Have you been turned o Formula 1 by the ‘Max Factor’? |f so, it’s understand­able. Red Bull’s star driver set a raft of new records in 2023 on his way to a third consecutiv­e world title: most wins in a season (19 of 22 races), most consecutiv­e wins (10) and a mammoth points haul (575) that would have secured the constructo­rs’ title even without Sergio Perez’s contributi­on (285). But the stat that really tells the story of the year is laps led. Verstappen managed 1003 across the 22 races. Perez was next on the list – on 146.

F1’s chief technical o’cer Pat Symonds (pictured) is the man behind the regulation­s, and he has some theories on the quality of the racing. Picking two circuits at random, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina and Silverston­e, Symonds compared the figures from 2021 (the last year with the old regulation­s) to 2022 and 2023. Silverston­e’s data suggests the quality of racing declined from 2022 to 2023 – even if the probabilit­y of overtaking actually went up – although both sets of figures are better than 2021’s. That final point is the main draw for Symonds. ‘Between 2021 and 2022 we made a significan­t di erence to the ability of a car to follow closely and hence to overtake,’ he says. ‘That’s reflected anecdotall­y in what the drivers were saying too. |n 2023 it was not quite as good as ’22. |n Abu Dhabi, yes, we got more overtakes last year, but the probabilit­y says it was a little bit harder. Overall, the field is closer – less close than 2022 but still miles better than ’21.’

So why didn’t F1 2023 feel ‘better’? ‘What made it more di’cult in 2023 was Verstappen,’ says Symonds. ‘|f you took him away there was some fabulous racing going on.’

Symonds engineered Michael Schumacher to his world titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 and was technical director Fernando Alonso’s back-to-back successes with the same team in 2005 and 2006. ‘Red Bull have done a fabulous job; their car is wonderful,’ he says. ‘But it’s a bit like Benetton in 1994, where the car and the driver are completely at one. |f Perez had been the lead driver at Red Bull last year the racing would have been totally di erent.’

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