Christian Horner confirms that Red Bull has “reigned everything back” development-wise due the uncertainty over the cost cap, with nothing big expected to be introduced in the next four races.
Red Bull has won the last six races of the season in what has been a dominant display over title rivals Ferrari on track, and off the track in the development race. Last year’s championship rivals Mercedes, who beat Red Bull to the constructor’s title but famously lost the driver’s championship in the controversial Abu Dhabi season finale, are struggling with a non-compliant car.
To cure the severe porpoising issue Mercedes has suffered with since testing, the car is run a lot stiffer than others’ in order to allow their Spanish GP upgrade to work to prevent porpoising. This has left the drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell battling with extremely poor ride quality and a small window where the car operates nearest to its best.
Fast, flowing and smooth circuits therefore are, on the face of it, Mercedes’ best chance of getting into the fight with Red Bull and Ferrari. When Horner was asked if Mercedes could become a factor in Silverstone and in France, he replied: “Definitely.”
“I think they’ll be strong at Silverstone, I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be,” Horner states. “Paul Ricard, the same. I think Ferrari will be quick at Silverstone as well, so it could be a more of a challenging circuit for us just due to the nature of this layout. So it’s incredible that we’ve put a run of six race victories together. Silverstone could well be the most challenging.
“I’d love [Red Bull’s run of victories] to continue, but with every race it gets harder. But when you think of the swing in the championship, from where we left Australia, to where we are today, it just shows how quickly things can move. And I think Max [has] hit a purple patch of form.
“The car was a bit more to his liking this weekend as well. But it was just a great shame, we didn’t have Checo in there because I think he would have a good race pace as well [in Canada]. And it was a shame, we didn’t pick up those points for him,” summed up Horner.
The process of in-season car development has been altered significantly with the introduction of the cost cap, limiting the overall finances a team has at its disposal. This restriction will trickle down to the development rate as less money is available to invest in different blind paths of aerodynamic or mechanical development.
Instead, teams must now be sure that the path they’re heading down is the right one as money can not afford to be wasted barking up the wrong tree. An organisation which has grown to the size of the Red Bull team of today has arguably the toughest job of them all decreasing their financial operation to meet the cap, often leading to redundancies and tough decision making.
Ferrari accused Red Bull earlier in the season, around the time of the Miami Grand Prix, of fast-tracking developments at an almost impossible rate to be legally within the cost cap realm. Horner explains how Red Bull now has next to nothing planned to be introduced between now and the summer break, in four races time, in what is a crucial leg of the season.
“Not anything big,” Horner replied when asked if there are upgrades planned before the summer break. “It’s very modest evolution, components are introduced as components come to the end of their life. So it’s a very, very different form of development, to what you would see in previous years.”
There is also uncertainty over possible changes to the cost cap to consider, which is currently under consideration to alleviate the pressures brought on by the unforeseen rising costs of living and inflation. Different team bosses have contrasting opinions on the matter, with the ethical concerns of cutting salaries being weighed against the possible destruction of the cost cap philosophy.
“We’ve had to reign everything back,” Horner revealed. “And I think the problem with uncertainty with a cap, with the rate of inflation that we’re seeing, there’s only parts and people that are really the biggest cost drivers. And it would be I think a catastrophe for the formula that people would have to take a hit, you know, for something that is beyond the control.
“I think there’s a moral issue that needs to be dealt with as well there on behalf of, and I know, the FIA are looking at it together with the Liberty guys because nobody could have expected the kind of inflation – and perhaps I’m the one that’s talked the most about it, but our problems are not the biggest in this area. You know, I think Mercedes, they employ more people, they have higher salaries within their group than ourselves – Ferrari again, another very big team with high costs.
“When you hear of teams in the mid grid that are also going to be in breach of the cap, that were pushing for the cap to be lower originally, I think it shows… it’s not about development. It’s not about development being the biggest contributor to these costs, it’s just the fixed costs of going racing with freight, with energy, with utilities, with the supply of components, it has just gone stratospheric,” summed up Horner.
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