Red Bull’s rivals no closer yet despite Mercedes’ costly “B-spec” upgrade – Horner

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is encouraged his team have maintained their lead over their rivals despite only bringing “subtle” upgrades to their RB19 so far.

Max Verstappen extended the team’s clean sweep of victories over the opening seven rounds of the championship in Spain last weekend. Rivals Ferrari and Mercedes have made significant changes to their aerodynamics in recent races, but Horner said there’s no sign yet either have made significant inroads into Red Bull’s lead.

Mercedes abandoned its novel ‘zero’ sidepod concept at the previous race in Monaco. The team scored its best result of the season so far at the Circuit de Catalunya where Lewis Hamilton took second ahead of team mate George Russell.

“For sure they’ve made a step,” said Horner. “They’ve introduced pretty much a B-spec car.

“They must have used a significant proportion of their development budget on that. And when I look at the gap at the end of the race it’s very similar to where it was in Bahrain.”

Red Bull won the opening round of the season with a 38-second lead over closest rivals Aston Martin, with Ferrari 48s behind and Mercedes 50s adrift. In Spain, another race unaffected by Safety Car interruptions, the closest Mercedes finished 24s behind, Ferrari 45s down and Aston Martin over a minute away.

“All that’s happening is the running order behind us seems to vary from race to race,” said Horner. “Fernando [Alonso] last weekend, Mercedes this weekend and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next few races.”

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Having won last year’s championship, Red Bull is permitted less wind tunnel and CFD development time on its 2023 car under Formula 1’s Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions. That limit was further cut last year when the FIA discovered the team had exceeded its budget cap during 2021.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Red Bull continued their winning run in Spain
Horner said the team is carefully managing the development plan for its RB19 to ensure it can devote enough time to working on its new car for the 2024 F1 season. “We’re strategically using the ATR because of course we have to balance it for this year and for next year with the development that is currently going on.

“So the team are just doing an incredible job being extremely efficient. You can see we’ve very subtly developed the car since since Bahrain. We’ve seen others bring in significant upgrades now and the margin has remained pretty much the same from where it was in Bahrain. That’s hugely encouraging to everybody in Milton Keynes, who is doing an outstanding job at the moment.”

Horner said the team are “hugely proud” of how they have cemented their position as F1’s dominant force. Since mid-July last year Red Bull have won 17 out of 18 grands prix, and taken their first championship double since they swept the 2010 to 2013 seasons.

“We spent seven years trying to get back into a winning position and losing hurts,” said Horner. “I think that we’ve worked very hard to get into this position and I think the whole team as a unit, and it’s not just Max, the whole team is just operating at such a high level.

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“We have a phenomenal car, we’ve got two great drivers and Max is just continuing to evolve as a driver. He’s just becoming more and more polished and the capacity that he has within the car is truly impressive.”

“It just means that much more when we were there, then we were down and then we fought back to be in there again,” added Horner in their aftermath of their latest triumph. “Every member of the team has played such a crucial role in this performance.

“F1 is one of the most competitive sports in the world and to be operating at the level that we are is something that you have to celebrate. So we’ll celebrate this victory tomorrow almost like it’s a first because you’ve got to celebrate every moment in the sport because you never know how long it’s going to last for.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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26 comments on “Red Bull’s rivals no closer yet despite Mercedes’ costly “B-spec” upgrade – Horner”

  1. Yellow Baron
    6th June 2023, 11:57

    Did he really just say F1 is one of the most competitive sports in the world?

    😂 LMAO

  2. To compare Melbourne and Barcelona is nothing but misleading. In Bahrain Lewis finished race +50.977s, George +55.873s behind Max. If 24s isn’t less than 50 I’d like to ask Christian to lend me some money.

    1. In Bahrein Max and Checo pushed for many more laps. The real pace in Spain from RB we only saw for a few laps I guess.

      1. Hamilton was also not pushing for most of the race like Verstappen in Barcelona.

    2. As others noted, once you get to about 20-30sec (more ore less depending on the circuit) it ceases to be a true indicator of performance because the front runner (usually Max) is going to turn it down. So RBR may be 20sec a race faster, they may be 90sec a race faster. We won’t know until they actually get pressure from another team.

  3. The smarm is strong in that one.

  4. I mean it is worth noting that Mercedes would have got limited data from Monaco so this was the first weekend using their new package on a representative circuit so there is likely to be a lot of gains still to come from their package in setup alone. No doubt the package for Mercedes was very expensive though but it seems worth spending so they have a better understanding of the development path for next year.

    1. In my opinion they can improve a lot only on setup side if they explore more rake angle to counter roll angle and keep the floor working in wider window. I see that as a great opportunity but it’s easier said then done.

      1. …and lowering the rear on straits is mandatory suspension component if the rake is greater.

    2. 4LegitTitlesSebastianVettel
      7th June 2023, 0:03

      I dont think it is that expensive. They prepared for a B spec car before the testing

  5. I posted this comment in the ‘Mercedes rocketship’ article, but in truth it’s more appropriate here. My musings on how RB have maximised their package.

    I sense, without having done all the numbers, that the Red Bull RB19 shows maximum advantage in practice and quali, where use of the DRS is allowed, often locking out the front row. Also very quick in a DRS pass. Commentators often refer to their ‘powerful’ DRS.

    Two things. Firstly aero drag affects a car in two basic ways [and lot of minor ones, but bear with me], parting the air at the front, and filling in the low pressure area behind the car, the ideal shape to avoid this would be the teardrop. Not possible for all sorts of reasons. An efficient rear wing, beam wing and diffuser will exacerbate this issue by amplifying the low pressure zone at the rear to achieve maximum possible downforce. In doing so the low pressure zone behind the car slows it on the straights.

    Some of the photos from Monaco give a clue to what RB might have achieved with their DRS. Here are the weblinks to the pics, which for clarity you’ll need to download and brighten to see what’s going on in the diffuser area, sorry about that, but it just takes a minute.



    The RB19 has an abrupt change from an essentially horizontal floor to a large diffuser angle at what is usually referred to as the kicker point, the point of lowest underbody pressure. This angle surely challenges the ability of the flow to remain attached to the floor. That it must do is proven by the cars cornering speed. The W14 has a much less ambitious diffuser kicker angle by comparison, a conservative choice.

    Now consider the influence of the beam wing and the main wing. These are designed to act in concert to lower the diffuser exit pressure, energise the underbody flow and stave off flow separation in the diffuser. Now suppose a cunning old aero engineer sees that by removing an element of this system via operating the DRS the sub-optimal pressure gradient thus created behind the diffuser initiates flow separation at a kicker point that’s designed to be close to stalling thereby relieving a chunk of the rear of the car of low pressure air. Without this force holding it back the car becomes faster and passing is much easier. Crucially it also improves qualifying where DRS usage is unhindered by needing a car in front to legally deploy.

    Tricky to perfect the design, however if anyone can, Newey can.

    1. And untill they have data from at least 6 races before you can tell anything current about the speed.

      1. @macleod Yes, data is key, the question is also which data? First thing that struck me was recalling that Perez’ fastest lap was achieved with the aid of DRS and fresh softs, see

        The implication being that Max’s team mate had optimum conditions for his FL, so GP discouraged him from trying, too risky to attempt. Did Max wait to lap a car to give him similar conditions? Don’t know, it’s not necessarily reported by those not looking for it.

        1. @frasier – Thank you for the comment, to see if Max had DRS by a lapped car we should see the onboard from Max but i could see it (just brought up F1 TV Max onboard for you) he had no DRS the whole lap also no backmarkers as he encounter Niek de Vries in the lap after his FL who let Max pass without any problems.

          But you remark over the unlimited DRS during qualify is correct the system has 1 problems with the front tyres they are much colder and need to bring up temperature different which Max knows to do but Perez has problems with (expecily when it’s colders weather)

  6. Really desperate to see a major Aston upgrade. I’ve been disappointed that, despite their major development time advantage, they’ve basically brought nothing. I won’t be disappointed if this is because their plan is to introduce a massive b-spec type upgrade all at once at some point before the halfway mark.

    I also can’t wait for their new facilities to be completed. It will be a massive setback for them if they don’t make a big step forward next season: I’d consider a major step forward being able to sometimes out qualify RBR when they’re not firing on all cylinders whether due to a certain track, little slip ups, etc. and losing no more than 5 seconds per stint when RBR is firing on all cylinders.

  7. To be honest, all this article has done is just reinforce my view that all the various cost caps and design time limitations simply lock-in any advantages that anyone has developed at day 0 which is ultimately bad for the sport.

    I can see what the equalisation concept is, but the current situation doesn’t seem to be any better than when F1 had no cost limitations and unlimited testing with the added downside of making it harder for teams to catch up.

    This is nothing against RBR and you can argue that others should do better. But the it will probably take till 2025 for anyone to catch RBR as it will be too ‘expensive’ (in terms of allocated resources) to do big enough redesigns in the short term.

    1. The fundamental issue with the budget cap was delaying it’s roll out to kick in at the start of a new rule set. It allowed the big 3 teams to massively spend to gain an advantage prior to the rules taking effect. It could have been any of the 3 who came up with the ultimate concept but whichever did was guaranteed several years of dominance as no other team could spend to catch up. The budget cap will work a lot fairer at the roll out of the next rule change. This problem has been entirely created by the FIA.

      1. 100%. Also, you can cap budgets not talent. Every other team is just unfortunate that Newey works for RBR and that Ross Brawn retired from designing F1 cars.

      2. This problem has been entirely created by the FIA.

        As in 2014, the teams have a large role in this too. They are all about protecting their own advantage, but they are too arrogant to consider that they might not be as smart as they think they are. In 2014, everyone aside from Mercedes looked pretty silly having agreed to the token system. Now, everyone aside from Red Bull might well be regretting their support for all the caps on development. Not to mention the huge win for Red Bull in the 2026 engine specs.

        It’s not quite as bad as Ferrari giving up Fiorano, but it’s close.

    2. 4LegitTitlesSebastianVettel
      7th June 2023, 0:01

      Excatly instead of 2 teams fighting now we have none because if you make a mistake then you cant throw money at it

  8. 4LegitTitlesSebastianVettel
    7th June 2023, 0:00

    Thats what happens when you lobby to ban every single innovation by your rivals, freeze engine upgrades for teams who are good because of their engines then cheat the budget cap horner.

    listening to the guy who spend 400 millions a year to get closer to Mercedes and failed 7 years in a row talk about costly things is quite hilarious

    1. I wouldn’t have put it that way. But, Horner tends to embody everything that makes it hard for me to be happy for Red Bull having success, and this is yet another example of the sort of communications that do that.

    2. Mercedes had a Far Superior Engine. They even turned it down the first few seasons. Because they were scared of an Cheating Accusation. Newey could have build the best car but with that Renault Engine it was in vain.

    3. You would be correct IF Red Bull used Mercedes engines but they didn’t used those Renault nightmare engines.

  9. I’d be getting out the tape measures out on the RBR car.

  10. Okay, so these statements from Horner mean he sees them as a threat now and he thinks they’re closer and will be even closer in the second half of the season..

    Maybe that is why he said he believes Perez can be right back up there again. That means he needs Perez to be right back up there again so when Mercedes is on Verstappens heels with 2 cars they can’t use the divergent pit tactics against Verstappen

    /end of translation

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