Lewis Hamilton said he has never seen a Formula 1 car with the speed of the Red Bull RB19, even at the height of Mercedes’ domination.
Two rounds have now passed of the 2023 Formula 1 season, and already the signs are ominous for the likes of Mercedes and their chances of mounting a title challenge against Red Bull.
Heading into the second race of the season, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Red Bull spoke of expecting a fiercer challenge from the chasing back after utterly dominating the Bahrain season opener.
That was not what transpired though as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took his first win of the season, while Max Verstappen went from P15 on the grid, having been eliminated in Q2 via a driveshaft failure, to finishing P2, 15 seconds up the road from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso at the chequered flag.
And one of the drivers who Verstappen passed during his recovery effort was his 2021 title rival Hamilton.
Hamilton would close the door on Verstappen at the final corner, but there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop the Dutchman shooting past down the main straight and going into Turn 1 ahead with P8 in the bag.
Now, Hamilton knows all about fast cars, Mercedes having dominated Formula 1 for much of the turbo-hybrid era which began in 2014, that year arguably seeing the height of Mercedes’ unmatchable powers.
That year yielded Hamilton’s first World title in Mercedes colours and five more have followed, but having watched that RB19 manned by Verstappen sail past him, he said he has never seen speed like that from a Formula 1 car before, relative to the rest of the field.
Asked if Red Bull’s dominance is a worrying sign for Formula 1, Hamilton replied: “I don’t know, it’s not for me to say, but I’ve never seen a car so fast.
“When we were fast, we weren’t that fast. That’s the fastest car I’ve seen compared to the rest, I don’t know why or how but he came past me with serious speed.
“I didn’t even bother to block because there was a massive speed difference.”
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Teams need that wind tunnel penalty to hit Red Bull hard
F1 2023 is of course only two races old, meaning that there is still plenty of time for the pecking order to change over the remaining 21 rounds, but with the gulf between Red Bull and the pack which exists right now, they will take some stopping.
Right about now, there really are shades of Mercedes 2014 in how Red Bull are just head and shoulders above the rest.
Mercedes are hoping to make a big step forwards when they do ultimately reveal the heavily updated W14 which is being promised, while the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin will also look to make strides, but Red Bull of course will not be standing still either, even though they probably could at this stage!
But, there is still hope, as Red Bull have the least amount of time in the wind tunnel out of all teams, firstly because they won the 2022 Constructors’ title, but also because they got docked an extra 10% of that time for committing a minor overspend breach of the 2021 cost cap.
This then will limit Red Bull’s resources in the view to the season ahead and their 2024 challenger, so rival teams are going to need to take full advantage of their extra wind tunnel time to stop this becoming the era of Red Bull.