As Sebastian Vettel continues his reign atop Formula One, it’s easy to forget that his four-year run of World Championships hasn’t always been easy. In fact, his titles in 2010 and 2012 each went down to the final race of the season.
And while Vettel romped to his fourth consecutive crown this past fall, one can argue that the current Formula One field remains very strong, too. So what will happen to the field when the new technical regulations must be coped with next year?
For his part, Vettel hopes those rules won’t have a negative impact.
“Next year with a lot of things changing, it is difficult to predict how it impacts on the racing,” Vettel said to Autosport. “I just hope it doesn’t split the cars too much, because what we had the last couple of years was a very tight battle between a lot of teams.”
Vettel additionally noted criticism of some of the races in 2013, but insisted that it wasn’t “entirely fair,” saying that the championship has ebbed and flowed from year to year in recent times.
“We have had very close championships, then we had championships which were not that close,” Vettel said. “But that is the way F1 has been in the past and it will probably continue like that in the future.”
For all the talk of the field possibly getting a good shake-up with the introduction of these new rules, another potential effect – stretching the already-wide gap between big teams like Red Bull and smaller teams even further – is also a possibility.
The first pre-season tests next month at Jerez may give a couple of glimpses into what the final outcome will be, but until then, everyone is subject to dealing with the unknown – even the World Champion.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.