F1: Is Mercedes really catching Red Bull?

The Mercedes team has been full-on developing their W13 car all season in an effort to catch the Red Bull team and maybe win a race in 2022.

One has to wonder how they will not exceed the cost cap after investing a huge effort to catch Max Verstappen.

The British GP offered Mercedes their first real glimmers of hope for 2022 – with Hamilton well in the hunt for his first victory – while the Austrian and French GPs followed suit with pole and win chances. Since then, Mercedes have been genuine contenders against Red Bull and Ferrari more often than not.

More encouragingly, is Mercedes’ rise to become Red Bull’s main challengers over Ferrari.

The Silver Arrows have five second-place finishes in the last nine races and scored 220 points to Ferrari’s 184, while their qualifying speed is also quickly catching up with the race pace that has been strong all season.

Given how far ahead of Mercedes Ferrari were at the start of the season – when they even had a quicker car than Red Bull – that is some turnaround, and should give the team plenty of hope heading into 2023.

Is Mercedes fooling themselves?

“Mercedes has recently developed its car more aggressively,” insisted Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto. “We got out earlier and are concentrated fully on 2023.”

And Red Bull, way ahead in both the driver’s and constructor’s championships, stopped developing their 2022 car long ago, to focus on their 2023 car.

So while Ferrari and Red Bull have been developing next year’s car, Mercedes is still putting significant effort in this year’s car in the hope of winning something.

Where will that leave Mercedes in 2023?

Only time will tell whether focussing on their W13 all year will take away from the full potential of next year’s W14.

“The DNA of the car is going to change for next year, it’s clear,” said Wolff.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that the bodywork is going to look very different but certainly what is part of the DNA of the car with the architecture will change for next year.

“Certainly, were we to go back 12 months, we would be a lot wiser and a lot better informed about what sort of car we want to develop, and I think he would have simply been referring to the fact that recent learning has helped us clarify and understand what we should have been doing 12 months ago.”

Does Ferrari want to lose 2nd to Mercedes?

Ferrari leads Mercedes in for 2nd place in the Constructors’ Championship by 40 points with two races to go.

Teams get more runs in their wind tunnels the lower down they finish in the championship. Ferrari performed badly in Mexico City and some people think they are trying to hand Mercedes 2nd place in the final races.

“I think any reduction in wind tunnel time is going to cost you some performance,” Wolff said.

“We’ve been in the fortunate situation that we won the championship (last year), so for 18 months we had seven percent less than Red Bull every single half year. Overall that adds up, and if you look at Ferrari’s performance, they were sixth the previous year, so massively more performance.

“So we are, unfortunately, benefitting from being third on the road, with 14 percent more on the leader, and then we have another 10 percent (Red Bull Cost Cap penalty), so that is quite a lot, but it needs to be well utilized.”


Mark C. reporting for AutoRacing1.com

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