Verstappen 'on fire' but other teams are closing gap on Red Bull – Vowles

By Sports Desk July 06, 2023

Max Verstappen is in the form of his career, but Williams team principal James Vowles is confident other teams are closing in on Red Bull.

Verstappen is well clear in the drivers' championship, having won seven races already in 2023. 

Red Bull, with their other driver Sergio Perez occupying second place, are also the runaway leaders in the constructors' championship.

Vowles, though, does think the gap is gradually beginning to close.

Asked how teams can stop the Verstappen-Red Bull juggernaut, he told Stats Perform: "It's a meritocracy. They've done the best job with the same finances available, not the same equipment, the same finances available as everyone else. 

"He's on fire at the moment. There's just every race where you think he might struggle. He still pulls one out of the bag and does well. 

"I think what you are seeing is people catching up. That's the slight difference. There is a closing of the gap relative to what happened before. It's just going to take time for that to fully kick in."

Before taking charge of Williams, Vowles was the motorsport strategy director at Mercedes, who have endured a difficult time since the start of the 2022 season.

"I think Mercedes lost a year's worth of development simply because the direction they went down was quite different to really the rest of the field," he said.

"And sometimes you have to believe in what you're doing at one point, which is what they've done now, you have to realise that is the wrong direction.

"But that year hasn't been undone. You can't just undo it in the space of one week.

"So what you'll see from this is that now we're going to slowly start, I'm sure, to learn what the package is and how to develop it because they are an incredible organisation and will get back to the front, but it's going to take them I think from here another six months, 12 months to be able to do that."

Asked if F1 was becoming too predictable, Vowles replied: "I think there always is a risk of that. That's like any sport, when you can predict the result, it's less interesting.

"The only thing is I'd go back and say, actually, Austria was one of the most interesting races we've had so far this year, so the gems are still there and this won't last forever.

"[Verstappen] will come back towards everyone else and it just takes a little bit more time than we're expecting. But he will do."

Related items

  • Wolff urges F1 authorities to ‘set the compass right’ amid Horner controversy Wolff urges F1 authorities to ‘set the compass right’ amid Horner controversy

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has urged Formula One and its governing body to “set the compass right” amid continued controversy surrounding Christian Horner.

    Horner was earlier this week cleared to continue as Red Bull team principal following an internal probe into “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague.

    But the 50-year-old faced subsequent scrutiny after a series of leaked WhatsApp messages –  appearing to be exchanged between him and his complainant – were leaked to all the major players in the sport.

    FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem told the Financial Times on Friday that the turmoil is “damaging the sport on a human level”. F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali has not commented on the matter.

    Earlier this week, Wolff called for greater transparency from Red Bull Racing’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH, who conducted the investigation.

    The Austrian corporation said it was confident the inquiry into Horner had been “fair, rigorous and impartial” and added that the report – understood to stretch to 150 pages – is “confidential”. Horner has always denied the claims.

    “Let’s see where it goes in the next days,” said Wolff on Saturday night. “I would very much hope that the governing body, the sanctioning body and the commercial rights’ holder sets the compass right.

    “But the moment I start to continue to question how this has been handled, I am probably not doing any good to the whole issue, because then it could be seen as this just being about a power fight within F1.

    “That’s why I think it’s not in the team’s hands. It’s a much bigger topic than that and I don’t want to diminish the whole situation by making it seem like the Mercedes guy is talking about the Red Bull guys.”

    Wolff was speaking after a disappointing opening race of the season for his Mercedes team at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    George Russell started third and finished fifth – 47 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen – with Lewis Hamilton taking the chequered flag in seventh, 50 sec adrift.

    Wolff continued: “Max is in a different league, a different galaxy. We just have to acknowledge his performance levels.

    “But I believe that the group of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were probably in a similar ballpark. We just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and if we are able to manage our race weekend better, we will be racing those guys.”

  • Christian Horner ‘absolutely’ confident he will ride out the storm Christian Horner ‘absolutely’ confident he will ride out the storm

    Christian Horner said he is “absolutely confident” he will ride out the storm of his life and remain as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season.

    The build-up to the first round of the Formula One campaign here in Bahrain has been overshadowed by allegations whirling around Horner.

    But the 50-year-old, who was joined by his wife Geri in a defiant show of unity ahead of Saturday’s 57-lap race, can take temporary relief from seeing Max Verstappen lead a Red Bull one-two, with Sergio Perez second.

    Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crossed the line in third, one place ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a disappointing fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes.

    Asked if he is confident he will stay on as Red Bull team principal for the rest of the season, Horner replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

    During an extraordinary week in the Gulf kingdom, Horner was exonerated by Red Bull Racing parent’s company, Red Bull GmbH, on Wednesday following an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” made by a female colleague.

    But hundreds of WhatsApp messages, appearing to be exchanged between him and the complainant, were then leaked to the F1 world.

    Horner has remained steadfast throughout, and strode hand-in-hand with Geri along the paddock one hour and 45 minutes before the lights went out.

    Red Bull’s majority shareholder and Horner ally, Thai billionaire Chalerm Yoovidhya, also joined the duo on the team’s terrace in a very public show of support for the embattled team principal.

    Horner planted a kiss on wife Geri before he headed to the Red Bull pit wall to watch his team blow away their rivals. Geri later headed to the garage to watch the race.

    The pair stood together smiling underneath the podium as Verstappen celebrated his 18th win from the past 19 races.

    An emotional Horner continued: “I have the support of an incredible family, an incredible wife, an incredible team and everybody within that team.

    “And my focus is going racing, winning racing and doing the best I can.

    “It was a day about starting the season in the best possible way. My focus is on this team, my family, my wife and racing.”

    Horner was also quizzed about the leaked Google file which was sent from an anonymous email account to 149 members of the F1 paddock – including FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem, F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali and the grid’s nine other team principals, as well as members of the media.

    Horner said: “I am not going to comment on anonymous speculative messages from an unknown source. I am not going to comment on what motives whatever person may have for doing this.

    “Obviously, it has not been pleasant with some of the unwanted attention, but the focus is very much on the cars and my focus has been on what is happening on track and the result today demonstrates where the focus is and we move onwards.

    “There was a full, lengthy internal process that was completed by an independent KC and the grievance that was raised was dismissed. End of. Move on.

    “You could see what it (the win) meant to the whole team. It is better to do your talking on the track.

    “I have always been entirely confident that I would be here and my focus is on the season, and the races we have ahead.”

    Horner is set to be back in the spotlight in just five days when the cars hit the track in practice for the next round in Saudi Arabia.

  • Super League could cause clubs to disappear, warns Shakhtar CEO Super League could cause clubs to disappear, warns Shakhtar CEO

    Plans to found a European Super League are "purely about money" and the breakaway competition would cause smaller clubs to disappear if it ever came into being.

    That is the view of Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Serhiy Palkin, who believes the vast majority of European clubs are united in their support for UEFA.

    The threat of a Super League has never fully gone away despite fierce fan and media opposition causing the competition's attempted 2021 launch to fail in spectacular fashion.

    Real Madrid and Barcelona remain committed to the project, and in late 2022, A22 Sports Management was enlisted to oversee its revival, with a plan for a three-tier competition featuring promotion and relegation with no permanent members made public last year. 

    Those plans were met with widespread criticism, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin saying the proposal was "even more closed" than the initial Super League format, given a tier-one founder would be guaranteed three years in the competition regardless of their results. 

    Last December, the European Court of Justice ruled UEFA cannot stop breakaway competitions by threatening to sanction clubs, but Palkin feels there is no real desire for change.

    "For me, it's difficult to discuss. When this news was issued about A22 winning in court, we had already issued our statement, we are supporting UEFA," he told Stats Perform.

    "Almost 90 per cent of clubs did the same statement on their websites. We have a special group on WhatsApp, everybody supports UEFA. I don't understand this Super League. 

    "I don't understand what kind of essence they have. I don't understand why we need to change something, when under the umbrella of UEFA, we have very well-structured competitions. 

    "If you look from 10 years ago to today, they developed a lot of things in a good way and they are always raising the amount of money that we receive. 

    "They are increasing the number of games, they are increasing the number of competitions with the Conference League.

    "They involved a lot of clubs. It's not all clubs, but the number of clubs involved in European competitions is increasing significantly. 

    "The most important thing for me is the involvement of clubs in European competitions and the financial support of these competitions. All the numbers are just increasing."

    Palkin believes only the very richest clubs stand to benefit from the Super League, warning smaller sides might struggle to stay afloat if the plans ever come to fruition. 

    "We don't have just 25 clubs in Europe. We need to pay attention to the whole of football. The most important thing is to spread football over the whole of Europe," he added. 

    "Otherwise, don't go to stadiums, just switch on the TV and see the top, top clubs playing between each other, and that's it. Then they become much, much richer, and others disappear. 

    "For them [smaller clubs], receiving these bonuses from UEFA is critical from a financial point of view. 

    "I support football, the game itself, and we need to promote this idea. This Super League, it's not about the game, it's just about money. It's purely about money."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.