Red Bull are in a league of their own but once-dominant Mercedes can see big gains ahead after going back to the drawing board with their Formula 1 car, hinting at a copycat of the dominant RB19.
Speaking to reporters at last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, team principal Toto Wolff said he would have no shame if the revamped car ended up resembling a Red Bull, so long as it was quick.
“We are just storming full steam ahead now and changing things,” said the Austrian. “We are making really big steps at the moment with our R&D, with our understanding in the (wind) tunnel, that is really big steps because we just needed to have the confirmation in Bahrain that we got it wrong.
“I think if we continue to do the big steps that we´ve already done in the last 10 days then I think we come to a stage where we are really able to respond,” explained Wolff.
George Russell and seven times F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth in Jeddah, still a long way off Red Bull and behind Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso but ahead of both Ferraris. In Bahrain, the March 5 season-opener, they were the fourth fastest team.
Reigning F1 champions, Red Bull have won both races to date one-two, dropping only one point for a fastest lap. The Adrian Newey-designed car the benchmark of the season.
Mercedes changing the bodywork of the W14 and how the floor works
Double F1 world champion Max Verstappen went from 15th to second in Saudi Arabia, powering past Hamilton — who said on Saturday he felt “at a bit of a loss” with the car — as if lapping a back-marker.
“The kind of gains that are coming in, in our R&D and in aero, are much bigger than we’ve had over a long time,” said Wolff after Russell qualified fourth before moving up to third on the Saudi Arabian starting grid.
“We’ve unlocked some potential because we simply look at things from different angles now. We have a different perspective, because of our learnings of the Bahrain test and race.”
Wolff said he did not want to sound “foolishly optimistic” but all the car’s visible aerodynamic surfaces were being reconsidered: “The question is: what is your benchmark? If you look at the Red Bulls, they are just so quick that I think we understand the car more and I am looking optimistic for the future.
“We just need to put it in a different window, we are changing the bodywork of the car and how the floor works, the team in Brackley is just flat out. The car is being turned upside down at the moment and there’s a lot of goodness that we see. We see low-hanging fruit with things that are encouraging.
“We have no dogmatism of how the car should look like. It just needs to be the quickest possible race car. If that car looks like a Red Bull … I don’t care. I will have no shame if it’s quick,” added Wolff, without revealing when to expect the revamped roll-out; unconfirmed reports suggest in time for Imola. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Additional reporting GP247)