David Coulthard doesn’t believe Max Verstappen’s second title in as many years heralds the start of the ‘Verstappen era’ given the trials Red Bull are facing next season.
Verstappen successfully defended his World title this year, following up what was a tense 2021 battle with a relatively easy stroll to the 2022 title, with the driver winning 15 of 22 grands prix.
After a short-lived challenge from Ferrari early in the campaign, it was all Verstappen with the Red Bull driver stringing together a run of five straight wins either side of the mid-season point to ensure it was just about a done deal.
He wrapped it up in Japan, winning the title with four races to spare, while two weeks later Red Bull clinched the Constructors’ titles for their first double since 2013.
Next year, however, they are expected to face a sterner test with Mercedes having made great progress in the latter part of the season while Ferrari under new leadership are expected to learn from 2022’s mistakes.
Added to that Red Bull will also be on the back foot when it comes to R&D, the team hit with a 10 per cent reduction in wind tunnel and CFD time having been found guilty of breaching last year’s budget cap ceiling.
While the Milton Keynes squad was always going to have less time than any other team based on the aerodynamic testing restrictions’ sliding scale having won the Constructors’ title, their allotted 70% has now been slashed to 63%.
As such Coulthard says they may come up short in designing a title-winning car in the years to come.
“The Verstappen era may well be over after two titles,” the former F1 driver turned pundit told Formule1.nl.
“Not because he’s not a brilliant driver, but he may not have a title-winning car in the coming seasons. Nobody knows that in advance.”
Rivals weigh in on talk of ‘Verstappen era’
Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc recently weighed in on suggestions that Formula 1 is witnessing the beginning of the Verstappen era.
Hamilton is a driver who knows all about eras, the Briton having played a huge part in Mercedes’ run of seven successive championship doubles, winning six of the Drivers’.
His reign ended last season when Verstappen overtook him on the final lap in Abu Dhabi to snatch the race win and the World title in what was a winner-takes-all season finale.
“It is too early to say,” said the 37-year-old. “If we get into next year and they’re dominating again, then yes, but the Ferraris have been quicker than them throughout qualifying.
“I think they’ve every single lap probably had better performance on the majority of a lot of the season.
“Now, all they need to do is pick up their race pace, and they’ll be right with them. I think we’ve got a much, much bigger step and steeper hill to climb, but hopefully not impossible.”
As for Leclerc, he said: “I hope not. I will do everything I can to prevent that and as a team we are also working on that.”