Formula 1: USA Grand Prix marks end of eight-year Mercedes dominance as Red Bull takeover

Max Verstappen’s drive in Texas ends nearly a decade of Mercedes supremacy

Already crowned the Drivers Champion, Max Verstappen delivered once again on the weekend as he handed Red Bull their first Constructors Championship since 2014, thus ending an eight-year dominance of Mercedes. Not only did Verstappen’s meticulous win put Red Bull firmly in first place with three races still to go, but it was also a fitting tribute to the founder of the Red Bull Racing team, Dietrich Mateschitz, who passed away an hour before qualifying on Saturday 22 October.

The USA Grand Prix was by far one of the most exciting races we have seen this year, starting with pole-sitter Carlos Sainz crashing out in the very first lap after George Russell collided into him. The title-winning Dutchman then seemed to take first place immediately but an 11-second pit stop sent him back down to third.

The drama was far from over, however, after another collision between Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso put the former out of action while the Spaniard was somehow miraculously able to continue despite being airborne and crashing into the wall at 180mph. Lewis Hamilton then led the race for many of the closing laps, convincing many fans to believe they would finally see the seven-time World Champion win his first race of 2022, but the faster Red Bull was soon able to close in and snap up not just the race but the Constructors Championship too.

While this result was somewhat expected - there seemed little chance Red Bull wouldn’t win the championship at this stage of the season - it still marks a rather poignant moment in the recent history of the sport that has become so used to the dominance of a different team. Toto Wolff’s Mercedes AMG has completely monopolised the grid since the turbo-era and they have won every Constructors Championship since 2014, with other teams barely scratching at the surface of their successes.

Fans even critiqued the sport for allowing such little competition to take place as the power of Mercedes meant race days become somewhat of a bore with the excitement of a race found in the mid-field, many seconds away from Lewis Hamilton’s clear run at the front of the pack.

Lewis Hamilton defends against Verstappen in USA Grand PrixLewis Hamilton defends against Verstappen in USA Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton defends against Verstappen in USA Grand Prix

Ferrari and Red Bull had competed in race wins but came nowhere near attempting to battle it out for any sort of title. That is until 2021. Red Bull’s Verstappen was becoming dangerously close to taking not one but two titles away from Mercedes and had Christian Horner’s team enjoyed more consistency with both their drivers it’s quite possible Mercedes’ era of supremacy could have ended a year earlier than it has. But now, those former fears that appeared to disappear last year are returning sooner than the start of 2022 might have led us to believe.

However, as seems to be the way with any Red Bull win, their rise to the top has not come without its controversies and recent weeks have seen a multitude of contentions emerge regarding not just Verstappen’s title defence this year, but his 2021 championship too.

The FIA are soon set to penalise Red Bull for their minor overspending in the 2021 season and there is no doubt that the effects of their 2021 success contributed to their ascendancy this year. When they first submitted their paperwork to the FIA earlier this year, Red Bull claimed to be $4million inside of the $145m budget, but it is believed that four issues amounting to $5.8m has put them $1.8m over the cap.

None of these issues particularly pertain to the car, but it is impossible to know how the additional costs would have affected what the team were then able to do with the apparent extra money. Moreover, there is no way of determining that they would not have won if they hadn’t supposedly been over budget.

Red Bull is a team that has excelled in operating more efficiently than its competitors with the pattern from this season showing them to only require small tweaks and target weight reduction as the weeks progress after they were able to form a strong foundation to begin with.

Ferrari, on the other hand, have struggled to build on what was arguably an even stronger foundation than Red Bull produced as well as suffering from inestimable and catastrophic errors. It would now appear that Red Bull, a team that has been forced to sit in the background for the past eight years, is now reaping the benefits of their shrewd and discerning approach.

It goes without saying, of course, that if Red Bull are found to have broken the regulations then they should pay the price - whatever the price may be. But what must be said is that this could never and will not stop them from future domination. The effects of breaking the cost cap could well positively affect them into next year, but the chances they would have already begun their era of authority without exceeding the limit anyway seem great.

Similarly to Hamilton in previous years, Verstappen’s closest rivals have still been in an inferior league to the Dutchman and it’s going to take a miraculous amount of work in the off-season to create a car that can successfully and repeatedly compete with the RB18.

The Orange Army and Red Bull fans will be overwhelmingly and justifiably delighted with the results of this year’s season, but any other Formula 1 supporters who just want a good race may well despair at the prospect of seeing just another team waltz up to become top dog.

Breach or no breach, there is no getting away from the fact that while we are waving goodbye to one team’s dominance, we are simply welcoming another to pick up the mantle.