This article was contributed by Henk Ormel, who has been a much beloved member of our community at Wheel Sports and an incredibly insightful eye for feedback on technical matters.
There has been a lot written about the dominance of the RB19. Was it more dominant than the Mercedes between 2014 and 2020? Was it more dominant than the Red Bulls between 2010 and 2013? Was it more dominant than the Renaults in 2005 and ‘06? Was it more dominant than the Ferrari’s in the Schumacher era? Was it more dominant than the McLaren MP4/4 of 1988?
To start off with the two man teams it is clear the MP4/4 was a very good car with two world champions at the helm. Those two were at that time the undisputed best two drivers on the grid. It was a perfect storm of a very good car, decent reliability, only one accident that took out one of the cars and two very good drivers. The competition got it too much wrong. They often qualified one and two and drove into the distance regarding reliability. As a conclusion i state the car and the drivers contributed equally
Another two man team is Mercedes from 2014 until 2016 with Hamilton and Rosberg. Those two also qualified one and two and drove into the distance with no second thoughts about reliability. None of the two drivers was consistent over a whole season. Both had stinkers in their repertoire. The car outshined the drivers. As a conclusion i state the cars contributed more to the success than the drivers did.
Then up to the one man teams, the teams with a clear nr. one and nr. two drivers. Renault in 2005-’06 had with Alonso and Kovilainen a clear nr. one and -two driver lineup. Heiki scored enough points to secure the WCC and Alonso grabbed the not always co-operating R25 and R26 at the scruff of their necks and dragged them as fast as possible over the circuit. It was quite mind boggling what he could do with that car on track. At his Ferrari time he came two times close but no cigar. In this case it was clearly the driver that brought home the bacon. As a conclusion i state the driver contributed more than the car did.
The Red Bull dominant years in 2010-’13. This was Vettel-Coulthard, a driver lineup with a fairly inexperienced young gun and an experienced seasoned driver. In that periode the in season TD’s and inbetween season rule changes were introduced left right and center. My take on that period is that Red Bull produced fast cars and Vettel was at the right time at the right place. He still had as a young gun too many off weekends but the cars made up for that deficiency. Coulthard was after a few races relegated to second driver. Even those seasons were not all dominant, the cars were. As a conclusion i state the cars contributed more in regard to consistent performance.
The Mercedes between 2017 and ‘20. A clearly one man team with a first and second driver. Bottas was in that car a more than decent qualifier but his racecraft wasn’t stellar most of the time. Hamilton couldn’t motivate himself at the start of the season. He needed Bottas to win to get agitated and motivated. The half hearted challenge of Vettel in the Ferrari did the rest. A Bottas that could get second, third and fourth place with a reasonable points deficit in that car says it all. As a conclusion the car contributed significantly more to the championships than the drivers did.
And now the RB19, it is definitely a very very good car. What we seeing here also just as we did in ‘88 is the competition getting it wrong. Verstappen was THE established driver when Pérez arrived in 2021. He just keeps nagging at details that are not just right. In reaction to that nagging details get improved. We all remember the flapping DRS flap or the too weak DRS activation system in 2022. We all remember the sometimes horrific start performances. Now he is still nagging about the braking under downshift. Eventually this will be improved satisfactorily. Pérez got second in the WDC due to the competition that faltered and not on merit. The points deficit says it all. At some tracks the MCL60 is somewhat comparable now but none of their drivers has the fierce tenacity Max Verstappen has yet. As a conclusion i state Max Verstappen has contributed more to the championships than the RB19 did. He even brought the RB19 where it sits today. Under his influence the car became what is is, a dominant car in his hands.