Dominance is part of Formula 1’s DNA since it began, fans are not used to long periods of winning by a team and a driver, as is happening right now with Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
The soon-to-be triple F1 World Champion has launched the Verstappen-era, where every weekend the question is no longer: “What can beat Max?” but rather “How much will Max win by?”
The Dutch ace has inherited the mantle of F1 serial-winner from Lewis Hamilton, the Briton the most dominant driver in the sport’s history, as his seven titles and 195 podium finishes, of which 103 were Grand Prix victories, testify.
Thus Hamilton knows a thing or two about dominating in F1 and told BBC Radio5: “Ultimately that’s the issue for a long time within our sport, here was always large chunks of dominance. I had it and I was really, really fortunate to have it here with this team. Michael [Schumacher] had it, Seb [Vettel] had it, now it’s Max’s period. There’s no telling how long that will be.
“When we were dominant, the best years were when we were fighting when we had the close battle with Red Bull [and] Ferrari. On some of the other times when the gap was a little bit bigger, that wasn’t really the most fulfilling period of time.
“That’s where Max is. Ultimately, him and his team have just done a better job than everyone else. You cannot take it away from them,” acknowledged Hamilton.
Dominance is part of F1’s legacy and even its attraction
Fans who started following F1 around 2014 and onwards, until Verstappen started winning his titles, they had only known Mercedes and Hamilton (Nico Rosberg once) winning f1 titles. Mercedes gobbling up 15 F1 titles in eight years. Those must be the most die-hard fans the sport has, but they get it.
Prior to those, the folks who came on board the F1 train circa-2010 have only known, Red Bull and Mercedes winning titles, first when Vettel went on his four-year binge and then when the new hybrid PU era kicked in the monotony of an era the Silver Arrows owned.
Schumacher of course dominated at the turn of this century for five predictable years. That great Ferrari era was superseded by the afternoon snooze-inducing Senna-Prost era which marked McLaren’s period of F1 rule.
Why is this even a problem? Because the perfect marketing storm of F1 booming in the USA at just the right time, with one of the most epic seasons of all time, namely the 2021 F1 World Championship war between Verstappen and Hamilton. A season for the ages, possibly the most intense one ever.
One that also ticked every box possible to attract fans, it had all the ingredients, danger, violence, hatred, and incredible race driving delivering unforgettable bare-knuckled contests between Max and Lewis. It was box office stuff, as Netflix’s Drive to Survive proved. And a bunch of what we’ll call “2021 F1 Noobs” hit the F1 scene, and made a lot of noise.
Hamilton: I don’t dream of having a dominant period ever again for myself
But over the past two seasons that has quietened down as they too realise that 2021 was very much an anomaly. Today, they switch on the telly to watch on-track warfare, but instead of a Blue car landing on top of a Silver car (aka Monza) they have the Blue car disappearing into the blue. And really, that Noobs don’t care much for second place.
Thus F1, enjoying a massive boost in popularity risks a welcome drain of the brainless, who are living a reality check of what the sport is about.
With the reality different to what F1 2021 season was all about, Hamilton suggests such cycles of F1 dominance should be avoided in the future: “As a sport we have to have a conversation about how we can set it up to be better for the future, so we have tighter races.
“If possible, the pack is closer, and we have close battles between a Red Bull and a Ferrari and a Mercedes and an Aston. That would be epic. That’s my dream because I grew up racing karts and it was wheel-to-wheel close battling.
“I don’t dream of having a dominant period ever again for myself, winning multiple championships in a row. The hope is that you would be in the battle at least, amongst God knows how many.”
Lewis: It’s been character-building last year and this year
As for the end of his own era of dominance and struggles to make the podium let alone win, Hamilton fired a subtle warning to his rivals: “These are the years that really, really build us. So, it’s been character-building last year and this year.
“What I’m preparing myself for is when they finally get the car together. When we do, I’ll be ready. That’s what I’m trying to prepare myself for,” added Hamilton, obviously talking about an eighth F1 title shot, to finally usurp Micahel Schumacher as the pair share seven F1 championships apiece.
For that to happen, Sir Lewis needs a winning car, which he has not had for the past two seasons and there is no guarantee of a way back amid an increasingly tighter field of 19 cars, apart from the one doing all the winning for the past six races.
Hamilton’s F1 winners trophy cabinet has not been opened since the 103rd one he won back in 2021, in Jeddah. Which marked the beginning of his current longest F1 win-less streak in his illustrious career.
Next up, the Hungarian Grand Prix will be 38-year-old Hamilton’s 321st F1 start at a venue where he has won an incredible eight times, and a good enough place to end that top step of the podium drought. If he can stop Verstappen’s dominance, of course.