Mercedes stopped developing its 2020 F1 car “a long time ago,” throwing down the gauntlet to Red Bull over the rest of the season.
The German automaker has been such a dominant force throughout the Turbo Hybrid era, and the story unfolds today with the Covid-affected season of 2020.
To date, Mercedes has won nine of the last 11 races, with the two exceptions being Red Bull’s masterclass strategy in Silverstone and Pierre Gasly’s win in the action-packed Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
Initially, in Austria, the RB16 was about 1 percent slower, but the deficit dropped to 0.232 percent at the Nürburgring. With overall balance, the RB16 struggled and was understeering and oversteering all over the spot. It seemed to find its rhythm with recent updates, up to and until the Eifel GP understeered just in a few places along the lap. At the Nürburgring, Max Verstappen was expected to take pole but lost to Mercedes by a few tenths.
While reflecting on Red Bull’s performance improvements, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said:
“Red Bull are closer to us, and in qualifying, Lewis and Max both did their best times in Q2. If you look at everyone’s best times, it’s very, very close. Valtteri just put together a brilliant lap when it actually counted.
“They’ve been closing on us over the course of the year. Definitely, the changes in the engine mode to stop the qualifying modes have brought them a step closer.
“I think they are developing quicker than we are at the moment, and we’ve seen that progressively. But to be honest, we’ve seen that they tend not to start as strongly as we do in most of the recent years.
“I can’t really think of a year recently where they’ve not been with us by the end.
“If we see that trend continue, then the remaining races are going to get tougher, and it will be harder to try and keep getting the cars on pole on Saturday and winning on Sunday.”
As the technical regulations change from 2022, Mercedes is keen to start developing the car as soon as possible. To achieve this, the 2021 car production must be completed before the end of the current season. Teams will not be allowed to work on the cars for 2022 until next year.