Christian Horner, Red Bull, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

Hamilton’s plan to stop dominance wouldn’t work and isn’t needed – Horner

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Lewis Hamilton’s proposal for restricting when teams can work on future cars is unworkable.

Hamilton made the proposal yesterday as a means of preventing teams from cementing a dominant position at the head of the sport over successive seasons. The Mercedes driver said the sport could impose a limit restricting when teams can begin work on their cars for next season to limit the advantage gained by the championship leader.

Teams who secure a strong early lead in a championship have the benefit of focusing more of their development on their car for the following season, said Hamilton. That allows them to consolidate their advantage from year to year. To combat this, Hamilton suggested a cut-off point marking the earliest time teams would be allowed to begin work on their next car.

“If everyone had a time [limit], if everyone knew that we can start on whatever date it is – October is way too late, probably, but [say] August 1st – then no one has a head start and then it’s a real race in that short space of time for the future car,” said Hamilton.

However Horner said Hamilton’s proposal would not work as it could not be enforced.

He’s obviously talking from personal experience,” began Horner. Hamilton won six championship titles over seven seasons between 2014 and 2020 with Mercedes.

“I think it would be an incredibly hard thing to police. How on Earth could you say, ‘right, go!’? How do you prevent people thinking about or working on next year’s cars?”

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Horner said that the existing ‘aerodynamic testing restrictions’ system which limits each team’s wind tunnel and computational fluid dynamics work is enough of an equaliser for teams. Red Bull, as the reigning champions, have the lowest allowance of any team, while their sister team AlphaTauri enjoy considerably more.

“I think we have a handicap system in Formula 1 through the reduction of wind tunnel time,” he said. “Franz [Tost, AlphaTauri team principal] has almost double the amount of time that we have. That is a significant handicap.

“I think that Aston Martin will start to feel that as it’s reset at the midpoint of the year. And for us, we have to pick and choose very, very, sparingly what are we going to commit to putting through the wind tunnel. So it will have an effect. And that system didn’t exist years ago. So we will see that playing.”

Horner suggested that one of the most effective means of preventing one team dominating year-to-year is to have consistency in the technical regulations over a period of years.

“I think the most important thing – and the history of Formula 1 demonstrates it – is stability,” he said. “Not messing with the regulations will always create convergence. And I think you can see that convergence is already starting to happen.

“I think by the time we get to the end of ’25, probably all the teams will be very converged and then we screw it all up and go again in ’26 [when new engine rules will be introduced].”

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The reduced testing allowance afforded to Red Bull made it critical that they had a strong car at the beginning of the championship, Horner said.

“I would say the most significant thing is that we came into the year with a competitive car. I think if we’d have been having to fix issues on the current car, then that would have been disastrous for us.

“Thankfully we had a good solid base. You can see our rate of development compared to our competitors is somewhat more moderate and that’s simply because we just don’t have the resource time available. So the resource time we do have available, we have to pick and choose where we apply it. Of course I’m sure all these guys will tell you the same that a lot of focus already is going into next year’s car.”

Horner admitted Red Bull were “absolutely” relieved to realise the RB19 was a very strong car at the start of the season.

“You don’t know what you don’t know over the winter,” he explained. “Of course we went into last winter, Ferrari had a pretty competitive car through last year, Mercedes looked like they were on an upward trajectory.

“We tidied some things up but we didn’t make a revolutionary step over the winter. So it was more that the others didn’t make the step that we expected. We made what was more like a standard step and Aston Martin then leapfrogged from midfield to be the leader of the chasing pack.

“You can see they’re sorting that out and they’re addressing that, but I think for us it was definitely a relief that we weren’t having to burn all of our time and effort trying to understand a major fundamental issue with the car – it was just about set-up and so on.

“If you look at the development we’ve had, it’s been incredibly modest. The car’s not that different from Bahrain and won’t be that different going through the next few races as we’ve been pretty frugal in where we’ve focussed our attention. Of course you can’t ignore next year – we have to make another step. So you’re very limited in where you can apply your time.”

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
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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24 comments on “Hamilton’s plan to stop dominance wouldn’t work and isn’t needed – Horner”

  1. He’s right. Also, when you develop the current car, you inherently also develop next year’s, because you’re learning in the process and seeing what works and what doesnt. How do you stop that? If you have a strong car, it’s easier to build up on that. Unless you’re Ferrari, of course.

    Hamilton’s idea is ridiculously bad. And given the efforts made with the current regulations, it’s also very bad timing. We are yet to see how that works out but a lot of effort has been put on levelling up the field somewhat, more than any other time in F1 history.

    I know it’s cliché almost to mention it, but you didn’t hear Lewis come up with these ideas 5 years ago..

  2. If you want to limit designing next year’s car to early, just postpone the regulation changes until the last minute. You may publicly set possible regulations for the next year, each with different objective (e.g. cars should target for max fuel economy vs max downforce in different plans). Or declare that the dimensions of the rear wing will clean change but the dimensions will be announced or even decided after the last race only.

    Teams could still try to start designing the next year car before getting final regulations but that would get pretty expensive really fast.

    This kind of solution would make start of the season more random but teams that could keep up good work during the session would flourish at the end.

    1. Coventry CLimax
      30th June 2023, 19:28

      Now to me, that’s a truly silly idea. That would make the design trajectory a gambling game. First, there’ll be teams that don’t want to gamble and try to prepare a bit for all of the options. Then there’s teams that will take the gamble and put all of their money on one FIA filosophy or the other.
      That’s not a design championship, it’s a poker game.

  3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    30th June 2023, 16:50

    “I think we have a handicap system in Formula 1 through the reduction of wind tunnel time,” he said. “Franz [Tost, AlphaTauri team principal] has almost double the amount of time that we have. That is a significant handicap.

    How do you police that none of that time is used for small upgrades that might benefit Red Bull?

    1. Yes, I was thinking the same thing: obviously toro rosso has terrible in season development, red bull’s in season development is great, I see where it comes from now.

  4. Yellow Baron
    30th June 2023, 16:55

    Hear me out because this isn’t about one team dominating!

    Better would be a reset of points 2/3 into the season if he 1st placed driver has an advantage of more than 2-3 race wins.

    I made this suggestion (alongside some others) a bit back but it was in the context of title deciders and that we barely get them anymore.

    The seasons are so long now with effectively 26 races worth of points that we would need freak circumstances to have any title deciding final races in the future. 2021 was one of those seasons.

    Unless he new rules somehow work really well just taking a few years to bed in, and the team’s converge with a few being close at the front I will go as far as to say that we won’t have more than 3 title deciding final races in the next decade.

    I don’t feel like that is even a slightly unrealistic prediction to make, especially if more sprint races and perhaps even a couple more gps are added. Dominance of one team only compound’s this issue. It’s not the only issue!

    Lewis’s idea or my reset idea (or a combination of them both) might not be the best way to ensure a final round title decider but unless something is done I’m pretty confident we will see very few.

    1. Yellow Baron
      30th June 2023, 17:15

      I’ll add in that a change to the points system could help with this issue but wouldn’t help as much as said “reset”

    2. Your reset idea would just mean that a dominating driver would deliberately DNF so he didn’t get too far ahead.

      1. Yellow Baron
        30th June 2023, 17:37

        Easily fixed, it could be an absolute reset and/or always for top 6 or top 10.
        Regardless a solution is necessary with how many races there are in a season now.
        I don’t like how it feels a bit like a gimmick but what else. Convergence isn’t really a things in F1

      2. Ahah, can I already imagine: “I hit the wall, beep” *avoids resetting points*.

      3. I can*

    3. Coventry Climax
      30th June 2023, 19:30

      And your IQ level is?

      1. Yellow Baron
        1st July 2023, 0:26

        Currently seems higher than yours given your empty response and lack of suggestions

  5. is stability,” he said. “Not messing with the regulations will always create convergence. And I think you can see that convergence is already starting to happen.

    Hit the nail straight on the head.

    But the FIA refuses stability, last year with the technical directive to raise the floor edge. It’s this kind of tinkering that allows for new paths and therefore bigger deficits between teams.
    Stop tinkering keep the rules exactly the same for a alot longer period of time and you will get the so coveted convergence.

  6. I’m glad they are having a reasonable discussion about this. I have to disagree with Horner on both main points. I don’t think a new car development start point is impossible to administer. In fact the infrastructure is in place via the budget cap, in which case costs must be individually accounted for, will help. It won’t be easy, but it’s doable. Second the idea that stability leads to convergence is a conventional wisdom that both RBR and Mercedes have destroyed. Ferrari did get close to Mercedes during their reign but only by measures that earned a settlement agreement on illegal engines.

    We’re already a good ways down this road and have agreed in principle to its limiting development ability with the wind tunnel restrictions. It’s just a question if the next logical effective step.

  7. Horner’s right on this one. Formula 1 is about innovation. Stopping teams from developing next season’s whenever they want is just 100 shades of wrong. As he says, wind tunnel and budget restrictions already apply. If a team wants to commit resources to the following year, so what? The bigger question, potentially, is Red Bull’s ‘test design sharing’ with their B team Alpha Tauri.

    1. The bigger question, potentially, is Red Bull’s ‘test design sharing’ with their B team Alpha Tauri.

      If they are, then AT have the been looking at the plans in a mirror and upside down while wearing beer goggles.

  8. “I think it would be an incredibly hard thing to police. How on Earth could you say, ‘right, go!’? How do you prevent people thinking about or working on next year’s cars?”

    Actually, as Hans Christian well knows, the teams have to submit their designs to the FIA for compliance with the regulations. As shown by the “Pink Mercedes” case, examination of the file dates shows when the specific iterations of the design were created.
    If a dominant team, or teams, start new design work before their allocated date then a penalty, like labelling the design inadmissible for use in the next season, can be applied.

    As in an earlier item I posted, allocate a permitted start date based on the WCC ranking.
    On current form, Williams start design work first and Red Bull last.
    Admittedly, with Adrian Newey around, with his preference for pencil and paper you might need to do forensic examination of the date of the impression of the graphite on the paper, but in general totally dateable.

    Lewis mentioned a germ of an idea, not a fleshed out regulation. Totally expected, the drivers aren’t legal or process planning experts.

  9. Horner is right. The idea is impossible to control and almost as strange as the “reset” idea above.
    F1 is the pinnacle of engineering and there will be no clear cut line between this and next year
    The option to change rules at the last possible moment already exists in practice .
    Still if a team makes a fundamental error, like Mercedes this will hurt them for a long time.
    The other teams should not be punished for their mistakes.
    And indeed, driving In front for 6 consecutive years was boring.
    Only stable rules will converge the teams.

  10. Ricardo Baptista
    30th June 2023, 19:52

    The hypocrisy world champion at his best, it would have been great if he put forth this idea in say, 2014?

  11. Well, I’d pay more attention to my pet paramecium’s musings

  12. When I read about that thing “you can’t just say ok, you can now start on next year’s car the 1 september” that it would be fun if they indeed set that as a start date, they submitted the design, and then the fia looked into red bull’s secret drawers, and took out some project dated 1 april! “what? You’re starting FIVE months early on the new car??”, that would put them in trouble!

  13. dominance of one team over many years is really boring for most fans, but funny hamilton didn’t have a problem with that some years ago he never talked about that during the mercedes dominance

    1. hamilton didn’t have a problem with that some years ago he never talked about that during the mercedes dominance

      But people keep pointing out that he did, so maybe you were in a not-a-hamilton-fan ignoring mode at the time.

Comments are closed.