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Unstoppable Verstappen is a MAJOR PROBLEM for F1

Unstoppable Verstappen is a MAJOR PROBLEM for F1

Unstoppable Verstappen is a MAJOR PROBLEM for F1

Unstoppable Verstappen is a MAJOR PROBLEM for F1

“Start the Jaws theme music.”

That’s what David Croft said as Max Verstappen closed in on Carlos Sainz to make the inevitable passing move on his way to making Formula 1 history.

The resistance lasted 15 laps and it was the only 15 laps of this Formula 1 season where it didn’t all feel like a foregone conclusion.

What the Dutchman is doing is absolutely remarkable, but F1 will suffer from the processional nature of his success this season.

For now, the huge audience the sport has gained – particularly in the USA and primarily through the phenomenal success of Drive to Survive – are holding just about steady, but that will not remain the case ad infinitum.

The growth, almost exponential at one point, has ground to a halt.

READ MORE: Best F1 TV commentators and presenters: GPFans Broadcaster Power Rankings

Domination – with some added help

Max Verstappen's Red Bull RB19 during the Italian Grand Prix

Of course, F1 has had periods in the past where one driver and team have dominated, but rarely has it felt like the sense of competition for the top spot on the podium is so moot in any given race.

I grew up watching Michael Schumacher in his pomp and remember vividly that it seemed, from race to race, that the right driver and the right car on the right day could challenge Schumi.

Right now, nobody can touch Max. Only his team-mate Sergio Perez has bested him on a couple of occasions, such is the obliterative nature of the RB19 Newey rocket ship.

Worse than that, even when anyone can gain track position via grid penalty or astonishing qualifying lap, their ability to defend over a long enough period to lock him out from taking victory is entirely negated by the artificiality of DRS.

There are few better tracks than Monza for diluting the effects of DRS (the cars run such skinny wings that the drag is already low and upon opening it up you don't really gain that much compared to other circuits), but Sainz could only do so much.

The Spaniard produced some marvellous defensive driving and fought with all his might to keep the position, but a single lock-up was enough for Verstappen – with the extra push of DRS to propel him – to move past him and quickly drive off into the distance.

Carlos Sainz secured a memorable pole position at Monza

The three-time world champion in waiting was almost a second ahead by the end of the lap and nearly five seconds in front by lap 20.

At that pace, of course, and with the pressure constantly being asserted on the Spaniard, it may well have been that Verstappen would have come to pass him anyway.

It’s inescapable, though, that it simply felt like a matter of time before it happened.

It’s inescapable that Sainz’s amazing pole lap, which was a real high point for excitement and drama this season, felt – even then – largely irrelevant. It just didn't matter for the race, with Verstappen behind him and DRS there as the magic overtake button.

It’s inescapable that fans, especially those drawn in by the box office 2021 season, will begin to turn off because of the lack of competition at the front.

Bring back REAL overtaking

When it was introduced, DRS was supposed to increase the excitement on track with the promise of more overtaking.

In many ways, and certainly in terms of raw numbers, that has worked – but overtakes which rely on the pace of the car, driver, and sheer racecraft are just far more impressive.

Alex Albon produced what I’d term a 'proper overtake' on Oscar Piastri for P6 on lap two before DRS was enabled. It was a stunning move.

It would have been far more impressive for Verstappen, even as the fastest driver in the fastest car, to have had to produce such a move to keep his streak going.

Max Verstappen has been an unstoppable force in F1 in 2023

When he eventually passed, there was the collective feeling in my household that the race, in terms of who was going to pass the chequered flag first, was over. I’m sure that was replicated in many, many other households around the globe.

Verstappen being the dominant force in F1 is not a major issue existentially for the sport.

Verstappen being an entirely unstoppable force is.

READ MORE: Jos Verstappen: His life in F1 and how he drove Max to greatness


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