Mercedes engineer shares why they can’t catch Red Bull

The Mercedes W14 started way behind Red Bull's RB19 and the gap has hardly closed so far in the 2023 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton 2023 Austrian Grand Prix, Friday | LAT Images/Mercedes F1 Team

Mercedes are looking at a second successive season chasing Red Bull in Formula 1 and there is no end in sight as the Max Verstappen and the Austrian team look unassailable in 2023.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin believes that the cost cap is preventing teams from making that final gain towards the top with Red Bull comfortably quicker than anyone else at every type of track.

Mercedes came closest to beating the RB19 domination at the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix but were upstaged by McLaren at Silverstone while Max Verstappen just keeps on winning.

“if you launch a competitive car, in a cost cap, it is quite difficult for teams to catch up because if you’ve got a competitive car, you don’t need to be throwing updates at it,” Shovlin said at the Hungarian GP.

“They started in a very, very good place and the fact is, our wind tunnel resource is not very different to theirs it’s not very different to Ferraris so that initial performance advantage you start with and it has come down over the year.

“But when you look at how big it was in, you know in Bahrain and Jeddah it’s always difficult to shut that down in terms of the championship.”

Cut the losses

It is getting to that stage in the season where teams like Mercedes and Ferrari have to decide how much they want to finish second in 2023.

The benefits of abandoning upgrades on this season’s car and focussing on 2024 could be enough to bring either of the teams very close to Red Bull’s standard and it would be worth the risk when there is no hope of winning either title this year.

Both teams have the technical know-how to make that step if they get enough time to work out the formula and even though McLaren and Aston Martin might carry on this year, they will feel the hit in 2024.

Red Bull cannot be caught this year so everyone may as well give up trying and look to the future while they still can.

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