F1 pundit suggests only Toto Wolff and FIA can stop Red Bull now

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff with a jersey around his shoulders and a smile. Mexico October 2022

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff with a jersey around his shoulders and a smile. Mexico October 2022

Ex-F1 driver turned pundit Christian Danner feels Max Verstappen and Red Bull are title-bound in F1 2023, unless Mercedes boss Toto Wolff can get the FIA involved.

The current season may still be in its early stages, but Red Bull’s invincibility over the opening three rounds already has many calling off the title race.

All pole positions and race wins on offer so far have gone Red Bull’s way, the team now 58 points clear of closest challenger Aston Martin, while reigning World Champion Max Verstappen continues to lead the way from Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in the Drivers’ Championship.

Meanwhile, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari have been left to fight among themselves in the quest to be recognised as ‘best of the rest’.

And speaking to Motorsport-Magazin.com, former F1 driver Danner said it would be a “fairy tale” to consider any scenario other than Verstappen becoming a three-time World Champion this season.

That is, however, as long as the FIA do not get involved, with Formula 1’s regulator far from unaccustomed to ushering in a rule change or Technical Directive knowing the potential it has to impact the pecking order.

Red Bull benefitted from the most recent rule shift in time for F1 2022, which unleashed these ground-effect challengers, while as for Technical Directives in-season, Ferrari found out how much they can bite in 2019 when one issued in regards to the power units coincided with a sudden drop in form.

Even last season’s Technical Directive in a bid to combat porpoising was claimed by some to have set the Scuderia back.

So to that point, Danner suspects Red Bull and Verstappen are home and dry “unless there is something about the car that is not one hundred per cent clean”.

“We’ve seen superior cars blackened often enough with a Technical Directive,” he added.

Danner was keen to stress that he was not suggesting in any way that Red Bull were bending the rules, crediting the team for doing a “fantastic job”, though he suspects someone who will be looking for a way to clip Red Bull’s wings is Mercedes boss Wolff.

Mercedes are planning major changes to their W14 which will see its “layout” change in a bid to narrow that gap to Red Bull.

“Let’s wait and see what happens. Knowing Toto Wolff, he has his own department that only looks at what can be found somewhere,” Danner suggested.

“Firstly to copy it himself and secondly to put obstacles in the way of the opponent. I’m pretty sure of that.”

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Red Bull deserve respect, but this is F1

The fact of the matter is that Red Bull have done a far better job than their rivals in this new era of Formula 1, something which simply must be applauded, even if it is not the best situation for the viewers, and of course, their competitors.

Formula 1 though is a cutthroat business, and if any rival team senses even the slightest opportunity to peg Red Bull back in ways beyond simply making their own car faster, then they will do exactly that.

Red Bull has already had a brush with the FIA through their minor breach of the 2021 cost cap, for which they received a hefty fine and were docked 10 per cent of their allotted wind tunnel time, a restriction which the likes of Ferrari have already branded rather soft considering it is yet to have any impact.

Already then the vultures are swirling somewhat for Red Bull, and if the upcoming development war does not bring them back within reach, then we may well see other tactics come into play in a bid to provide Red Bull with any sort of threat.