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Red Bull Racing

Wolff is wrong - catching Red Bull is far greater challenge than 'climbing Mount Everest'

The Mercedes team boss reflected on finishing second in the championship to Red Bull and the dominant RB19, but is wrong with his assertion that trying to catch them in 2024 is like climbing Mount Everest. It's far greater than that.

Verstappen win Abu Dhabi 2023
To news overview © XPBimages

Max Verstappen won the season-opener in Bahrain by 11 seconds and after criss-crossing the planet over the next eight months, making a mockery of the stat book as he went, won the season-finale in Abu Dhabi by 17 seconds.

When a driver and team is as dominant as Verstappen and Red Bull have been in 2023, for those chasing behind, you want signs of tangible progress throughout the season, to claw back some performance.

You need believe that you have given yourself a stronger platform to launch an attack next time around.

But both Mercedes and Ferrari failed miserably at that. Mercedes is in a mess and two years into the rules cycle looks as far away as ever from truly getting its head around ground effects while to its credit, Ferrari did come on strong in the second-half of the season, but it was far too little, too late.

Both squads have effectively wasted a second year trying to catch Red Bull, who will head into year three of ground effects with an effective two-year head start as Mercedes and Ferrari start from scratch with new concepts.

The RB20 will be a gentle evolution of the crushing RB19, and has been in development since the middle of the year with Red Bull able to turn the development taps towards 2024 and let the RB19 do its thing safe in the knowledge Mercedes and Ferrari, Singapore aside, were simply not up to scratch.

No wonder then Mercedes boss Toto Wolff claimed "there is Mount Everest to climb to catch Red Bull."

But the challenge is far greater than that.

Challenge greater than climbing Everest

The world's tallest mountain was first successfully climbed by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and local sherpa Tenzing Norgay in May 1953.

Countless expeditions to the Himalayas had tried to conquer Everest but the challenge proved just too great until Hillary and Norgay led the British effort to the top of the world.

If Red Bull are Everest at 29,032 feet then Mercedes and Ferrari must be considered to be Mount Fuji at a lowly 12,395 feet. That is the gulf between them.

To put it into another context achieved 16 years after Hillary and Norgay, if Red Bull is Apollo 11's Eagle lunar module and has just landed on the Moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on-board in July 1969, then Mercedes and Ferrari are way back in April and May 1961 when Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard became the first and second humans in space for the Soviet Union and United States, respectively.

While Red Bull gladly sits on the lunar surface, it can only look at its rivals just leaving the Earth for the first time.

The advantage of RB19 will be carried over to the RB20, and then even the RB21 of 2025 unless there are minor tweaks to the regulations designed to trip Red Bull up as the minor floor changes for 2021 were to Mercedes.

With the massive rules reset coming in 2026, the cars for 2024 will decide how 2025 goes with attention being diverted early onto the '26 machines from early in '25. The laws of diminishing returns means it is likely Red Bull will plateau as F1 heads towards '26, with Mercedes and Ferrari enjoying a far greater scope for development.

But just how much does Red Bull have in reserve?

The RB19 was rarely let off the leash in 2023, it didn't need to be, and as such, just how much was Verstappen driving within the car just to bring it home on another eco-run after hitting the lead?

Even if Mercedes, Ferrari or indeed McLaren or Aston Martin come out with a package capable of closing the gap to Red Bull, the RB20 and the untapped potential of the RB19 will surely be one giant leap for Red Bull-kind.

And that's a problem for Brackley and Maranello.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

F1 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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