Why Red Bull’s all-conquering 2023 season is impressive but not the best ever

Red Bull have had a stunning year in F1 but it's not the best ever performance by a team


In command from the start, Red Bull finally wrapped up the 2023 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship with Max Verstappen‘s victory at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Not only have Red Bull secured its second consecutive constructors’ championship and the sixth since entering the sport in 2005, the Milton-Keynes-based outfit are on course for its most successful season in F1.

For 14 races, Red Bull retained a 100 percent win record until Ferrari ended their run in the Singapore GP, 35 years after the iconic Italian team stopped McLaren’s perfect season at the 1988 Italian GP.

But how does Red Bull’s dominant run compare to other seasons where one team ruled the roost?

Perfect season foiled by Ferrari again

Red Bull‘s winning streak in 2023, which started at the season-opener in Bahrain, stretched to 14 at the Italian GP in mid-September, with Verstappen wrapping up 10 consecutive wins to add to the achievement.

The streak ended at Singapore, a track known for tripping up other teams going through dominant runs and one in which Red Bull expected to be tough going.

Max Verstappen exits his pit box during the 2023 Singapore GP | Clive Rose / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

”I think we expected it to be probably our biggest challenge of the season, and I think we ended up in a window with the car, set-up-wise, that was suboptimal,” explained Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to the press.

”I think we recovered, to a degree, for the Grand Prix. Unfortunately, when you get into a situation where the Safety Car came out at just the wrong time for us, and then the VSC, almost even worse. Without that, we’d been in that group fighting for a podium.”

In 1988, McLaren was four laps away from becoming the first team to win every race in a season, if Ayrton Senna hadn’t been collected by backmarker Jean Louis Schlesser at the 1988 Italian GP.

Between 2014 and 2016, Mercedes lost eight out of 59 races, but hopes of a perfect season would evaporate by the first half because of mechanical issues or collisions between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Strong qualifying pace despite focus on races

Although they have the strongest car throughout most Grand Prix weekends, Red Bull have prioritised race pace over one-lap speed throughout 2023.

Five times in 2023, Verstappen and Perez haven’t started on pole position, yet on four occasions, Red Bull turned the tables by taking victory with gaps of at least 10 seconds to the nearest challenger.

Paul Monaghan joins Red Bull’s wace winner Max Verstappen and third-placed Sergio Perez on the podium for the 2023 Hungarian GP | Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Nonetheless, Red Bull have a robust car over one lap in an era where margins between first and 20th are generally separated by just under two seconds in an era where spending is monitored with the budget cap.

In seasons such as 2014, where unlimited spending was allowed, the margin between the fastest and slowest car was typically around four seconds, increasing the disparity between top teams such as Mercedes and backmarkers Marussia.

Red Bull has been strong on various types of circuits, helped by its superior straightline speed, making their RB19 a tremendous qualifying car, even if the record speaks otherwise.

Verstappen building his legacy amongst the best

Most dominant teams have at least one or two level drivers in their line-up, and for Red Bull, Verstappen is the leader spearheading their charge to further glory.

Since winning the 2022 Hungarian GP from 10th, Verstappen has won 79 percent of F1 races and produced countless dominant performances, placing on the tip of becoming the fifth driver to win three consecutive world championships.

One of the reasons behind Verstappen‘s success is his ability to combine raw speed with an ability to think about the race ahead and when to attempt decisive moves, which can make the difference between winning and losing.

Japanese GP 2023 winner Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing poses with the trophy | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

”I think he just gets sharper and sharper,” added Horner. ”The raw speed and ability has been there from day one, but now he couples that with experience and how he reads the race.”

Unlike Senna and Hamilton, who had to contend with equally quick teammates during their respective teams’ dominant period, Perez is 177 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ championship ahead of the 2023 Qatar GP.

Perez had started 2023 with wins in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, but after a crushing defeat to Verstappen in Miami, the Mexican’s form nosedived and he has only finished on the podium four more times.

Newey’s expertise pays off as rivals wilt

When F1 teams were left scratching their heads at how to deal with porpoising, following the introduction of ground effect-based regulations in 2022, Red Bull could rely on Adrian Newey to fix the issue.

Newey worked with ground effect at Fittipaldi in 1980. His expertise and ability to design a quick and innovative car helped secure Red Bull’s first constructors championship since 2013.

Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Helmut Marko at the Saudi Arabain GP | Lars Baron / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull‘s gain is the competition’s loss, as only Ferrari has been able to put up some semblance of competition, even if 2023 was ultimately a year to forget for the Scuderia.

One team’s dominance comes at the expense of multiple teams fighting for victories, except in 1995, as Williams pushed Benetton throughout the season, with both teams winning 16 out of that season’s 17 Grand Prix.

Impressive, but not the greatest

Although the perfect season and lack of competition have made 2023 a forgettable season for F1, Red Bull‘s year must rank highly amongst other dominant seasons.

Not only has Red Bull been a class above their competition, but the combination of Verstappen, Newey and Honda may continue to dominate F1 until regulations change in 2026.

Except for the Las Vegas GP, it’s hard to find a specific track where Red Bull won’t be favourites to add more trophies for an already expanding trophy cabinet. 

Max Verstappen celebrates Red Bull’s 2023 Constructors’ Championship victory with his team after the Japanese GP | Mark Thompson / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

However, it still isn’t the greatest dominant season in modern-day F1, as without Senna‘s late-race contretemps with Schlesser at Monza, McLaren‘s 1988 season would have been perfect.

Similarly, Mercedes should have achieved a 100 percent record in 2016 if Rosberg and Hamilton hadn’t collided on the opening lap in Spain or not been taken out or, in the latter’s case, an engine failure when leading in Malaysia.

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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