‘Mercedes don’t seem to have a clue how to do what Red Bull are doing’

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen walks past Lewis Hamilton. Hungary, Budapest July 2023.

Max Verstappen walks past Lewis Hamilton after qualifying at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.

F1 commentator Peter Windsor feels there is no sign yet that Mercedes have “any clue” how to close the gap to F1 2023’s unbeaten Red Bull team.

Having scooped eight consecutive Constructors’ titles between 2014 and 2021, Mercedes have been restricted to just a single victory since the new ground effect regulations were implemented last year.

The team targeted a return to title contention in 2023, but were forced into a re-design of their W14 car after a poor start to the season.

A sign of how far Mercedes have fallen?

Despite introducing a heavily revised chassis at the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May, Mercedes remain some way off the pace of Red Bull, who have won all 14 races held so far this season.

Windsor was full of praise for Red Bull after Max Verstappen secured a record 10th straight win at the recent Italian GP, claiming the reigning Constructors’ Champions have put every other team to shame in 2023 and are the only ones with a full understanding of the demands of modern F1.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished a distant fifth and sixth at Monza, with the latter narrowly ahead of Alex Albon and Lando Norris – of Mercedes customer teams Williams and McLaren respectively – at the chequered flag.

Windsor feels the fact Mercedes were satisfied with that result is evidence how far they have fallen over the last two seasons, with the team showing no indication yet that they have what it takes to match Red Bull’s level.

Appearing via a recent YouTube stream, he said: “You’ve got to say, if you’re the factory Mercedes team, the customer teams are uncomfortably close, aren’t they?

“And when Mercedes have to say post-race [at Monza], ‘Wow, we were the third-quickest car after Red Bull and Ferrari’, it wasn’t that brilliant.

“I mean, who did they beat? Their customers, basically – that’s not much to write home about.

“The fact that they are writing home about that just shows you the trouble that Mercedes are in and they don’t seem – on the face of it, what we’re seeing at the moment in the raw evidence – to have any clue yet how to do what Red Bull are doing.

“They seem to have a clue on how to get more downforce into the car or more downforce out of the car – but do they really know how to run the ride heights at any given circuit given the parameters of some of the weekends with the sprint race?

“And do they really know what sort of active-ride rate to have on the springs at the front of the rear if they’re trying to get one softer than the other? Do they really know how to build kerb strike into a car that’s got a perfect setup?

“Do they know all that? I don’t think they do.

“I don’t think Mercedes have that, because if they did by now they would have put it together, I think, and they’re so up and down.

“The way they describe it is: ‘Well, we have a very small operating window’ – but what does that mean?

“If Red Bull have an enormous operating window, and Mercedes have a tiny operating window, somebody there’s not doing a very good job, that’s all you can say.

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“I’m not saying from the point of view of: ‘Well, it’s alright for you to say that, Peter, you try and design a Formula 1 car.’

“I’m not saying that. All I’m saying is: Red Bull are doing the job, give them credit. And they’re doing an unbelievably good job actually, so more credit to Red Bull.”

Mercedes remain hopeful of fighting back in 2024, with trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin telling media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper that the team are “optimistic” of a title challenge.

Shovlin also rejected Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc’s claim that the chasing pack are highly unlikely to catch Red Bull before F1’s next major regulation changes in 2026.

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