Mercedes beat Ferrari to second in Championship
Securing victory at the final race in Abu Dhabi, Max Verstappen concluded his and Red Bull Racing’s record-breaking season with a controlled march to the finish line. Red Bull’s continued success, including finishing 1-2 in the Drivers' Championship for the first time, has come under the guidance and leadership of Team Principal Christian Horner.
By leading 1,003 laps in 2023, Verstappen broke yet another record and became the first driver in history to surpass 1,000 laps led in a single season. Coincidentally, this equals the total laps led by McLaren in their 1988 season with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Finishing with an unprecedented 575 points, Verstappen secured a substantial gap of 290 points to his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez in second. To put this into perspective, the gap between second and 22nd was 285 points. In a season where regulations aimed to level the playing field, Verstappen's 19 wins out of 22 races showcases his dominance and skill, as well as the strong performance of the whole Red Bull team.
Notably, only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, in 2002 and 2019 respectively, have completed every single racing lap of a season in Formula 1 history. Following Abu Dhabi, Verstappen joined this elite club, demonstrating his and Red Bull’s remarkable consistency.
Elsewhere on the grid, a Championship showdown worth approximately $10 million in prize money unfolded between Ferrari and Mercedes. Though Ferrari looked to have the upper hand, a five-second penalty for Pérez tilted the scales in favour of Mercedes’ George Russell. Despite Charles Leclerc's valiant efforts, including slowing down and allowing Pérez to overtake him in hopes he’d be able to build up a five-second gap to Russell, Mercedes ultimately secured second place in the standings by a slender margin of 3 points.
It's an excellent result for the Brackley-based team after their setbacks this year. Similarly, placing third in the Drivers’ standings amid a challenging season is a testament to Lewis Hamilton’s determination and skill.
As we conclude 2023, Verstappen will be setting his sights on improving upon his exceptional season with a fourth consecutive title in 2024. The lingering question is whether he and Red Bull can sustain their dominance, surpassing 19 out of 22 wins, or if new challengers will emerge.