‘It will surprise us at certain events’ – James Vowles reveals Mercedes’ main weakness compared to Red Bull
Mercedes may have beaten Red Bull in three of four races so far this season, but according to team chief strategist James Vowles their W12 has a key weakness compared to their rivals – and he expects that the Silver Arrows pay him over and over. races this season.
Mercedes entered 2021 on the back foot after arguably their worst pre-season testing experience in the turbo-hybrid era. But according to Vowles, coming from behind has given Mercedes an advantage this season over Red Bull.
“It’s an obvious statement, but when you’re the car behind you have more options than the car in front of you,” said Vowles, speaking on F1 TVs Teak Talk show. “In Bahrain it was just that you could take more risks without worrying about losing… you’re already in second place, so what’s going to happen? And it is much more difficult when you are the main entity.
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“It was the same situation in Barcelona,” he added. “We have a decision to make, which is that we can do the opposite of Red Bull – you would have heard we called ‘the opposite of Red Bull’ on the radio – and it is not. something they have… And that gives power to the car behind and gives you a little more strategic flexibility than the car ahead. “
The result after the first four races is that Lewis Hamilton leads Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 14 points in the drivers’ standings, having won three Grands Prix against that of Verstappen – in what is Hamilton’s best start to the season – while Mercedes leads Red Bull. of 141 points 112.
But Vowles expects Mercedes to falter at some point this season due to a key difference between their car and Red Bull’s …
“Warm up [and] pulling out a qualifying round they seem to be slightly better, which could be one and the same, ”said Vowles. “The start of the race when they’re in the lead you just see them widening a second and a half behind us very, very quickly, and again in qualifying, maybe we need a few laps. more than them to get the tires to work. We’ve done it so far, but it will surprise us, I’m sure, at some events.
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“I think we have a little advantage over Red Bull in terms of tire durability,” he added. “And again, that just opens up a few more possibilities. They seem to be slightly better in the warm-up phase, we’re a little better doing long runs and I think it plays a bit more in our hands and creates a few opportunities that they don’t have.
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And according to Vowles, there’s one more advantage Red Bull has over Mercedes – one that he says could help rivals at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.
“This car has a lot of sheer downforce,” said Vowles of the Red Bull RB16B. “You can see it in Sector 3 in Barcelona, I think you’ll see it here this weekend in Monaco at the same time, and there are attributes of both cars that are clearly strong and have their inherent weaknesses. But that’s where I would clearly see Red Bull for me for the time being to have shown strength over us.