As part of the punishment for breaching last year’s cost cap, Red Bull was fined $7 million dollars and a 10% reduction in wind tunnel time as part of F1’s aerodynamic testing restrictions.
The extra loss of wind tunnel driving means that Red Bull is heavily compromised compared to Mercedes, who get a lot of extra running as a result of third place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Under F1’s sporting regulations, as Constructors’ Champion, Red Bull would have been allowed to run 70 per cent of the full wind tunnel, equating to 224 runs within a single aerodynamic testing period, six of which are in a year.
Second-placed Ferrari should get 75% and 240 runs in that period, while Mercedes should get 80% and 256 runs.
But due to Red Bull’s drop, it now only gets 63% of the allotment and 202 runs.
This means that Mercedes gets about 27% more wind tunnel allowance and wind tunnel runs.
Speaking of the challenges of closing the gap to Red Bull this winter with the F1 cost cap, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff thinks the aerodynamic test deficit could be something that could have an impact.
Asked if a recovery was harder now that there was a spending cap, Wolff said: “I think it’s harder because you can’t really invest more to get the outcome out faster.
“But I think how the aerodynamic regulations are designed, and the penalty they got, it’s 25% less wind tunnel and that could have an effect,” Wolff said.
“The way the regulations, the ATR restrictions, are set means there are teams that are further back and can really take a big leap compared to the front runners.
Red Bull wind tunnel
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
“That is also why we will see championships much closer in the future, because if you are last you have 40% more.
“So that’s clearly an advantage that you should take advantage of. Is it a given that we can use it? Who knows?
“She [Red Bull] are a brilliant racing team. It will give them extra motivation and against Ferrari that is seven percent. But it’s about marginal gains and we’ve been a bit closer to Ferrari in the last quarter of the season.”
Mercedes was held back this year by pausing development of its W13 as it sought solutions to the car’s porpoise problems early in the season.
But once it got the hang of the core issues, it was able to make quick improvements and managed to dominate the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend, with George Russell winning both the sprint and main Grands Prix.
Asked if strong form at the end of the season had given Mercedes confidence to fight at the front again next year, Wolff said: “I never have confidence.
“I am a man with a glass half empty, and I never really believe that the work we do is good enough. I’m not at all sure we can bounce back to a position where we’re fighting for championships because you have to recognize that the competition is strong.
“But we will do everything in our power, everything, to set our goals high and try to achieve them.”