Mercedes-AMG losing ground to Red Bull Racing for the 2021 F1 title fight: Here’s why!
Since the start of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014, all the teams on the Formula One grid were playing catch-up to Mercedes-AMG F1. They have won seven titles in a row and with comparative ease. But 2021 has finally thrown up competition that is making the Brackley-based team sweat. Red Bull Racing has opened up a 40 points lead to Mercedes in the constructors championship by winning five of the eight rounds of the 2021 season so far. Lewis Hamilton is also behind Max Verstappen in the drivers championship by 18 points. But, there is more to it than meets the eye. So, let us try to understand the reasons why Mercedes is forced to play catch up to Red Bull after winning seven world and drivers championships in a row.
2022 is ushering in a plethora of changes to the Formula One world which is changing the philosophy of the cars. This means that teams have to concentrate on developing the 2022 car while actively being competitive in the 2021 season.
Mercedes has taken a similar route by restricting the development plans for their current car and concentrating on the 2022 development. But this philosophy is not being used by Red Bull as they have been bringing aerodynamic changes to most race weekends. Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff had said that Mercedes is not looking into the 2021 car and the German team is fully embedded in next year’s development. But after the domination showcased by Red Bull at the Styrian GP, Mercedes technical director James Allison and Lewis Hamilton have revealed that Mercedes have to bring in upgrades to remain competitive for the 2021 season. Moreover, Lewis Hamilton has also been behind the simulator to try and extract more from the package, which is a rare occasion for the seven -time world champion
Red Bull on the other hand, have gone full throttle with the development of their RB16B. Their rear diffuser has seen a significant upgrade with the introduction of the serrated diffuser, central wing pillar exhaust shroud and the spoon-shaped rear wing. This works well with the high rake philosophy of their car. Moreover, this allows Red Bull to run a flatter rear wing which gives them a significant boost in the straight line speed. According to Mercedes, the Red bull was a quarter of a second faster in race pace during the Styrian GP. Mercedes had to use their high-attack rear wing in the Styrian GP to aid cornering speed while sacrificing straight line speed as explained by Mercedes Chief strategist James Vowles.
Red Bull’s oil partner ExxonMobil have introduced a new engine oil for the team which works at higher temperatures and with less deposition of oil residue. This oil was introduced to the Honda engine in Baku and is rumoured to provide an advantage of 10 to 15bhp. This has allowed the team to outperform the German team on the races after.
Mercedes is trying to stop the development of their W12 car for a better jump on the 2022 car but as a result, have been pushed on the backfoot. As a result, the Brackley team are now being forced to push developments on their current car for a chance to create history by winning eight titles in a row. Meanwhile, Red Bull is pushing the RB16B with constant developments while keeping the developments of the 2022 car under wraps.