Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has insisted F1’s popularity has not suffered despite the dominance of Red Bull and Max Verstappen during the F1 2023 season.
F1 won countless new fans in 2021 when Verstappen and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton battled for the title over the course of one of the most exciting seasons in history.
However, that competition has been stripped away since F1’s ground effect rules were introduced in 2022 with Red Bull winning all but six races since the start of 2022 and 21 out of 22 this year, with Verstappen alone claiming a record 19 victories as he eased to a third successive World Championship.
Will Max Verstappen’s dominance turn fans away from F1?
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
Although Verstappen and Red Bull are in the process of painting an era orange, Wolff – whose team suffered their first winless season since 2011 this year, having won a record eight consecutive Constructors’ titles between 2014 and 2021 – believes F1’s appeal continues to grow.
And he has rejected calls for rule changes to slow down Red Bull before F1’s next regulations reset in 2026 on the basis of sporting integrity, insisting it is up to the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari to do a better job on track.
He told media including PlanetF1.com: “The [audience] numbers that we are seeing are strong. We are growing [on] social [media], we see races that are packed and sold out.
“As a matter of fact, it is all around the spectacle and if the spectacle is not good, our fans are going to follow us less. But what I always say in this sport [is] I like the honesty.
“The spectacle follows the sport. This is a meritocracy: whoever is doing the best job wins, and if somebody is doing a much better job than everybody else then they’re winning 19 races.
“And you can’t stop that. It’s a matter of fact.
“So it is us and Ferrari and all the other teams that have to do a better job in order to compete with Red Bull Racing – and we can’t change anything [with the rules].
“Of course, there is the risk that [at] a certain [point] people are going to say: ‘Well, I [already] know the result anyway [so won’t watch].’ It happened to us with Lewis [for] many years.
“But you’ve just got to do a better job – and I don’t want to wait until 2026.”
While Verstappen has won 44 of the last 66 races stretching back to the start of 2021, Hamilton remains without a victory since the penultimate round of that season in Saudi Arabia.
Tomorrow (December 5) marks two years since Hamilton triumphed in the inaugural race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit after a bad-tempered fight against Verstappen.