Cyril Abiteboul identifies key difference between Red Bull and Ferrari F1 dominance eras

Michelle Foster
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc trails Red Bull's Max Verstappen in Bahrain.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc trails Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

That Red Bull’s dominance has come at a time when their rivals are “not weak” is what sets their era apart from Ferrari’s, saying Cyril Abiteboul.

Red Bull are, at least according to Lewis Hamilton, in the midst of the most dominant period ever seen in Formula 1 with the Milton Keynes squad winning all but six of the last 44 Grands Prix.

Building on last year’s championship double, the RB19, especially in the hands of Max Verstappen, destroyed its rivals as the Dutchman romped from one race win to another, 19 in total.

Red Bull’s dominance is not a first for F1

But the ruling Red Bull era is by no means Formula 1’s only period of dominance with Michael Schumacher winning five World titles from 2000 to 2004 while Mercedes took eight Constructors’ titles on the trot from 2014 to 2021.

Abiteboul believes the difference between Ferrari’s reign and Red Bull’s is that the latter does not have the massive off-track advantage that the Scuderia once held.

Labelling Verstappen’s dominance “unprecedented”, the former Renault team boss told franceinfo: “Ferrari’s dominance was at a time when F1 was much less competitive than it is now. Ferrari dominated with budgets and a structure that had nothing to do with the other teams.

“For its part, Red Bull is a prestigious team, very well organised and financed, but it is not the only one. They dominate in an environment where the others are not weak.”

Introducing the all-new ground-effect aerodynamic regulations in 2022, Formula 1 under Ross Brawn’s leadership put in months of “rule-busting”, as the former Ferrari man put it, to ensure no one team got a march on their rivals.

Abiteboul says as such Red Bull’s advantage is not because of a “trick”, it’s all about “downforce” and their rivals should’ve been able to achieve the sam.

“When there is a change in regulations,” he said, “we can have a team who worked particularly well, and who found a trick, but here in 2023, the regulations were already known.

“The other teams should have become more competitive.

“Red Bull has built itself as a team thanks to its ability to generate aerodynamic downforce, with very good modeling tools and a very good wind tunnel, very precise.

“They were also able to invest and concentrate on these precise points because they did not have to worry about the engine, supplied for a time by Renault then by Honda.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

The five longest winning streaks by one driver in F1

Ranked: The 10 best F1 driver pairings of the 21st century

Rivals ‘do not fight’ Max Verstappen

It’s just about Red Bull, though, it’s about their lead driver Verstappen.

Going from strength to strength since his first World title in 2021, the Dutchman obliterated his team-mate Sergio Perez this season with the Mexican driver on two wins to his team-mate’s 19.

He scored less than half of Verstappen’s points.

“Max is exceptional, but Perez is far from being a handler or a junior,” he said.

But, Abiteboul added, that Verstappen “has a psychological ascendancy” over his rivals as his dominance means they’d rather not be in a situation where they have to race him.

“The apparent ease that he can have in overtaking is also linked to the fact that the drivers do not fight against him. They know that they cannot race with him. Rather than wearing out their rubber to hold him back, they let it pass,” Abiteboul added.

The 46-year-old believes Red Bull and Verstappen’s dominance still has a few years to run.

“It’s a championship that has remarkable commercial dynamics, because it brings new things every year like the Las Vegas Grand Prix. There are many other interests than first place in the Drivers’ Championship,” he said.

But, he added: “If this situation drags on too long, it would cause problems, but I would be surprised if this dominance, as we have seen it this season, remains intact next season. By the next rule change in 2026, Red Bull will face more competition.”

Read next: Johnny Herbert pinpoints only way Max Verstappen F1 dominance could be stopped