The F1 2023 season may not have been the kind of cut-throat year that will leave a lasting impression on fans around the world, but it has left a subtle legacy.
Dominance by Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing perhaps made for a predictable year that may not have seemed to produce much impact, but that dominance has raised larger questions about Formula 1 and its future – questions that will have to be answered in the years to come.
Before we enter 2024 let’s take a look at the biggest legacies left by F1’s 2023 season, as well as how the sport can learn to grow from them.
While a growing calendar and evolving ruleset could mean that Formula 1 sees a more dominant World Champion than Max Verstappen in the future, it does seem highly unlikely.
Verstappen set records for the most wins in a season (19), the most points in a season (575), the biggest Championship-winning margin (290 points), the most consecutive race wins (10), and the total number of laps led (1,003).
With one single exception, any non-Verstappen win was scored by his team-mate.
Statisticians and record lovers may rejoice in what Verstappen and Red Bull accomplished in 2023, but for many fans the sport became a predictable slog.
The numbers may be impressive but the on-track product left much to be desired, leaving fans hoping that Verstappen’s records will stand for a very long time.
Is Advanced Tech Actually Good?
While the implementation of regulations like cost caps and the reintroduction of ground effect as a way to help F1 cars get closer together seemed like promising ideas in principle, the reality is that Formula 1 is still a highly stratified sport with one dominant team fielding one dominant driver.
It raises questions about what F1 should be prioritising: competition or advancement?
Historically, F1 has been seen as the most advanced racing championship in the world and that has been the result of large budgets and a rulebook often written in retrospect, after a dominant form of technology completely takes over the competition.
In 2023, F1 tried to balance competition and advancement for a second year in a row, but to little effect. High-budget teams like Red Bull Racing were able to exceed the cost cap with few punishments beyond fines.
The new regulations, which were fairly prescriptive, proved to make overtaking and close competition more difficult.
So even though F1 has “dumbed down” its regulations to prevent the kind of rampant technological development that has been critical to the sport’s progress, it has few competitive victories to show for it.
As F1 begins to plan its future, questions about competition will likely be at the forefront of its mind – but it will also have to reckon with its insistence that it be the most complex and advanced race series in the world; it has become clear that the two factors cannot exist side by side.
Finding New Fans…
When the COVID-19 pandemic confined many people to their homes, Netflix’s Drive to Survive helped both pass the time in quarantine and also introduce swaths of new fans to the sport.
F1’s quick return to racing in 2020 and its contentious 2021 season further helped grow the fanbase.
And in 2023, Formula 1 tried to capitalise on that growth. For the first time in decades, F1 once again has three races in America – and unlike the 1982 season, all three events were packed with fans.
As a result, F1 has increased its social media presence and approved more unconventional media spins on its races.
The Paddock Club at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, for example, featured countless beauty, fashion, or lifestyle influencers who were tasked with bringing F1’s glamor to new eyes and Instagram feeds.
It signals a strong shift away from the past, where F1 restricted social media usage and surrounded itself with sport-first media.
…And Keeping Them
But as diverse as F1 became in its pursuit of new fans, the sport also learned that it has struggled to keep them.
While the races themselves were often far from compelling – at least as far as the overall winner was concerned – other problems arose as fans attempted to engage with the sport in person.
Ticket prices skyrocketed and events sold out quickly. Swathes of lower-income fans began to realise that F1 did not consider them its target audience.
That came to a head at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, where ambitious ticket prices resulted in slow sales and drastically slashed entrance fees in the week building up to the event.
Some fans took delight in watching F1 humbled at what it had pegged as its biggest event of the year – and that’s a bad sign.
As the sport leaves 2023 behind and heads into 2024, maintaining the existing fanbase will be critical to the sport’s continued growth.
Without fan interest, there is no Formula 1.
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