F1 CEO Domenicali expects closer competition in 2024

Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 celebrates in parc ferme. 26.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
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Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says he expects a much closer championship battle next season, after a dominant runaway victory this year for Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing.

Verstappen clinched his third drivers championship in Qatar with six races in hand, ending up with 575 points compared to 285 for his team mate Sergio Perez, who took the runners-up spot by a comfortable margin over Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull claimed the constructors' crown even earlier after taking victory in the Japanese Grand Prix. The team had accrued 860 points in total in the final standings, over twice the tally of its closest rivals.

The extent of Red Bull's dominance in 2023 has led to demands for the FIA and Formula 1 to step in and do something to level the playing field and make races more competitive.

But Domenicali has resisted those calls, saying he expects the field to be a lot close next season and pointing to the example of McLaren as evidence that teams can indeed make rapid progress even during the season.

“With regard to the sporting side of it, I would say congratulations to Max,” Domenicali said. “It was something impressive in terms of maturity in terms of standards, to Red Bull.

"I'm sure that that's the aim of all the teams, to try to show the level of their engineering, the level of their capacity and capability to improve," he told Sky Sports F1 in Abu Dhabi at the weekend.

"As always I'm a guy that doesn't like to speak because there's always a lot of people who are speaking and then have been contradicted," he admitted.

Greg Maffei (USA) Liberty Media Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer with Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Formula One President and CEO on the grid. 18.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: XPB Images

Up to 2021 it had been Mercedes in command, but new regulations including a budget cap and the reintroduction of ground effect aerodynamics then tipped the balance of power firmly in favour of Red Bull.

No other team had been able to match the performance of the Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull. But Aston Martin did achieve a startling improvement over last winter to emerge as a front runner at the start of this season.

McLaren started poorly but then brought new upgrades from Austria onwards which saw it become a real contender for race wins in the latter half of the season. And in the final races, AlphaTauri's performance also showed sharp improvement.

"To the critics that will say with a budget cap you cannot develop the car, I would say McLaren proves that is not right," Domenicali said.

Given that a major overhaul in engine regulations will come into effect in 2026, Domenicali sees no point in rushing in interim measures based on this season's one-side competition.

“There are two years that are really crucial because then we're going to have a change, maybe related to the new balance of the power unit and so on," he argued.

And he added that looking past the power-house performance of Red Bull, the other teams were already very closely matched.

“You saw qualifying, 20 cars in less than one second," pointing to the outcome in Abu Dhabi. "So in qualifying we are very, very close.

“Of course race pace is different, and I think that these will be the major things that we're going to see different next year.”

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