Mercedes have been urged to “do what Aston Martin have done” by copying Red Bull’s race-winning concept, but Ted Kravitz admits the designers at Mercedes won’t appreciate that.
Red Bull have started F1’s new ground effect aerodynamic era on a rampage, the Milton Keynes team winning 17 races last season on their way to the title double, and kick-starting their defence with an emphatic win in Bahrain.
Mercedes, meanwhile, have struggled. At first the problem was thought to be just the porpoising but as the 2022 season progressed it became apparent the car was lacking in downforce.
That necessitated a concept change over the winter, Mercedes changing the floor, but once again this year’s W14 is still lacking in downforce.
Lewis Hamilton finished the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in fifth place but was over 50s behind race winner Max Verstappen with Toto Wolff fearing their deficit to Red Bull has “doubled, maybe even tripled” on what he called “one of the worst days of racing”.
Kravitz says that’s because “the reality has struck” for the team.
“The reality has struck,” he told Sky Sports, “they know where they are, there’s no more messing about, mo more talking about engine modes or fuel levels or anything like that.
“They know where they are, this car has not worked and Toto is calling it a day after one race.
“Now, you might say that’s been foolhardy. Does he not want to, like Christian [Horner], take a sample of two or three. No, he doesn’t. He says this doesn’t work.
“What I thought was key was the three tenths is that now we know about this Imola upgrade and that it was only going to be worth three tenths. What? I thought this Imola upgrade for Mercedes was going to solve all their problems!”
Told by Naomi Schiff that they “need more than three tenths to get to the front”, Kravitz replied: “Exactly so I think Toto is right.
“But what are they going to do, stop the Imola upgrade? Surely that’s already in production.
“But the cost cap is key for me. Lewis said earlier in the weekend it’s not as if we can do a Plan B when he was rubbishing the whole building of a Plan B car because we can’t under the cost cap.
“But Toto is now tasking his technical people with precisely that – to build a Plan B car for what? Silverstone?”
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If the team does put out a new concept, Kravitz says it will be their third in less than three years but something they have to do if they want to get back to fighting at the front.
It’s what Aston Martin did last season, the Silverstone team introducing a Red Bull styled B-spec car and carrying that concept through into this year’s championship with Fernando Alonso joining the Red Bull team-mates on the Bahrain podium.
“Mercedes already changed their concept over the winter,” said the pit lane reporter. “Their concept last year was try to get the car as low as possible, maybe take advantage so the floors could really flex and seal the diffuser and the floor, and then go from there.
“Then they had the dreaded porpoising so the whole of 2022 was written off.
“They changed concept, let’s run the car like that, let’s run it up a bit, let’s change the floor, let’s keep the sidepods because we think aerodynamically they’re good, and you know what let’s go with this concept.
“This concept hasn’t worked. So they are going to go concept three, they’re going to need a third concept in two-and-a-half years!
“That is essentially to do what Aston Martin have done. Toto is clear: ‘There is nothing wrong with our power unit, there is nothing wrong with our rear suspension, nothing wrong with the gearbox’ – all of which are on the Aston.
“And you look at the Aston, it’s a Red Bull copy that’s more or less influenced by the Red Bull.
“So that’s what Mercedes will have to do. But if you’re a designer at Mercedes, how will you feel?”
It’s a decision the Briton believes Mercedes will need to take a whole.
“As Toto says they didn’t win eight World Championships in a row by being not good at their jobs,” he added. “And Toto Wolff is keen to say that nobody’s dogmatic in the team, there isn’t one person standing there in the middle of a team saying ‘I insist we go with this concept’.
“It was a group decision so as a group decision they’re going have to reverse out of that and then go down the other route.”
Even Wolff admits Mercedes could learn something from Aston Martin who did a “better job” that their engine supplier over the winter.
“We can only take our hats off to to what they’ve done,” he told media outlets, including PlanetF1.com, at the Sakhir circuit. “They’ve gained two seconds in six months and their car is half ours, considering that they use the same gearbox, engine and rear suspension, plus we also share the same wind tunnel. So we just have to recognise that they did a better job than us.
“We know we don’t have a mechanical problem, otherwise Aston Martin would suffer too, the point is that we go well on the straight but we lose a lot of time in the fast corners.”