Christian Horner said Red Bull were “very surprised” when Mercedes attempted to stick with their ‘zero-pod concept’, the drama when that decision was quickly scrapped not taking him by surprise though.
The introduction of ground effect aerodynamics into Formula 1 as of 2022 caused Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari all to take very unique paths in the search for performance.
However, it soon became clear that Red Bull’s path was producing the rewards as they began to stack up the victories, following an early-season challenge from Ferrari.
Christian Horner: Toto Wolff ‘tends to be dramatic’
Mercedes saw their run of consecutive Constructors’ titles come to a screeching halt at eight, winning just the one race in 2022 via George Russell in Brazil, though that success prompted Mercedes to continue with their ‘zero-pod’ solution, a move they quickly regretted as team boss Toto Wolff confirmed its days were numbered at the F1 2023 season-opener in Bahrain.
The Monaco GP marked the start of Mercedes’ transition away from their ‘zero-pods’ to something more comparable to the Red Bull concept, though it nonetheless proved to be a winless campaign, their first since 2011.
Asked in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com whether Wolff’s first-race abandonment of the Mercedes concept left Red Bull feeling positive, he replied: “Well, Toto tends to be a little dramatic anyway.
“We were very surprised to see Mercedes sticking with the concepts that had clearly failed the previous year.
“If you looked around the cars in pre-season, the cars that were closest in concept to us were the Aston Martin and McLaren.”
As it turned out, Red Bull had every reason to have felt very positive, as they went on to claim a remarkable 21 grand prix wins out of 22 in F1 2023.
Ferrari were the team to deny them the perfect record as Carlos Sainz took victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, but considering Ferrari brought the fight to Red Bull in the early rounds of 2022, their failure to build on that also came as a great F1 2023 surprise to Red Bull.
“I think what surprised us was that Ferrari had a very good car last year and the natural evolution of that, we expected it to be a very tight contender this year,” said Horner.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari are preparing heavily-revised challengers for F1 2024 as they look to generate a title battle against Red Bull, Wolff having revealed that a “more conventional” approach is coming for the W15, hinting at a further transition towards the Red Bull concept.
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