Ferrari was surprised by Red Bull’s pace in developing a Formula 1 car. Is something wrong?
For a long time it seemed like a duel between gentlemen. The close battle between Ferrari and Red Bull in the first races of the new Formula 1 season delighted fans around the world with a duel of equals, but also justice. In recent years, Red Bull has been battling with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton on the track and in the verbal, but world champion Max Verstappen (23) and Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc of the same age have battled so far with children’s gloves. In close duels, they always gave each other fair space and no one missed the opportunity to praise the other in the loudest tones after fights.
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MORE: Helmut Marko (78) Red Bull sports car advisor Helmut Marko praised this year’s Ferrari rival for green clover at F1-Insider.com. “Ferrari has the same DNA as ours,” analyzed the honorary citizen of his hometown of Graz. “We are both racers. We only care about the sport. It was different with Mercedes.”
But: during the race in Miami and after that, there were the first cracks in the love relationship, which is unusual by the standards of Formula 1. The first poisonous arrows flew – in both directions. Red Bull made a rear start: after the race at Imola, there was a test by tire monopolist Pirelli. The sister team of Ferrari and Red Bull Alpha Toure both participated. The purpose of these tests is to develop the tires further. However, teams are prohibited from collecting data to develop their own vehicles. But that is exactly what Ferrari could have done, Red Bull suspected. The Austrians told the FIA that the Scuderia was driving it with two different bodies. Alpha Toure spies had reported this to Red Bull engineers.
The FIA asked Ferrari during the Miami GP and was satisfied with the answer. The Italians admitted that they were on the road with different bodies. But both parts were in use before. This circumstance in turn makes the underbody exchange legal.
After the race in Miami, which Verstappen easily won, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto is back again. The race director explained that Red Bull had recently brought in several updates and earned “a few tenths” as a result. In this context, he referred to the budget ceiling. Background: This year, teams are not allowed to spend more than $140 million. “If there’s a concern, it’s how well they develop considering the budget cap – and that’s definitely a problem,” Binotto said.
The notice is also understood as a request to the FIA. The base guards must check whether Red Bull is sticking to the budget limit. Binotto: “At some point, Red Bull will have to stop development because there is a budget limit. If not, I don’t understand how they can do that.” According to the Scuderia team boss, it is not financially feasible to maintain this pace. So Ferrari could have brought updates that can only be managed so far.
Only at the next race in Barcelona will the Italians come up with their first big development package, which should make up for the shortfall in front of Red Bull. Alone: Red Bull is also back in Spain. Senior Advisor Helmut Marko to F1-Insider.com: “We start from there with new parts, with which we can reach the optimum weight. So far, we have been relatively well above the minimum required weight of 798 kg.”
One thing is for sure: the Italians seem nervous. With Charles Leclerc, they are advancing in the drivers’ standings and are also leaders in the teams’ standings. What worries you: Verstappen has won the last two races, winning a total of three times. Whenever he crossed the finish line, the Dutchman was in front. And the world champion reduced the difference in front of Leclerc to 19 points. In terms of teams, Red Bull is only six points behind the Italians. So the trend clearly speaks of the Austrians.
Helmut Marko puts aside all assumptions that Red Bull can circumvent the budget line at F1 Insider: “Ferrari and we are on equal footing. In the future, the difference will be made by who gets the best results on the circuit in question. We still look forward to the big battle. And we have complete confidence in the FIA, ensuring that everything is going well.”
One thing is for sure: the air is getting thinner in the title fight. And whether Verstappen and Leclerc will leave enough room in the future is questionable. Mark Surer, a former Formula 1 driver, thinks at F1-Insider.com: “I don’t know how the two will handle each other when it comes to the crucial stage.” The Swiss also predicts that Mercedes will soon return to the title fight. Surer: “I think Mercedes will be strong in race after next in Monaco. You have a very good car on this narrow street circuit. If I’m right, the fight for the world championship will take on a whole new dimension.”
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