2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button is optimistic that Red Bull won’t dominate the sport again next season, predicting that an “upset” could be on the cards.
Having managed to win 10 of the last 11 races in 2022, Red Bull has since emerged victorious in every grand prix bar one this season with only two rounds now remaining.
With its closest rivals from last year – Ferrari and Mercedes – recovering from opening the year with concepts that had hit a development ceiling, both Aston Martin and McLaren have capitalised to also materialise as one of Red Bull’s nearest contenders.
But while Max Verstappen has claimed a record-breaking 17 wins – including 10 in a row – Sergio Perez has only recorded one podium finish since the summer break.
Button believes the huge disparity between the two Red Bull team-mates across the second half of the campaign demonstrates the chasing pack is gradually closing in.
Although the Briton accepts that a period of stability in the regulations makes it tougher to catch Red Bull, he has been impressed by McLaren and Mercedes’ progress this year.
Asked if the competition must replicate the type of innovation that saw Brawn steal a march on its rivals in 2009, Button told Sky Sports News: “Well, you don’t have the rule changes that we were lucky enough to have. I also just think the sport is even more competitive now. You know, there are so many big teams fighting at the front and one tiny slip-up and you’re the fourth-best team.
“So to catch Red Bull’s difficult, but they’re getting closer. I mean, Brazil wasn’t a great example, but this second part of the season you’ve seen teams like McLaren, Mercedes, both fighting very closely with the Red Bulls.
“Max has had that little advantage, but his team-mate hasn’t, so we could have an upset next year.
“I don’t think it’s going to be all Red Bull’s way. This year was an exceptional year for that team, and I don’t feel it will be the same next year, which is what the sport needs. We need a little bit of a mix up.”
In Brazil McLaren’s Lando Norris beat Verstappen to pole position for the Sprint and began the restart early in Sunday’s race alongside the Dutchman on the front row.
Although Norris was able to closely track Verstappen through the opening laps and lined up a move on Lap 7, Verstappen coasted away towards a comfortable win.
McLaren team boss Andrea Stella believes the main performance differentiator now separating the side and Red Bull is related to the latter’s evident edge on tyre degradation.
“I think the difference is mainly in terms of lap time on used tyres,” Stella explained in Brazil. “We have seen that in new tyres, we can fight for position.
“But as soon as the tyres degrade, then it would appear like Max, Red Bull, they can just have less degradation. The tyres were degrading maybe one-tenth every two laps.
“It’s a significant amount of degradation and if you can limit that, after 10 laps in a stint, this is tenths of a second, so I think that’s where they are superior at the moment.”