Mercedes revealed after its defeat in the Styrian Grand Prix that it has turned off development work on its 2021 car so it can throw all its resources on to its 2022 challenger.
With Lewis Hamilton having urged his team after the race on Sunday to try to bring some upgrades to the car, the situation appears to heavily favour Red Bull’s title ambitions right now.
However, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is sceptical that the Mercedes situation is as clear as its team boss Toto Wolff is making out.
“What Mercedes do is very much their business, so we’re just focused on ourselves,” explained Horner.
“We know that Toto likes to throw the light somewhere else, so I can’t believe that they’ll go through the rest of this year without putting a single component on the car.
“But, as I say, what we can do is focus on our own job. Of course it is a balancing act between this year and next year, but if that means we’ve all got to work a bit harder than the other teams, we are fully up for it.”
Mercedes is well aware that Red Bull is still pushing hard with its current car, with the Milton Keynes-based team having been spotted taking delivering of new components in the Red Bull Ring paddock at the weekend.
However, with F1 switching to an all-new concept of car in 2022, Wolff thinks that diverting any effort away from the new rules will prove costly in the long term.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, and the rest of the field on the opening lap
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
He explained: “It is a very, very tricky decision, because we are having new regulations not only for next year but for years to come, a completely different car concept.
“You’ve got to choose the right balance, and pretty much everybody is going to be on next year’s car. Some may still bring stuff. Red Bull has brought trucks or vans Thursday and Friday with new parts. And fair enough, it’s a strategy.
“And one that proves to be successful as it stands, because here, they were simply in a league of their own car-pace wise.”
Horner said Red Bull was also carefully weighing up where to balance its current resources, but felt it was in a very good shape because it had started the season so strongly.
“For the first time in quite a while we’ve come out the blocks this year with a competitive car and we’ve managed to optimise that and tune it,” he said.
“But you’re at the top of the curve with these cars, you’re into marginal gains. And obviously when you look at the new car for next year, every time it goes through a development cycle, it’s significant steps.
“So it’s getting that balance right between the marginal gains for this year and the big steps for next year. But that’s no different to how it’s been in the past.”