The record for most consecutive Grand Prix (GP) competitions won by a Formula 1 (F1) driver was broken at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track last month by none other than — you guessed it — Max Verstappen.
The Flying Dutchman’s impressive yet predictable display of driving prowess at the 2023 Italian GP secured the three-time champion his 12th race victory of the season and 10th consecutive win ‘on the trot.’ This shattered the record previously held by former Red Bull Racing pilot Sebastian Vettel, who in 2013 won nine successive races en route to his fourth straight World Drivers’ Championship (WDC) crown.
Red Bull Racing — Verstappen’s current team — has secured the top podium spot in 16 of the 17 races held in 2023 thus far. Although Red Bull’s streak of 15 consecutive wins — dating back to Verstappen’s triumph at the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP — was broken at Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit on September 17 by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, it’s safe to say that the Milton Keynes-based outfit’s reign over F1 will not be vamoosing us fans anytime soon.
Fans have been eager to witness a different team claim first place all year long, or at least put up a fight against the six-time world champions. This then begs the question: has F1 become boring due to Verstappen and Red Bull’s supremacy?
Dominance is customary in F1
Periods of dominance by one team are not uncommon in F1. Between 2014 and 2021, Mercedes won seven WDCs — six by Lewis Hamilton and one by Nico Rosberg — and eight World Constructors’ Championships (WCC). From 2010 to 2013, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull won four WDCs and WCCs. From 1999 through 2004, Ferrari won six WCCs, while Michael Schumacher claimed five WDCs in that stretch.
Given how often one driver or team is seen dominating the sport in successive seasons, it is relatively peculiar to hear a myriad of fans, pundits, and drivers complaining about ‘Mad Max’ and Red Bull’s ongoing spell of predictability. Some have even asserted that one-team dominant eras of F1 have directly led to a decrease in fandom and viewership.
Yet they couldn’t be more wrong.
What the numbers suggest
It is fair to state that F1 in 2023 has been relatively dry compared to recent years, which have seen the season’s winners decided by the smallest of margins. Verstappen officially sealed the lid on the drivers’ championship last weekend after finishing second in the sprint event at the Qatar GP, rendering the season’s remaining five races rather meaningless as the chasing pack now fights for consolation prizes and the “best-of-the-rest” title.
However, F1 has continued to see an uptick in television viewership, particularly in North America. Sports Illustrated reported that F1 wrapped up the first half of its 2023 season with record audience numbers. Across the two television networks, ESPN and ABC had seen an average of 1.24 million viewers per race for the first 12 races of the season — slightly higher than the previous record-breaking 2022 average of 1.21 million.
Furthermore, the 2023 season has garnered the records for the second, third, and fourth-largest live television audiences for an F1 race in US history. 1.96 million viewers tuned in for the Miami GP, 1.79 million for the Monaco GP, and 1.76 million for the Canadian GP. The inaugural 2022 Miami GP — a race where Verstappen emerged victorious at the checkered flag — still holds the record for most viewership with 2.6 million live viewers.
Following the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi GP in late November of last year, The Athletic revealed that the 2022 season saw a 28 per cent increase in television viewership from 2021.
This upsurge in viewership can also be due to the hype around Netflix’s sports docuseries, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.” However, it is undeniable that F1’s popularity has reached its pinnacle over the last two seasons — even during the dominant reign of ‘Super Max.’