Mercedes’ Andrew Shovlin has shed light on the intriguing factors contributing to the fluctuating performance levels of teams trailing behind the dominant force of Red Bull.
Throughout the ongoing 2023 F1 season, Red Bull has demonstrated an unyielding grip by triumphing in all 12 races. The RB19’s remarkable pace advantage has positioned Max Verstappen on the cusp of securing his third world championship title.
While Mercedes currently holds the second spot in the Constructors’ standings, the position of the runner-up team has been a carousel, with Aston Martin, Ferrari, and the resurgent McLaren taking turns to challenge Red Bull’s supremacy on various race weekends.
Consequently, the championship battle remains tightly contested, preventing any team from establishing a clear lead and concentrating efforts on bridging the gap to Red Bull.
Andrew Shovlin, the Trackside Engineering Director, has delved into the dual factors he believes contribute to this captivating scenario.
“There’ll be track-specific elements, we looked quite good in Barcelona on maximum downforce, but the fact is, you can’t design your car for every single circuit,” Shovlin told the media.
“You’re seeing the nature of the corner speed, ride [quality] is a big factor can come into it, whether it’s an overheating circuit [for the tyres] or one where it’s tricky to get the tyres to work, whether the balance is more oversteery, all of those things will change the relative performance.
“Then on top of that, you’ve got a pretty aggressive development race going on and you can see that with the steps that Williams made, that McLaren made.
“People are bringing a lot of performance and the phasing of that is starting to juggle the order a bit.”
Despite significant efforts from various teams to improve their positions, none have managed to close the gap to Red Bull. In the Hungarian Grand Prix, Verstappen secured a commanding victory, finishing 33 seconds ahead of Lando Norris, and in the Belgium race, he maintained a 32-second lead over Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Andrew Shovlin attributes this unassailable advantage to the inherent strength of Red Bull’s RB19 from the outset of its launch.
“The way the rules are, if you launch a competitive car, in a cost cap, it is quite difficult for teams to catch up,” he said.
“Because if you’ve got a competitive car, you don’t need to be throwing updates at it week in, week out. They started in a very good place.
“The fact is our wind tunnel resource is not very different to theirs and not very different to Ferrari’s so that initial performance advantage you start with – and it has come down over the year – but when you look at how big it was in Bahrain and Jeddah, it’s always difficult to shut that down in terms of the championship.”