Horner mocks Mercedes B-Spec upgrade

Mercedes AMG F1 roared into the Spanish GP last season with big upgrades to their failing W13 car and the promise of closing the gap to arch rivals Red Bull Racing. George Russell claimed the third spot on the podium behind Verstappen and Perez and as ‘best of the rest’ the team believed they had made inroads into the championship leading team.

However, as TJ13 noted at the time, Russell who qualified the best of the Mercedes’ pair was 0.650 seconds slower than pole sitter Charles Leclerc and 0.3 seconds slower than Verstappen who had a poor qualifying session starting the race from second.



Original F1 B-Spec cars

At the chequered flag in Barcelona 2022 Russell was 32 seconds behind the winner Verstappen, which was pretty much to the tenth the exact time he was behind Verstappen at his first win of the season in Jeddah.

The eight times world champions were delighted with the progress they had made for the Spanish Grand Prix last year and the mood was similar at the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend.

Of course this year the Mercedes car upgrades are more of a shift in car design philosophy and a such represent more the notion of an all new B-Spec challenger.

B-Spec F1 cars before the cost cap would include an entirely new monocoque tub with all safety components retested with the FIA before the new design was allowed to race.

Barcelona circuit set to change again



Post cost cap meaning of F1 B-Spec

However since the introduction of the cost cap, its almost impossible to take an F1 car completely back to the drawing board but Mercedes have done all but that with the W14B (as we will call it) introduced for Imola and first run in Monaco.

Hamilton finished 24 seconds behind Verstappen in Barcelona last weekend and but repeatedly told to slow down by his engineer over the closing 15 laps. Yet have Mercedes really closed the gap o Red Bull or was this just another false dawn for the Brackley team?

“For sure they’ve made a step,” noted Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “They’ve introduced pretty much a B-spec car.”

“They must have used a significant proportion of their development budget on that. And when I look at the gap at the end of the race it’s very similar to where it was in Bahrain.”



Horner mocks Mercedes big upgrades

When asked by Nico Rosberg, “Did the Mercedes form worry you a bit? They made such a giant leap with this new concept car.”

Horner dryly replied, “They were still 23 seconds behind at the end of the race.”

“We’ve got some stuff in the pipeline they’ve have a big upgrade, we’ve got some bits coming late in the season,” Horner added with a wry smile.

This year Red Bull wo the opening round of the Formula One championship in Bahrain and were 38 seconds clear of the Aston Martin, with Ferrari mother 10 seconds back and Mercedes 50 seconds off the pace.

Mercedes make Hamilton final offer



No single F1 challenger to Red Bull

The Spanish GP saw the margins at the chequered flag much tighter but does this really reveal Mercedes are now Red Bull’s main title challengers?

“All that’s happening is the running order behind us seems to vary from race to race,” said Horner. “Fernando last weekend [in Monaco], Mercedes this weekend and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next few races.”

The Red Bull performance gap to the rest of the field is astonishing when considering the fact they have significantly less wind tunnel time and CFD aero testing under the FIA’s new Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions.

Having breached the cost cap, the Red Bull allowance for aero testing was curt a further 10%.



Astonishing Red Bull car despite aero restrictions

At the end of June each year the positions in the constructors’ championship are taken and a handicap in terms of less aero testing time allowed is applied to each team.

This means from January 1st 2023 to the end of the aero testing restrictions year in June, Mercedes (960 hrs) have over 200 hours more wind tunnel time than Red Bull (756 hrs).

Aston Martin have even more time with an astounding 1200 hours allowed.

So Red Bull have een forced into carefully managing their development plan and have brought fairly few upgrades to the RB19 this season to date.

Marko prevents Horner to Ferrari



Future RB19 upgrades may widen gap 

“So the team are just doing an incredible job being extremely efficient. You can see we’ve very subtly developed the car since since Bahrain,” observed Horner.

“We’ve seen others bring in significant upgrades now and the margin has remained pretty much the same from where it was in Bahrain.

“That’s hugely encouraging to everybody in Milton Keynes, who is doing an outstanding job at the moment.”

Given the relative lack of development this season from Red Bull, when the team uses its relatively meagre aero testing allowance, they could easily again press ahead of the rest of the field by some margin.



The downside to being F1’s dominant team

Of course Mercedes similarly dominated Formula One winning eight consecutive constructer titles and seven drivers’ championships until Verstappen stopped the run in 2021.

“We spent seven years trying to get back into a winning position and losing hurts,” added Horner. “I think that we’ve worked very hard to get into this position and I think the whole team as a unit, and it’s not just Max, the whole team is just operating at such a high level.

“We have a phenomenal car, we’ve got two great drivers and Max is just continuing to evolve as a driver. He’s just becoming more and more polished and the capacity that he has within the car is truly impressive.”

There is a downside to being uber dominant in Formula One. Firstly for the sport as a whole those with just a marginal interest will drop off from the viewing audiences.

FIA punish Haas boss



Perez providing no excitement

Secondly, the team and drivers can lose popularity and be blamed for ‘ruining’ the competition, though Mercedes retained their popularity through the years they crushed the opposition due to the inter team battle between Rosberg and Hamilton.

This is an area of concern for Red Bull given Perez is clearly not at the level of Verstappen, something Horner commented upon.

“There are few drivers on the current grid who could’ve lived today with Max in the same machinery,” he explained to Rosberg who had asked him why Perez had not performed as well as the Dutchman.

Then surely it should be the remit of Red Bull Racing to recruit the next best driver on the grid to challenge Verstappen? No current F1 driver would turn down a Red Bull opportunity.

As TJ13 has previously noted, it could be Red Bull have a clause in Perez contract that would allow them to replace him at the end of the season should he fail to score a fixed percentage of the points claimed by Verstappen.

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