Red Bull will not damage championship – Vowles
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 18th March, 2023 - 6:00pm
Will Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez continue to be all smiles and dominate the championship this year?
Williams team principal James Vowles has dismissed predictions of “absolute dominance” from Red Bull this season that could potentially damage the F1 championship.
The reigning constructors’ champions scored an easy one-two in the season-opening race in Jeddah, with two-time F1 drivers’ title holder Max Verstappen in crushing form.
Across practice for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen was again comfortably quickest, with his nearest rival in Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso two-tenths of a second adrift around the high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Verstappen’s form in Bahrain has already sparked suggestions he could surpass the record he set last year of 15 wins in a season en route to a third title triumph.
“Do I think Red Bull will dominate all through the season? No, I doubt it,” was Vowles’ frank assessment, speaking to selected media, including Speedcafe.com, ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
“I think you’ll see Ferrari a lot closer to them here, and it’d be tracks like Silverstone, Barcelona, where Mercedes will be mighty as a result of what I know of their package.
“However, on balance across the season, do I think they’re the fastest? Yes.”
Referring to the penalty imposed last season for breaching the budget cap, Vowles added: “But they still have a wind tunnel deficit.
“It’s not as big as I necessarily think it should be to balance things out, but it’s still there, and it will still mean across the season that you’ll see other people moving towards them.
“And with the rules carrying over to next year, you have to keep developing this car, so things will close up.”
Races will be unpredictable
Despite early suggestions of a runaway success, Vowles feels there will be “ups and downs throughout the year”, preventing “this absolute dominance that will be boring”.
“What makes an exciting championship? For me, you need odd races, not necessarily every single race, where there’s competition, and you can’t predict who’s going to win the race, and I think you will see that this season,” expressed the 43-year-old.
“As long as, on average at most tracks, you have a fight between two gladiators properly duking it out, rather than what happened in Bahrain, where Verstappen was just cruising, then you’re not damaging the championship at all.
“If we have 20-odd races like that, clearly, it won’t help our championship, but I don’t think that’s what we’re going to have.”
Mercedes did not dominate every year
If Verstappen did dominate, however, would that be any worse than Mercedes’ imperious performances following the introduction of the new power unit regulations from 2014?
Mercedes was constructors’ champions for eight successive years, and won seven successive drivers’ titles – six for Lewis Hamilton and one for Nico Rosberg.
Yet Vowles, who helped strategise most of those triumphs in his former role with the team, insisted Mercedes did not have it all their own way.
“As much as everyone called it dominance, in 2019, we weren’t leading the championship, it was a scrap, the same in 2018,” said Vowles.
“In 2016, we did our own really good job of basically trying to throw it away, so you always get stories throughout the season that create what you’re looking for.
“And I’m pretty sure that the scrap you’re going to see behind that is enough that it becomes unpredictable, and a story.
“I just think this year, the camera panning back a little bit to see who else is competing for the podium, you’ll still see some good racing through the field.”
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