Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Red Bull as dominant as Mercedes was at start of hybrid era – Wolff

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Red Bull are as dominant as his team was when the V6 hybrid turbo era began in 2014.

Red Bull have begun the 2023 season with consecutive one-two wins. Including last season they have now won 12 of the last 13 races.

Mercedes became F1’s dominant force when the current V6 hybrid turbo power unit regulations were introduced in 2014. Over the first three years under the rules Mercedes won 51 races out of a possible 59.

Following yesterday’s race Lewis Hamilton likened Red Bull’s advantage to what he enjoyed in 2014. “I think we’ve had those years where we were as strong,” Wolff admitted.

Mercedes were almost unbeatable in 2014
However he said Red Bull’s achievement deserves to be appreciated. “It’s a meritocracy this sport. Even if it’s not great for the show that the same guys win all the time, it’s because they’ve done a good job and we haven’t.

“So we all hope for a good entertainment factor, and it’s our duty with all we have to catch up and fight these guys.”

Red Bull’s strong start to the season has raised concerns they may end the year undefeated. Wolff said people should talk F1 down.

Race start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
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“I remember hearing voices like that in 2014, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19, ’20. And what makes the sport so special that you need to work hard to win and you deserve it, as a matter of fact.

“Of course we will try to do everything in our powers to fight back and we will look at areas of weaknesses that they may have. But entertainment follows sport, and that’s maybe not good from the commercial side, but it is what makes Formula 1 so special.”

Mercedes has resolved to overhaul the design of its car in reaction to its disappointing start to 2023. Wolff said they saw signs in Jeddah that they are heading in the right direction.

“The direct competitor is very far away in terms of performance and that’s not something that’s going to be easy to catch,” he admitted. “But today we’ve seen that directionally with our development it’s heading into the way that we wanted it to head.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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70 comments on “Red Bull as dominant as Mercedes was at start of hybrid era – Wolff”

  1. Yes, RB’s present average pace advantage is similar to that of Mercedes when they started dominating, although perhaps not as much because W05 was more than a second per lap faster on average than the next-fastest teams IIRC.

    1. @jerejj

      IIRC Mercedes in 2014-16 had a larger advantage on their rivals than Red bull has had in 2022 and 2023. Ferrari were faster in qualifying than Red bull last year. Mercedes never had a team matching them in qualifying in any of those seasons. Also, Mercedes could just turn up their engines and go over 1.2s a lap faster than rivals on Sundays, which is something Red bull couldn’t do last season… Although they might be able to do that this year.

      1. Dont get points for winning on a saturday ( not counting sprints or Spa 21.), and it was quite well known Mercs advantage in quali was down to engine ( Party ) mode which they could only use for the odd few laps. Redbulls advantage is every thing else, thus locked in for the full duration of a race, not just a handfull of laps before the engine blows up.

        Redbull have done amazing, its up to every body else to do better

        1. The problem is that with minimal testing allowed, it’s even harder for other teams to catch up once one team has the advantage.

          This season is already shaping up to be a snoozefest, and it’s looking likely that I will shortly be joining most of my friends who have given up on F1 – and I’ve seen at least the highlights of almost every race for the past 40 years. I won’t deny that I was always a Hamilton & Wolff fan and that my intense dislike of Verstappen and Horner (particularly Horner) doesn’t help at all.

          1. so you must be a brand new fan if you don’t like snoozefests. either that or, you just don’t want Red Bull leading the snoozefest, you’d rather that be Mercedes.

            real fans stick around for the long haul because we get to see epic seasons like 2021, 2016, 2008, 2007, 2003, etc.

            when the front of the grid is a single driver streaking away, we focus on positions behind and watching those battles unfold. watching McLaren vs Alpine, or Ferrari vs Mercedes last year, it was down to the wire between those two teams, and worth the watch, even if it won’t be talked about in 20 years like a Schumacher vs Kimi battle of 2003.

            so anyway, bye.

        2. @Mosin

          Sorry to disagree, but Mercs advantage was literally everywhere. If you’re not convinced, go back and watch Bahrain 2014, those 11 last laps of the race after the SC released the pack. Both Merc drivers at the front were fighting tooth and nail which doesn’t result in optimal lap times, but they still pulled 24 seconds on the entire pack in those mere 11 laps.

          Party mode… Refer to Lowe’s comments on how they would discuss in 2014 on Saturdays how much power to give the engine for Q3, ultimately seldomly running all out because they didn’t want to show their true performance level.

          1. It definitely helped them that Perez was leading the pack and faster cars like Ricciardo, Vettel and Massa were further behind.

            Now Red Bull was much faster than the 2nd faster car.

          2. @Edvaldo
            The Force India was a Mercedes-engined car which in itself posed a big advantage over the non-Mercedes cars. Perez qualified fifth, not that far behind third-place qualifier Ricciardo, and qualified faster than Vettel and Massa on merit. So to say it was all that much slower that race…
            I mean, just fire up a replay of the race on F1TV. Massa, one of the faster cars as you say, came out of T1 in P3. After 1 lap he was 2 seconds behind Hamilton. After 5 laps, that was 5 seconds. And that was with Hamilton getting the message to take care of his tyres.

            Mercedes were much faster than the second faster car by a big amount, no matter which way you look at it.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th March 2023, 14:25

            @MattDS A counterpoint – it’s too early in the season but let’s look at points:

            2014 Season
            Red Bull 405
            Mercedes 701

            Percentage 57%

            2023 Season
            Red Bull 87
            Aston Martin 38 (44%)
            Mercedes 38 (44%)
            Ferrari 26 (30%)

            Of course, in 2014 Red Bull had 2 terrible first races and scores very few points so they were even further behind but they bounced back so the 57% would have been higher if they’d done better in the opening races.

            Also, Checo has never been as comfortable in the Red Bull as Rosberg did in the Mercedes.

          4. @freelittlebirds my comment wasn’t comparing the RB19 and W05. It was a response to the notion that Mercedes really only had an advantage for “a handful of laps before the engine blows up”.

            The W05 was mighty in qualifying and race pace equally. On pace it was good enough to 1-2 in literally every race in 2014. How is that a car that “only has an advantage for a handful of laps before the engine blows up”? The answer is simple: it isn’t and that was a false statement ;)

            That’s all I was saying.

          5. @MattDS

            the 2nd fastest car was Ricciardo, not Massa. Just look at the Spanish GP that year. Or the whole year.
            Force India was tricky to overtake because of the superior engine. Yet a couple more laps and Ricciardo would have gone past Perez too.

          6. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            20th March 2023, 16:17

            @mattds You’re right but I do wonder how dominant Red Bull will be this season.

          7. @Edvaldo you literally said the faster cars like Ricciardo, Vettel and MASSA. Now you hold it against me that I used Massa as an example out of those 3 because he was the easiest non-Perez car to compare the speed differential between Mercedes and the pack with, as Massa ran in P3 after the start?

            You’re also ignoring my overall point. The W05 was a monster in qualifying AND race pace, it was fast enough to score a 1-2 in literally every race when looking at pace alone. But hey, do keep arguing minor points to try and imply it wasn’t.

          8. @MattDS

            Weren’t you talking about the bit of racing which happened after the SC? Why then are you talking about lap 2? At the beginning of the race Massa clearly had issues with the tyres and couldn’t even keep Perez behind him.

          9. @Edvaldo yes I was initially talking about that part yes. But then you contested that by saying that the “faster cars” were further back. So I changed to comparison to one of those “faster cars” that you specifically mentioned, because we have actual data on what happened in that race when one of those cars were directly behind the Mercs. It now seems that I cannot use that either, because that “faster car” was overtaken by… Perez, the car that I originally used for the comparison, but that wasn’t valid because “not among the faster ones”, even though having qualified fifth not far off the third place qualifier. So the “not faster car” overtook the “faster car”, causing both to not qualify for a comparison with the Merc race pace. Ha.

            At this point I am pretty sure nothing will satisfy you and you will keep moving the goalposts.

            So let’s forget about the comparisons and, AGAIN, focus on the actual point: that the W05 was a monster both in qualifying (18 out of 19 poles) but also in race pace (fastest race pace in literally every race).
            It doesn’t get more clear-cut than this, and you are probably the only one on this world who seems to not agree with that.

          10. The RB had better aero than the Mercedes, but had a gutless engine. The split turbo was much more powerful than anything else. Monaco showed this, where power was less important the RB could compete and even win.

          11. Michael, it’s not a very fair comparison you made, williams was really a good car in 2014 and you didn’t count that: take the 3 best teams like you did in 2023 and I’m not sure how far you would be.

  2. It would be great if Race fans can actually do a factual analysis of these claims for the fans to see.

  3. As late as 2019, Mercedes scored a 1-2 in the first four races of the season. Their dominance was like nothing seen in F1 before, and at the moment Red Bull isn’t anywhere close to replicating it.

    1. Come back to us after the 4th race of this season…

    2. Prior to 2019, Mercedes’ gaps, in terms of lap time and race winning margins, were way bigger than Red Bull’s are now. It just feels more painful to go from dominating effortlessly to being dominated.

    3. 2nd race of 2019 Ferrari was faster and Leclerc was en route for an easy win when his car lost power.

      Did you even watch?

      1. Yes, the ferrari 2019 wasn’t bad at all, they only won 3 consecutive races in the middle of the season, but they could’ve won more much earlier, but had a habit of throwing stuff away through mistakes and unreliability.

        As for the “prior to 2019” comment, it’s only 2014-2016, 2017-2018 there was nowhere near that margin.

      2. Did you literally not see my comment say PRIOR TO 2019? Clean out your eyes.

      3. Yeah, cause even in chest mode their engine was dialed up so high it blew up. Did you watch any of those season’s should be the question since if you did you’d remember how much even further away from everyone the MB was even if it got tighter in 2019 and it took Ferrari breaking the rules and they still came nowhere close on points.

  4. Yeah its not on your level Toto, not unless they dominate like this for the next 6 years

  5. Can we give this a rest? In 2014 Mercedes took the dominance from Red Bull and now Red Bull took it back. In time (few years? Few races?) this dominance from Red Bull will diminish. And I hope so, because I like a proper fight.
    Wolff and Mercedes want to win, so they have every right to be disappointed about their car and the situation. However, it is still a good car capable of fighting for podiums. Ask McLaren what a bad car is.

    1. I agree that the comments coming out from Mercedes have to be looked at relative to the rest of the teams. Their terrible car is still the third fastest out there at the moment and would likely have surpassed Aston Martin with their first update to be the second quickest car. Wolff seems to be from the Ricky Bobby school of motoring, if you’re not first, you’re last!

      You can argue semantics over whose car is more dominant in percentage terms to the opposition but there is no getting away from the fact that they started 15th and could have won easily from that grid slot. That’s pretty comparable. If you started Red Bull at the back of the grid I’d still put them favourites to win the race at every race bar Monaco.

      1. If you started Red Bull at the back of the grid I’d still put them favourites to win the race at every race bar Monaco.

        I’d go further and say of you started Perez at the back of the grid and Max was not competing, I’d still put him as favourite to win.

        1. Nah, perez, monaco and last place is too high a mountain to climb, I don’t even think verstappen would do that, but I’d like to see it, certainly expecting him to climb higher than ever at that track.

          1. Monaco is a special case. Even at Mercedes’ peak I doubt Lewis could have made it from the back of the field.

        2. Mmm, or they’d have to be particularly strong with strategy, trying to undercut or overcut the opponents that are quick enough to not be overtaken.

        3. Nah, he’d probably DNF or get stuck behind some car for the majority of the race. The few good races this man has had do not suddenly make it a good driver. He is classic midfield material. We (and he) should be glad he got an opportunity at RB. We all know it was created due to circumstances and definitely not on merit.

          1. He’d got the opportunity because he’s “classic midfield material”. He’s well aware that he’ll never get a better opportunity and that RBR could get another driver to fill his seat and do at least as good a job in an instant. He will do as he is told, whether he complains or not.

            However, in that car I’m pretty sure he could still make it last to first in almost all situations. That car is mighty in race trim.

  6. The only race where Mercedes showed real pace was the 2014 Bahrain GP. Hamilton and Rosberg after the SC restart were battling and climbing over each others and were still pulling away by circa 2.5 seconds a lap. RBR is under a second a lap quicker than the rest of the field which still not on Mercedes levels. To deflect from that, Mercedes used to obscure their advantage and win races with the minimum pace required and this is according to Paddy Lowe.

    Another thing is the narrative that the Mercedes PR machine in the hybrid era spread which was about that it’s not their fault if they have done a better job than the competition, it’s up to the rest of the teams to catch up. Not to mention the bullying attitude of Toto who used to take jabs on anyone talking about the state of F1 or the rules back then that prevented the competition from catching up.

    1. You really think RBR showed their true pace LOL, last race they were berating MV for not slowing down enough!!!

    2. @tifoso1989

      The only race where Mercedes showed real pace was the 2014 Bahrain GP.

      Italy 2015 was another race where Hamilton was told to ‘pull a gap, don’t ask questions, just execute’ and he sailed half a minute ahead of Vettel in just the last stint alone. This was when the FIA notified Mercedes about 15-20 minutes before the end of the race that they were under investigation for possible tyre pressure shenanigans. So they opened a gap to cover any potential penalty except for outright disqualification.

      1. MichaelN,
        Thanks for the additional info. There were instances in the hybrid era where Mercedes used their qualy modes to disappear in races though the 2014 Bahrain GP dominance was crushing because Rosberg and Hamilton were battling each and still pulled away insanely from the rest of the field.

        There was also the 2015 Belgian GP where it was the sole occasion a Mercedes customer was given access to the special qualy modes at that time and this for Grosjean to put pressure on Vettel who was attacking Eau Rouge at an insane speed to keep Grosjean behind. 7th was Lotus best result in 2015 but they were on Ferrari’s pace in Spa once with the Mercedes qualy modes.

      2. Wow, didn’t know about this, wasn’t watching, sounds interesting to see.

  7. When others fail the easy solution is to slow others down. Redbull is strong but nowhere near unbeatable like Mercedes was quite often the last 8 years. I would like to point to all the times Hamilton and Bottas drove slower to not show the true pace difference. They had more than a second per lap in hand for years. I suspect they even gave up wins to make the championship seem more exciting than it really was (with wins for Redbull and Ferrari.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      20th March 2023, 13:07

      @w0o0dy Mercedes couldn’t hide the pace as much because of the fight between Rosberg and Hamilton. Even with Bottas, qualifying was tight. No one has challenged Max in the Red Bull.

      Plus, Mercedes was powering other constructors so they had a bit of a harder time dealing with their own creations – not always but enough to become an occasional issue if tires were different, older etc.

    2. I would like to point to all the times Hamilton and Bottas drove slower to not show the true pace difference.

      It’s very naive to think RBR aren’t doing the same now

  8. I’m curious as to why some people are trying to downplay how obviously superior the RB is.

    1. The RB19s broke into the 1’32s and headed down to the 1’31s while everyone else was doing 1’33s or worse. From the lap 20 restart third-placed Alonso lost 22 seconds to leader Perez in just 15 laps – an average of 1.46 seconds. Hamilton’s pre-race assessment that Red Bull have a one-and-a-half second pace advantage over Mercedes looks spot-on.

      Am baffled too by the RBR fans (or merc haters) why they do not acknowledge or accept that they have a better car.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        20th March 2023, 12:05

        There was a lot of nonsense over the past decade about how the Mercedes wasn’t dominant and that it was the driver that was winning all of the titles, not the car. Suddenly the conversation has switched and the Lewis fans are claiming the wins are easy and the car is dominant and the Max fans are saying the opposite. That’s it really….

        For most people, the Red Bull is clearly dominant now as was the Mercedes previously. You could put any decent driver in those cars and all they have to do is beat their team mate to win the title. Unfortunately that makes the titles won under these circumstances fairly unimpressive so the fans of the drivers involved get worked up about it to protect their driver or attack their rival.

        1. + 1. That’s it in a nutshell.

        2. You could put Latifi and De Vries in the Red Bull and you’d still win at least the constructors’ championship!

          1. Hey! De vries is supposed to be a good driver, maybe mazepin would be a better choice, until we’ve seen more of him.

        3. Exactly!

        4. Exactly, it was a dominant car and a good driver when Lewis was winning and it is the same now that Max is winning. I said this so many times in response to the Lewis fans arguing that it is all Lewis. Now, Merc have actually admitted as much themselves by saying “Red Bull as dominant as Mercedes was at start of hybrid era”, just needs to be changed “from the start of hybrid era to the end of 2020”. There was very little in it in 2021 (28 points) when Merc won the Manufacturers, but Max won the Drivers (yes, I know the Lewis fans are going to pull the controversy card, but that does not change the “very little in it in 2021” point),
          Yes, almost any driver on the grid would be a chance of winning in an RB right now, same for Merc over all those years.
          No one wins races regularly without being in a car that is at least very close to the best.

    2. Because it relatively not comparable to the V6 Hybrid era dominance of Mercedes. And we are only 2 races in. Jumping to conclusions would be a fitting description of the situation. And it is clearly an agenda point a disappointed team wants to make, while this team should be the last to claim such things given their recent 8 year streak without any form of competition.

  9. petebaldwin (@)
    20th March 2023, 12:01

    As dominant as Mercedes were? So…. they’re fast but not as fast as Ferrari?

    1. The Mercedes F1 Prediction Bureau hereby advises everyone that Ferrari will be quicker on Sunday than they were on Saturday… and Friday… and in all the other races… and in the year before, and the year before that…

      On a more serious note, it’s easy to ridicule that silly talking point with some more time but it was crazy how many people actually believed that at the time. The ‘Vettel bad’ campaign that all that talk spawned was particularly silly, as everyone who wanted to could plainly see he was driving circles around Räikkönen, fighting his own pitwall half the time, dragging that Ferrari to and sometimes over the limit, and somehow still putting so much pressure on Hamilton and Mercedes that they made numerous errors throughout early 2017 and 2018.

  10. Don’t worry everyone, McLaren are sandbagging and Norris will actually win the Drivers Championship this season, followed closely by his teammate, Oscar Piastri.


    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      20th March 2023, 12:47

      @sonnycrockett there’s something very wrong with House McLaren – it doesn’t only affect the car but many drivers over the past decade including Lewis who was scratching his head at McLaren at the time more so than Norris. I don’t think it’s a leadership issue as much as an organizational issue. I’ve watched a few videos and I knew it’s a place I would never want to work if I were in F1.

      1. Now I think about it, mclaren didn’t have a dominant car since 1988, 35 years ago! They still had very good cars on occasion, able to fight for or win the championship in the few following years, started with a really strong car in 1998, which then ended up still as the strongest but not much stronger than the ferrari at the end of the season, still had a very competitive car in 1999, 2000, 2003, fast but unreliable in 2005, and then a championship fighter in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, probably not even that in 2012 with that reliability, like ferrari they don’t seem to be able to really compete since these giants (red bull and merc) joined or came back to f1.

  11. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    20th March 2023, 12:38

    It’s not the time gap that matters, it’s the car’s ability to overtake and the Red Bull swallowed another car and left Martin Brundle speechless. They said it looked like a different category car – sort of LMP1 vs LMP2 or GTE.

    It did the same last year – I was stunned.

    1. This seems to be a key difference between the current Red Bull and the various Mercedes of the last decade. Whilst their outright pace advantage seems pretty similar, the Red Bull seems to be able to carve through the field much more efficiently than Nico, Lewis or Valterri ever could. I wonder how much is down to the new regulations, Adrian Newey and Co.’s design philosophy, and Max’s driving. It certainly seems to gain lots with DRS!

      1. Now, that could be the driver there making the difference. We have now looked at all data and it is clear the RB is nowhere near as dominant as the Mercedes was. The fact the RB cuts through the field easier is either the new regs allowing closer following (aero) or its the driver. And I haven’t seen Perez cut through anything.

  12. Red Bull have built a faster car. They’ve done a better job. This is what happens pretty much every season.

    Why are Mercedes so bitter about this? They’ve done this themselves for years and never seemed bothered by impacting the show.

    1. Did you actually read the article you’re commenting on?

      1. No he clearly didn’t as the below quote shows no bitterness at all from Wolff or Mercedes.

        “It’s a meritocracy this sport. Even if it’s not great for the show that the same guys win all the time, it’s because they’ve done a good job and we haven’t.
        “So we all hope for a good entertainment factor, and it’s our duty with all we have to catch up and fight these guys.”

  13. I think we/i could swallow dominance only if the 2 teammates are somewhat equal in talent. Sounds harsh and Perez is a good driver, but Max needs someone who can push him a bit more and give us something to watch.

    1. Majority of the drivers wouldn’t fare better than perez though, verstappen is an exceptional driver, you’d have to take leclerc from ferrari (maybe he’ll get tired at some point), russell, norris or alonso currently to give him a challenge; unsure if hamilton still has it, he’s getting old too and he hasn’t impressed me so far in 2023.

  14. Big difference I think is that Mercedes advantage was from the power unit and then there was only really 3 competitors; Merc, Ferrari and Renault.

    Red Bull were stuck with Renault as neither Ferrari or Merc wanted to work with them, until Honda ofcourse.

    This time it’s an an Aero/Mechanical advantage and any of the teams, factory or not, can work on that to get better as evidenced by Aston Martin.

    F1 was in a much worse place when Mercedes had such a great PU advantage in the last era as there was much less opportunity for competition.

    1. Mercedes and Ferrari didn’t want to supply Red Bull, but do you (or did you) see Red Bull offering to supply their aero package to another competitive team?

      1. Well, if you have a look at the Aston Martins …. :)

        (All joking aside, with the best engine (Merc), a clone of the best Aero (Newey) and one of the worlds best drivers it’s only the suspension and the mechanics between Aston and the top of the podium. It will probably happen this year…)

        1. But that’s not Red Bull supplying anything, that’s AM looking at the concept and coming up with their own version from scratch.

          There were plenty of documents about how Mercedes had designed their engine. Red Bull could always have made their own version of that concept from scratch, there was nothing stopping them.

    2. Aston have shown that it is as much of the other teams (Merc and Ferrari) doing a bad job as RB doing a good one.
      The Merc era had them witholding engine maps from their customers to sustain their advantage. I think it’s unfair to compare the two periods of dominance unless RB are found to have a specific advantage from a single feature on their car.

      1. Engine maps are programmable. It’s just basically a bunch of settings, and the ECU is a standard component. AFAIK there was nothing stopping Mercedes’ customers from developing their own engine maps, which may well have matched or exceeded Mercedes’ own.

        Of course, it may well have invalidated any “warranty”-style agreements, and there may even have been specific agreements in place to ban them from doing so. But most likely it was just easier and more effective for the customers to just use the engine maps supplied by Mercedes than to develop their own.

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