‘Completely new car coming’ for Mercedes… ‘if you believe them’

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton speaking to his mechanics in the Mercedes garage. Azerbaijan April 2023

Lewis Hamilton speaking to his mechanics in the Mercedes garage. Azerbaijan April 2023

Christian Horner has again insisted the title race isn’t not over as Mercedes apparently have a “completely new car coming”, but he won’t say if he believes them.

This start of this season’s championship has witnessed a Red Bull rampage with the team yet to be defeated and racing to four 1-2 results in the five races.

With more than double the points scored by second placed Aston Martin, and Max Verstappen 44 points ahead of the nearest non-Red Bull driver in the standings, both championships are Red Bull’s to lose.

Horner, however, continues to insist that it’s not a done deal especially with Mercedes and Ferrari set to bring major upgrades to the next race, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

“There’s always things that can change,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times.

“We’re now heading back into the European season where the first round of the big upgrades are coming and if you believe Mercedes, they have a completely new car coming.”

Asked if he believed them, the Briton chipped in with an “I’m not going to answer that question” before continuing: “And Ferrari have upgrades coming and the competition will start to come through.

“It’s still early days, it’s very easy to get carried away with what’s going on here and now, but developments that are coming in the pipeline with other teams I’m sure are only going to converge the grid.”

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The Red Bull team boss firmly believes it’s a matter of when, not if, Mercedes and Ferrari bounce back from their early season disappointments.

“When you look at the competition,” he added, “it’s obviously not as competitive at this point in time but that will come back.

“It’s only a matter of time before Mercedes get their act together and Ferrari likewise.

“When you think back to the 2021 season, that was ridiculous. That was a heavyweight bout from the first round in Bahrain in March till final race in mid-December in Abu Dhabi.”

Mercedes have been talking up the extent of their Imola upgrades, if not the impact they expect.

Motorsport boss Toto Wolff recently said they’d “consist of new suspension parts, bodywork and some other things”, not all of it will be visible to outsiders.

Highlighting the importance of the team resolving their suspension issues to give the drivers more stability, he added: “I don’t believe in miracles, but I think that the stability of the car and the predictability for the drivers is just subpar.

“If we believe we can sort that out and help it by the front suspension redesign, then that’s definitely a good avenue. And this could be more of an answer too on lap time than what the aerodynamic package brings, by simply unlocking much more driveability and pace.”

“But,” he accepted, “I have never in my 15 years in F1 seen a silver bullet being introduced, where suddenly you unlock half a second of performance. So, I very much doubt that this is going to happen here.”

As for whether it will be a completely new car, even Wolff concedes introducing a B-spec is difficult in today’s cost cap era.