Abiteboul says Red Bull dominance down to rival F1 teams

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Former Renault F1 team principal Cyril Abiteboul says that Red Bull's current complete dominance in the sport is the fault of rival F1 teams for not keeping up.

Red Bull won all but one race in 2023, and its final points tally was more than double the number won by runners-up Mercedes. Drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished 1-2 in the drivers standings, a first in Red Bull's history.

In doing so, they've surpassed the previous record set of Mercedes for most wins in a season, and broken McLaren's 1988 benchmark of consecutive victories as well as topping Alberto Ascari's 1955 record for wins-to-races ratio in a season.

Verstappen's immaculate performance behind the wheel combined with Adrian Newey's world-beating RB19 car design have been cited as the main reasons for Red Bull's iron grip on F1.

But Abiteboul, who abruptly departed Renault at the start of 2021 and now in charge of Hyundai’s venture in the FIA World Endurance Championship, reckons its the other teams that have allowed Red Bull to run away with things.

Abiteboul also said that the lack of any changes to the regulations until 2026 made it harder for other teams to find a way to catch up to Red Bull, and that he expected them to keep dominating in the interim.

“When there is a change in regulations, we can have a team who worked particularly well and who found a trick," he said. "But here in 2023, the regulations were already known.

"The other teams should have become more competitive," he added, while predicting that the gap will now start to narrow.

“If this situation drags on too long it would cause problems," he warned. "But I would be surprised if this dominance, as we have seen it this season, remains intact next season.

“By the next rule change in 2026, Red Bull will face more competition," he said.

Race winner and World Champion Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates with the team. 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

Speaking to franceinfo, Abiteboul described Max Verstappen’s current level of supremacy in the sport as “unprecedented”, and used Ferrari's reign under Michael Schumacher as a comparison.

“Ferrari’s dominance was at a time when F1 was much less competitive than it is now. Ferrari dominated with budgets and a structure that had nothing to do with the other teams," he said.

“For its part, Red Bull is a prestigious team, very well organised and financed, but it is not the only one. They dominate in an environment where the others are not weak.

“Red Bull has built itself as a team thanks to its ability to generate aerodynamic downforce, with very good modelling tools and a very good wind tunnel - very precise.

“They were also able to invest and concentrate on these precise points because they did not have to worry about the engine, supplied for a time by Renault then by Honda.”

And Abiteboul also credited Verstappen personally for putting the team so far ahead of its rivals in the last two seasons.

"Perez is far from being a handler or a junior [but] Max is exceptional," he said. “His apparent ease in overtaking is also linked to the fact that the drivers do not fight against him. They know that they cannot race with him,”

“Rather than wearing out their rubber to hold him back, they let it pass," pointing out that Verstappen currently holds a “psychological ascendancy” over the rest of the field.

Even so, Abiteboul said that the end of the season showed that F1 is never just about who wins the driver and constructors championships, and there are other aspects to keep interest alive in the sport.

“It’s a championship that has remarkable commercial dynamics, because it brings new things every year like the Las Vegas Grand Prix,” he argued. “There are many other interests than first place in the drivers’ championship.

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