How F1 Leaders Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing Are Suddenly Vulnerable

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Verstappen, Red Bull Racing Suddenly VulnerableMark Thompson - Getty Images
  • Red Bull Racing continues to lead the F1 Constructors' Championship and Max Verstappen the Drivers' Championship.

  • However, this year's run to the championship is not quite as impressive as last year’s near-season sweep.

  • Sergio Perez’s recent disasters has left Red Bull Racing slightly vulnerable in the Constructors’ Championship.

Formula 1 has reached the mid-point of the 2024 campaign and on pure numbers it has been a strong half season for reigning F1 World Champion Max Verstappen.

Verstappen has won seven of this year’s 12 races, has scored eight pole positions and the three Sprint victories, has led 443 of the 731 racing laps, and heads the championship by 84 points.


It is not quite as impressive as last year’s near-sweep—a season in which Verstappen won 19 of 22 races and team principal Christian Horner has regularly referred to as a “unicorn season”—but Verstappen is firmly on course for a fourth successive title. But during the last couple of months, on pure performance alone, Red Bull has been unexpectedly vulnerable.

Verstappen has only two wins and a single pole position from the last five Grands Prix, and owes the extension of his championship lead to his own displays, Red Bull’s operational sharpness, as well as rival teams—notably a consistently rapid McLaren—too often dropping the ball.

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Max Verstappen is trying to become just the sixth driver in F1 history to win four championships.Anadolu - Getty Images

Verstappen finished just sixth in Monaco as the inherent Red Bull weaknesses during this era, including its lack of performance over curbs and bumps at low-speed venues, was brutally exposed.

Back-to-back wins followed in Canada and Spain, which was down to Verstappen’s brilliance and Red Bull’s strategy. Rivals Lando Norris and George Russell both fumbled opportunities in the wet in Canada, smoothing Verstappen’s path, while a strong first lap was the foundation for Verstappen defeating Norris by only two seconds in a straight fight in Spain.

In Austria, Verstappen clashed with Norris while defending the lead—a clumsy mistake for which Verstappen was correctly penalized—but the Dutchman was afterwards more concerned by the RB20’s drop in performance through the race after a strong opening half from pole position in which victory looked assured.

In Britain an off during qualifying compromised Verstappen’s starting position—fourth was a good salvage job considering his floor damage—while second on Sunday was earned through he and Red Bull nailing the tire decisions in a race in which he at one stage appeared destined for fifth on merit.

It is quite the departure from the opening rounds of 2024, in which Verstappen won four from five, each with a comfortable margin of over 10 seconds, prompting suggestions that 2023’s staggering victory tally could be matched or surpassed. Red Bull’s breathing space has been wiped out.

“We were just too slow,” Verstappen said at Silverstone. “In the first stint I couldn’t keep up with the Mercedes, couldn’t keep up with the McLarens, we were just degging [degrading the tires] harder than them so that’s quite worrying—we have to just analyze everything. I enjoyed [the race], but looking at the pure pace, it was quite tough. At one point it was looking like P5 or P6 even. So yeah, on a poor afternoon I would say in terms of performance to be second, I’ll take that.

“Most of the races lately we haven’t really been that quick in the race, we managed to win a few, but I think by making good calls and stuff, putting ourselves in the right place, but we have work to do, we know that.”

Horner was conversely largely bullish about the situation.

“I think Formula 1 can’t be in a better place at the moment,” Horner said. “If you look at the last five or six races, we’ve had Lewis, we’ve had Lando, we’ve had Max, we’ve had Charles Leclerc… It’s moving around. And the only one that’s managed to be there consistently, has been Max.

“I think it’s only with hindsight that [2023] will become a very special year and what was achieved that year. What we did last year was never achieved before and may never be achieved again. So this is far more normal Formula 1 but we still have an 80-something point lead in the drivers’ championship.”

Horner added that Red Bull’s advantage means it has less performance to unearth but stressed “there’s stuff that we have in the pipeline that whilst we’re at the top of the curve, there are still gains to be had. Inevitably when it closes, it’s down to the marginal fine details that make the difference. The form’s moving around a bit. Mercedes were strong [at Silverstone]. McLaren were strong last week [in Austria]. We won the week before in Barcelona.”

For Red Bull Racing, its blip has been compounded by a slump in form for Sergio Perez, his encouraging start followed by a nosedive a worrying replication of his 2023. Red Bull’s speed meant Perez was still runner-up last year but this season has slipped from second in the standings post-Miami to only sixth, with just 15 points accrued in the last six rounds.

“It’s a good time to have a bit of a break and get back to form hopefully for Hungary and Belgium, two very important races,” Perez said.

Perez’s disasters has left Red Bull Racing slightly vulnerable in the Constructors’ Championship, its margin over Ferrari 71 points, and McLaren 78 points, a healthy buffer but not a comfortable one.

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Max Verstappen, left, and teammate Sergio Perez still hold a big lead in the F1 Constructors’ Championship.Mark Thompson - Getty Images

Rumors continue to swirl over Perez’s future, despite him holding a contract through 2026, with Horner conceding post-Silverstone that the Mexican’s form is unsustainable.

No one seriously doubts that Verstappen is going to march on and claim a fourth world title. He has an 84-point buffer (effectively a three-event advantage). McLaren is still learning to be a sharper front-runner, Ferrari has stumbled of late amid sub-par development and baffling calls, and a rejuvenated Mercedes is too far back in the standings.

The Constructors’ Championship is more engaging, given Sergio Perez’s struggles, and six different winners from four teams shows Formula 1 2024-spec is significantly more engaging and exciting that many feared after the early season Red Bull walkover.

Perhaps, at long last, Verstappen and Red Bull have a proper fight on their hands.

F1 Drivers' Standings Leaders

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 255

  2. Lando Norris, McLaren, 171

  3. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 150

  4. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 146

  5. Oscar Piastri, McLaren, 124

  6. Sergio Perez, Red Bull, 118

  7. George Russell, Mercedes, 111

  8. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 110

  9. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, 45

  10. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, 23

F1 Constructors' Championship

  1. Red Bull, 373

  2. Ferrari, 302

  3. McLaren, 295

  4. Mercedes, 221

  5. Aston Martin, 68

  6. RB, 31

  7. Haas 27

  8. Alpine, 9

  9. Williams, 4

  10. Kick Sauber, 0