Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 26.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day.
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali expects Red Bull’s rivals to reduce the reigning champion’s consistent advantage in race trim next season.
Red Bull enjoyed unparalleled dominance across the past year, winning every race bar one and wrapping up the Constructors’ Championship with record rounds to spare.
Both the team and Max Verstappen broke the previous benchmarks for consecutive victories, as the Dutchman ended the campaign with 19 wins from 22 races.
Verstappen’s seventh straight triumph to round out the year in Abu Dhabi saw him overtake Sebastian Vettel for F1 career wins, placing him outright third on the all-time list.
“I would say congratulations to Max,” Domenicali expressed to Sky F1. “He has set something impressive in terms of maturity – in terms of standards – to Red Bull.”
Despite Red Bull’s relentless supremacy in race conditions, the Austrian outfit was usurped for pole position on eight occasions – including at three of the last five rounds.
Meanwhile, the opening stage of qualifying in Abu Dhabi saw the entire grid separated by less than a second, granting Domenicali hope the field will also close up in race trim.
“You see Saturday in qualifying, 20 cars [covered] in less than one second,” Domenicali acknowledged. “So in qualifying, we are very, very close.
“Of course, race pace is different and I think that this will be the major thing that we’re going to see different [about] next year.”
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 leads Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23 at the start of the race. 26.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day.
Although Lewis Hamilton cautioned that catching Red Bull will be unlikely in 2024, Domenicali pointed to McLaren’s progress as evidence of the gains that can be made.
The Woking-based entry opened the year struggling to even score points, but a sizeable mid-season upgrade transformed the side into regular podium contenders.
“To the ones that were saying with the budget cap you cannot develop the car, I would say McLaren proved that is not right,” Domenicali added.
Asked if he therefore thinks the battle at the sharp end will be closer next season, Domenicali answered: “I think so.
“Even if, 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 are being contradicted. But I’m sure 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.”
Domenicali has also denied that Red Bull’s crushing ascendancy in the latest ground effect regulation era has damaged the sport’s continued growth in popularity.
“The awareness of F1 and the growth of our sport is really magic,” the Italian highlighted.
“Our focus is to make sure that the people that are avid fans like us can really believe in the sport, but also people that really are not avid fans, but they love what we are building up can be connected to us. And then it’s our duty to develop the culture of F1. This is really the beautiful challenge that we have.”
Keyword: Domenicali expects rivals to close Red Bull race pace gap in 2024