As Formula 1 braces for another year of Red Bull dominance, Gerhard Berger says he has “confidence” Ferrari can pull them back, but it will take “radical steps”.
Red Bull have been in a league of their own in Formula 1’s new ground-effect aerodynamic era, winning 38 of 44 Grands Prix to secure back-to-back championship doubles.
But while the Milton Keynes team’s rivals had a small look-in in 2022, last season they managed just one win with Carlos Sainz taking the chequered flag at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Gerhard Berger backs Ferrari to lead the fight-back
More worrying than the 21-1 stat was the general deficit to Red Bull, with Max Verstappen all too often winning by double figures over the nearest non-Red Bull driver.
It has rivals, and fans alike, worried about what comes next.
Berger, though, believes 2024 will see closer competition, but it won’t be easy.
“In Formula 1 things always turn out differently than you think,” he said in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport before conceding that the Red Bull “bar is very high.”
He added: “If Red Bull keeps its team together like this, it will be difficult to catch up with them. It can only work if the others take radical steps.”
The former F1 driver has backed Ferrari, third last season, to lead that charge.
“I still have the most confidence in Ferrari,” he said. “They were better in the second half of the season than the results showed.
“You should never underestimate Mercedes and [Lewis] Hamilton, and McLaren is also doing a very good job.”
Max Verstappen’s dominance is not a bad thing for F1
Although Formula 1 raced in front of sold-out crowds last season, television audience figures were reportedly down on 2022’s championship with suggestions Verstappen’s dominance hurt the sport.
“We already said in Schumacher’s time: This can’t last long. But such dominance also creates a certain enthusiasm, even for me,” he said.
“You just get caught up in perfection. That the driver doesn’t make any mistakes again, that the team completes every pit stop in the best time, that the car doesn’t stop again and the engine stops again.
“It’s fascinating and you just want to know whether it will be like that again next time.”
He, however, was quick to point out that like Ferrari’s success with Michael Schumacher and Mercedes’ before Red Bull’s, the latter’s reign will end. One day.
“I find it incredibly interesting because such dominance repeats itself over and over again. Sometimes it was McLaren, sometimes Williams, Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull. But they all come to an end at some point, and usually for a similar reason,” he said.
“Whoever wins everything, like Red Bull now, will not make any radical changes. You have a good foundation and you keep building on it. You benefit from this for quite a while.
“But then the moment comes when the second or third person takes this radical step because they have to make a big leap to move forward again. If he succeeds, the tide will turn.
“Long-term success also does something to the people in the team themselves. At some point they are inevitably fed up and look for a new challenge. Or they are poached by other teams. Not just with money. The new team makes them feel important. With the old one they just feel like they are part of the success.
“If a team loses two or three key positions, the balance of power shifts. This happened to me too. There was actually no reason to leave Ferrari at the end of 1989. But I wanted a new challenge, and that was McLaren at the time.”