of the job might be getting to him. ‘It is not something that would be important for me. It is for Wikipedia, and nobody reads that anyway.’

Wikipedia should sue.

Toto Wolff has often cut a troubled figure with multiple ungracious outbursts this season

Source: Read Full Article