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Formula 1 United States GP

FIA: Wrong to “punish” Red Bull for its F1 dominance

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has said it would be wrong to “punish” Red Bull for its success in Formula 1, even if one-team domination is a turn-off for fans. 

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 2nd position, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Lando Norris, McLaren, 3rd position, celebrate on the podium

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull squad has won all but one grand prix this season and together they have already clinched both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship with five races remaining.

The scale of their stranglehold on F1 appears to have led to a fall-off in fan interest, and a recent report by social intelligence company Buzz Radar highlighted a big drop in social media engagement. 

The lack of excitement of the 2023 season has prompted some to suggest that F1’s bosses should intervene and try to level things up better at the front to make it more of a show next year.

But while Ben Sulayem is open to any idea that would guarantee more excitement but be fair to all competitors, he said that the FIA will not consider anything that is aimed at deliberately holding a team back just because it is doing well. 

“It [domination] has happened so many times: just look at Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher,” said Ben Sulayem, when asked by Autosport if he had concerns about Red Bull’s run of success being a turn-off. 

“How to stop? It's a bit harsh and not right to go and punish success.  

“I'm open for suggestions if you think that there is a way to be fair and to be democratic, and not to just punish Max and his team or any other team. We're all ears here really. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position and 2023 drivers world champion, receives his Sprint race trophy from Mohammed ben Sulayem, President, FIA

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position and 2023 drivers world champion, receives his Sprint race trophy from Mohammed ben Sulayem, President, FIA

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“But I'm stuck like you. There's no way that the FIA will punish success, and it [one driver dominance] has happened before twice in my time.”  

While the FIA will not intervene to manipulate the show, it is looking at ways to help improve overtaking for 2025.

The new 2022 ground effect regulations were designed to help make it easier for cars to follow each other, but their effectiveness has waned since their introduction.

Recently the FIA’s head of single-seater matters Nikolas Tombazis outlined that team efforts to improve performance had had a negative impact on raceability - which is why it is looking at car tweaks.

“If we take the 2021 F1 cars, based on being two lengths from the car in front, they were losing more than 50% of the [aero] load,” he said. 

“With the 2022 single-seaters, there was only a 20% reduction in load. But now we are at about 35%. Surely there has been a worsening.” 

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One of the phenomena that has triggered this drop in effectiveness is that teams have better mastered the return of out-wash characteristics – which diverts disturbed airflow away from the car to help reduce drag. 

While this is good for individual performance, it has a consequence of making it harder for other cars to follow closely. 

Ben Sulayem was aware that the teams were pushing in directions that were forcing the FIA to respond, but did not think it was a bad thing. 

“They're getting smarter, but we have to be smarter than them,” he said.

“It is a good thing they are because they are making the level higher for us. Honestly, if they didn't, we'll be sitting there, like [stuck] on E5 fuel, when it comes to emissions.

“We would become lazy, and we would become not creative, and there would be no challenge.”

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