F1 racer turned pundit Martin Brundle believes escalating downforce levels and the cost cap are doing the quality of the F1 2023 show few favours.
As teams begin to discover huge chunks of performance in the second season with these ground-effect Formula 1 cars, lap times are already as much as a couple of seconds faster, this even prompting Pirelli to introduce a stronger tyre construction as of the British Grand Prix.
But in the process of these performance gains, talk has emerged that it is becoming tougher again for drivers to closely follow each other, this criticism particularly prevalent after a rather lacklustre Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
And indeed, Brundle believes this and perhaps the decision to raise the floor edges for F1 2023, in a bid to combat the bouncing phenomenon that is porpoising, is combining to mean that F1’s key objective for these regulations is “beginning to fade away”.
“I think something that is hitting this season quite hard is as the teams have loaded the cars up with downforce, and maybe the regulation change over the winter to lift the skirts to get rid of some porpoising and bouncing,” said Brundle on the Sky Sports F1 podcast.
“I think it’s undoubtedly harder to follow and stay close and generally race around another Formula 1 car, and it’s bound to be, because that’s what the teams are there to do, they’re there to load their car up with downforce and grip, and that means that the driver behind is going to struggle more.
“The essence of what the 2022 cars were all about is beginning to fade away.”
Also not ideal when it comes to on-track entertainment is the fact that right now, without circumstances combining to make the perfect storm, Red Bull are essentially unbeatable in race conditions.
The team has taken four one-two finishes from the opening five grands prix, and already have built an advantage of 122 points over closest rivals Aston Martin.
Mercedes and Ferrari are believed to be preparing major upgrades as they look to close the gap, though Brundle pointed out that the cap on what teams can spend may mean that such teams now must wait until next season to fully undo the damage of getting their “fundamental packages wrong”.
This, of course, is not good news for the majority who wish to see Red Bull face some resistance in their pursuit of a second title double in as many years.
Asked if the volume of races, with 23 grands prix and six sprint races set for F1 2023, is impacting development, Brundle replied: “Well, it’s a challenge for the teams.
“Obviously, if you have accidents, Alpine have had a shocking run in terms of lots of broken parts and Charles Leclerc is having a good go at dismantling his Ferrari as well from time to time, but I think it’s the cost cap that’s making the bigger difference. But part of that is going to so many races as well.
“I think in terms of the development, they’ve got their fundamental packages wrong, some of them, it happens and they might be next winter before they can even address that.”
Brundle was keen to point out though that the budget cap has been far from bad news overall for Formula 1, and argued that at the most recent outing in Miami for example, that Grand Prix would have been a “stormer” considering the action behind if the runaway Red Bull drivers were not factored in.
Therefore, he believes things must be kept in “perspective” when complaints are made over the entertainment levels of Formula 1 racing right now.
“But the cost cap has really energised Formula 1 in some other respects too, so I wouldn’t knock it,” Brundle continued.
“But if you took Red Bull out of the equation right now, that would have been a stormer of a Grand Prix from the front to the back of the grid. So I think we need to just keep a perspective on it.”
That being said, Brundle’s Sky F1 colleague Karun Chandhok argues competition for Red Bull is “key” if some brilliant F1 action is to come our way during the remainder of the season.
And while Sergio Perez is keeping Red Bull team-mate and Championship leader Max Verstappen on his toes, taking two grand prix victories to Verstappen’s three, Chandhok still doubts it is a challenge which Perez can sustain.
“I think competition for me is key,” he said, “and I think at the moment, we’re somewhat lacking that.
“We’ve got an inter-team battle, but all things being equal, we all kind of expect Max to come out on top. Checo has had a couple of blinding races so far this year, and all credit to him for especially what he did in Jeddah, and the second stint in Baku, but I think on the whole, we need more than one team.
“And if I look back at my favourite seasons of Formula 1, it’s involved having two, three, four teams in the fight and we want to arrive on Saturday morning not knowing what the top six is going to be on the grid.
“Miami, we had that jumbled grid, but because [Charles] Leclerc and Verstappen made mistakes.”
Verstappen currently holds an advantage of 14 points over Perez in the Drivers’ standings heading into the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.