Although Red Bull’s rivals have taken steps towards the dominant F1 team’s dominance recently, Alex Wurz says Max Verstappen is the clear favourite for the Austrian GP this weekend.
“They have a car with good top speed, good downforce in slow corners and little drag on the straights. That’s what’s needed at the Red Bull Ring,” the former F1 driver and president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association told Kronen Zeitung.
“Of course Max Verstappen has every chance of setting the tone in Spielberg.”
However, Dr Helmut Marko warned recently that Charles Leclerc could actually play a spoiler role at Red Bull’s home race.
“Let’s see,” he told Osterreich newspaper. “Ferrari had the fastest car in Montreal. And now the Red Bull Ring suits them. If Leclerc starts from row 1 or 2, it won’t be a walk in the park for Max.”
Wurz, though, is sceptical. “With Ferrari it’s pretty difficult at the moment to know what package they will arrive on the track with,” he said, as reports emerge that Ferrari actually tested a new floor during a ‘filming day’ at Fiorano this week.
Certainly, Pierre Wache – Red Bull’s technical director – does not seem to be too worried, as he admits that the 2023 car’s dominance turned out to be “bigger than we expected” before the season started.
“It’s the efficiency, I would say,” he said. “On different tracks we are able to produce downforce without massive drag.”
However, Red Bull’s rivals have now had weeks to study the photos of the RB19’s floor from Monaco – and Wache admits that the wind tunnel development penalties for the 2021 budget cap overspend may soon start to bite.
That is despite the fact that Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton warned that Red Bull – so far ahead in the championships – may now get a huge boost from being able to focus so early on the 2024 car.
“It is not easier because we are leading the championship,” Wache insists. “We are going to the limit.
“I think it (the penalties) could for sure affect the current development of the car and maybe closing up the grid this year, but also will massively affect next year’s car,” Wache added.