Sky F1’s Natalie Pinkham says it is “ridiculous” that there seems to be an F1 fan culture of hating the dominant force, while she hopes Charles Leclerc can rise to World Champion prominence in the future.
Formula 1 is now very much in the era of Verstappen, the Red Bull driver claiming his third World Championship in a row with a record-shattering 2023 showing, winning 19 of the 22 grands prix held.
Such form has led to Verstappen being catapulted into conversations about the greatest driving talents Formula 1 has ever seen, though Verstappen’s success has not always been well received widely throughout the F1 fanbase.
‘Ridiculous’ that anti-dominant F1 driver fan culture exists
At various points during his remarkable F1 2023 campaign, Verstappen was subject to booing from fans in attendance, the same true for Lewis Hamilton when he was F1’s dominant driver before the Verstappen era.
So it was put to Pinkham, who was speaking at the Autosport International event, that F1 seems to have a problem where the lead driver becomes the least popular.
“But that’s ridiculous,” she responded.
“Because I think what we do in time is we look back and we recognise that we were genuinely lucky to have witnessed that.
“And Formula 1 is cyclical, people have purple patches, but ultimately, someone else will take over and it will be someone else’s time and actually we’re very lucky.
“Look back at now Sebastian Vettel’s domination of the sport and then you look at Lewis and now Max and the time will come…I would love a sport where we could see more fighting at the front, because you just want more wheel-to wheel racing and also because you know the talent is there.”
And that is the intention held by various drivers heading into F1 2024, who are stinging from the Verstappen thrashing and desperate to hit back.
Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez are among the crop hoping to be the one who ends Verstappen’s title-winning streak, with Pinkham name-dropping Leclerc as the driver she would like to see reach the F1 summit.
Leclerc has shown huge promise ever since joining the Ferrari line-up in 2019, but has yet to find himself in a position of being able to mount a title challenge.
“I’d love to see Charles win a World Championship,” said Pinkham. “He’s so phenomenally talented.”
Both Leclerc and Ferrari team-mate Sainz need to agree fresh terms to stay with the team; their current contracts up after 2024.