Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Zandvoort, 2023

“Charles could be right”: Hamilton unsure Red Bull will be beaten before 2026

2023 Dutch Grand Prix

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Another driver suspects Charles Leclerc may be correct in predicting Red Bull will maintain their superiority until 2026.

The Ferrari driver told media including RaceFans at Zandvoort yesterday he doubts the reigning champions will be beaten until Formula 1 introduces its next new set of technical regulations in three years’ time.

Lewis Hamilton backed Leclerc’s assessment, pointing out Red Bull’s substantial points lead means they can afford to begin work on the new car for 2024 earlier than their rivals can.

“The fact is, they are ahead and most likely have started developing not next year’s car already months before everybody else as they’re 100, 200 points ahead in the championship. So it’s very possible that Charles could be right.”

Mercedes lie second in the championship after 12 rounds but have less than half Red Bull’s tally of 503 points. “We’re working on a steep gradient trying to develop and get ourselves to close the gap,” Hamilton said. “Whether or not we can next year will be proved within that. I hope we can.”

But Red Bull are not taking it for granted the margin of superiority will not be overwhelmed before new technical rules are introduced. Sergio Perez pointed out McLaren introduced an upgrade this year which vaulted them into contention for podium finishes having previously struggled to escape Q1.

Perez said it is “quite early to say” Red Bull will remain on top until 2026. ”When you see the sort of jumps up teams like McLaren can do from where they were in the beginning of the season to where they are now, it only takes another team to make such an improvement.

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“So I wouldn’t think that and we are not thinking like that. We are really working hard, we are really trying to improve race by race on all of the different areas.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris also drew encouragement from the progress his team has made this year and said he doesn’t want to believe Red Bull can’t be caught over the next two seasons.

“I think from where we were in the season, the expectation of the step we made to where we were I think was pretty huge,” he said. “For where are [now], it’s pretty huge in such a short period of time.

“So from what I’ve seen, from what we’ve been able to do over the last season, then I don’t want to say no. I think it should be possible.

“But that’s life. They’re doing a good job and everyone else is not doing a good enough job. That’s the way it is.”

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2023 Dutch 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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47 comments on ““Charles could be right”: Hamilton unsure Red Bull will be beaten before 2026”

  1. Him too

  2. Many commenters on here have been predicting the same thing since early in this season, too. Their car is so far ahead that, with the budget cap, it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to catch them. There is a good chance they’ll still be significantly ahead in 2025.

    1. I still feel it can go either way. Yes, Red Bull will be at the top fighting regardless that much is clear. Max especially adds another layer on top of their aero, so that counts too.

      But since it’s an aero advantage, mostly, not an engine or other technical advantage (some suspect maybe suspension is a part of it, but that too is mostly visible). I still feel it only takes another good aero design to catch up. And they have 2,5 years still before 2026. I think it’s possible someone can manage to overcome that.

      1. Yeah, @sjaakfoo, I agree that there certainly is scope for anyone else to catch up and even surpass RBR, and the cost cap and restrictions on development might help. I would rather not expect Ferrari to be the one to do this (Mercedes seems more likely, with even a team like AM or McLaren with a shot IF they do their jobs well)

        On the other hand, yes, it IS quite possible that RBR will be able to keep ahead for another 2 years if they keep on a good streak of working updates, keep their drivers achieving, keep enough of the team together to maintain the excellent operation of the pitcrew and strategy team.

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        25th August 2023, 12:52

        @sjaakfoo when it comes to aero design, I fear that Red Bull have been way ahead of anyone but that advantage has compounded lately. Red Bulls have always looked capable of doing feats other cars couldn’t in the twisty sections of the track. Even the Mercs would lose serious time to them during their age of dominance.

        My point is that I’m not sure that anyone can mimic Red Bull’s aerodynamics, otherwise they would have done it over the past 10 years. In fact, if aero is the reason that Red Bulls are winning, 2026 will require massive changes to dethrone Red Bull.

      3. Of course they can be caught. I just don’t think it’s likely.

        RBR have been ahead of the rest on aero for a long time now. Even when they’ve had sub-standard engines, they have been able to make their car competitive using aerodynamics. Given F1 has gone back to being an aero-only formula, they are smashing it out of the park and it’s very likely they will continue to do so.

        They currently have a car which can win by half a minute without being pushed. Even Perez is able to get it onto the podium fairly easily when he’s messed up qualifying. Even if another team finds half a second per lap or so extra in race pace, RBR and Max look like they have several tenths in hand at a bare minimum. To pull ahead of RBR, I suspect they would need to find nearly a second. In a competition where improvements are normally giving a tenth or two at best, that’s enormous.

        1. Coventry Climax
          25th August 2023, 14:44

          Even when they’ve had sub-standard engines, they have been able to make their car competitive using aerodynamics.

          Arguably, it’s not ‘even when’, but ‘because’.

          Likewise, Mercedes had the most powerful engine for years, meaning they felt there was no need to develop other areas. Especially since they had power, engine modes and hence seconds in hand at the time too.

          Only now, Red Bull are simply doing the best job in both -if not all- areas. Which means I don’t support the notion of F1 being about aero solely.

    2. Their car is so far ahead that, with the budget cap, it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to catch them.

      Well, obviously, it’s going to be difficult for any team operating within the budget cap to get near a team that ignored the budget cap.

      1. So do you think if they let all the other teams spend another 500k each this year, they’ll be equal to Red Bull?

    3. I dont understand why people keep saying that the budget cap is a handicap for the chasing teams to close the gap. If there was no budget cap, Red Bull is entirely capable of outspending every other team on the grid as well. They would take domination to a whole different level after throwing unlimited amounts of money on a 100% reliable car that is already 1 second a lap faster than its competition.

      1. Coventry Climax
        25th August 2023, 14:37

        I’m no fan of the budget cap for all sorts of reasons, but still, you’re absolutely right here.

        The idea was that they would all have the same amount of money to spend.
        It’s a logical outcome that the one that spends that the most wisely, wins.

        Don’t whine if you can’t match that amount of wisdom, do better next time.

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        25th August 2023, 16:34

        @todfod it increases the number of possibilities – you can afford to take a risk. With the budget cap, you’re limited to a design and if that is bad, you can only make slight changes. The budget cap locks top teams from pursuing Red Bull in this case. In fact, I’m curious what records Red Bull will shatter this season.

        If there was at least some intra-team racing, it could have been fun to watch but soon Perez will be lucky to score 1 point as Red Bull screams “look at our Number 2 driver, he can barely score 1 point – the car is very, very sloooow”

  3. Many commenters on here have been predicting the same thing since early in this season, too.

    Some have seen it coming for the last 15-20 years, based on F1’s trajectory with ever-tightening rules selected mostly by the big teams – but not so tight that they lose their advantages.
    While the specific team changes occasionally, it’s the same issue repeating itself every time.

    1. Can’t argue with your point above at all.

      That’s the thing now – with the cost cap surely we can loosen the rules now – nothing that would impact safety, but let them track test more if they can afford to in the budget, let the cars be as light as they wish. Make it about teams innovating more again.

      1. with the cost cap surely we can loosen the rules now

        I couldn’t agree more. So many rules were brought in to indirectly control costs, but we now have a direct control over costs, so let’s scrap them and just let teams spend their budget as they wish.

        1. It’s not just costs that they are trying to control though – it’s performance and competitive depth.
          Take away the technical restrictions, and the performance spread invariably opens up again.

          1. I think also they make rules to periodically slow the cars because without that they could become really dangerous, if they had never been slowed down in f1 history speeds like 400 kmh would be possible atm.

  4. When you’re .8 behind, finding .5 is quite doable, but the last .1 might never come, especially with the cost cap now working against it even on the infrastructure.

  5. They might both be right. And still it wouldn’t be like the 8 years of Mercedes dominance. I get the point of re-iterating the situation when you are not part of the dominant team, but hey we all don’t like it. Didn’t like it then with Mercedes, don’t like it now. At least now it is just one guy so the after race Max podcast sees two different guests all the time. Back then it would be guaranteed 1-2’s leaving just one place for another driver next to the two Mercedes guys.

    1. And still it wouldn’t be like the 8 years of Mercedes dominance.

      No, it’s much worse. Red Bull is currently in the middle of a record streak of consecutive wins, overturning a record last set in 1988 by McLaren.

      2016 was the most dominant year of Mercedes– they won all but 2 races in one season. So far, Red Bull has won every race this year, and all but one of the last 10 races of last season. They’ve won 21 of the last 22 races.

      People remember the Mercedes domination as being much worse than it was– 2017, 2018, and 2021, Mercedes was behind the curve for significant portions of the season. And prior to that, at least there was a solid fight at the front between teammates. This is Just Verstappen romping away unchallenged.

      The only reason they can’t “match” the 8 years of Mercedes is that this set of rules only lasts 3 more years.

      1. You’re trying to convince Mayrton on a Mercedes related issue?

      2. Hmm to dissect the dominance levels on wins per season, you need to remove stupidity behind the pitwall and in the cockpit. Of the races not won by Mercedes in 2016, Both were started with the Mers on pole and second. One loss was caused by both Mercedes drivers taking eachother off. The other race, Rosberg had a spin by closing the door on Vettel at the start, while Lewis blew his engine in lap 40 by racing lap after lap in qualifying mode, being warned multiple times by Bono to switch mode. Off course, these facts are forgotten by those that can’t handle that

        1. Lewis blew his engine in lap 40 by racing lap after lap in qualifying mode, being warned multiple times by Bono to switch mode

          Umm, interesting info. What I remember is #44 trying to build a gap long enough to do a pitstop and still keep ahead of the Red Bulls (Max & Dan), but not that it was in qualifying mode against the explicit advice of Bono (I think I would remember it, my memory for #44’s blunders is excellent) Do we have a reliable source for that?

          1. We could check the team radio article on this site, 2016 already had them, I think we would’ve heard of such a thing because it had a serious impact on the championship, but worth a check anyway.

    2. Like the other poster also said, mercedes didn’t dominate for 8 years, they won 8 constructor’s championships in a row, so we can say they had either the best or the joint best car for 8 years in a row, but domination is another thing.

      Dominant seasons: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020 (2019 least insane domination and significantly less than we’re seeing nowadays)

      Competitive seasons: 2017, 2018, 2021 (2017 significantly the quickest car, 2021 marginally quickest, 2018 joint-quickest)

  6. developing aero in a cost cap and rules bound era is doable, developing vs an engine superiority would be more problematic. This is all just a crybaby exercise to have the rules changed a bit quicker.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      25th August 2023, 13:03

      developing aero in a cost cap and rules bound era is doable

      If it’s doable, at least 1 team would have been Red Bull’s equal in the aero department over the past decade. We can all agree that the Red Bulls have won the aero trophy by a mile over the past decade.

      As Brundle said, the Red Bull is finding all kinds of angles that are not available to other cars.

      In fact, I don’t believe any constructor will surpass Red Bull’s aero in the foreseeable future. 2026 is in 3-4 years so it’s around the corner and Red Bulls are better at cornering so it stands to reason, they’ll be ahead.

      It would take a radical design to beat them and that’s what Mercedes tried and failed last season abandoning their design and losing massive ground. Unfortunately their failure has left Red Bull with no competition.

      1. Oh look! An intelligent person who hasn’t been bought out!

  7. What does his other glove think?

    1. Russell is goin’ bald!

  8. Please could 1 day Crofty get ill, He’s always there. Imagine how much that human dustbin eats, yet he’s always there!!! He will be screaming his fat head off again this weekend, getting everything wrong whilst screaming his head off. I wish he’d shut up with his artificial commentary. The difference between him and Murray was that Murray actually had genuine enthusiasm, not fake forced enthusiasm for money.

  9. I hope Las Vegas is a massive disappointment. Bernie till I die.

  10. Natalie is annoying AF as a presenter, I can’t stand her. She just asks basic questions over and over, she’s generic. she was far better as a Jurno asking questions back in the day. I’d rather have Racheal than her and she’s rubbish too.

    1. now we all know jim dislike women…

      1. I love women, I infact liked Nalie driving with Kimi Raikkonen 10 years ago, unfortunately, she is a shit presenter. Dull as dishwater.

        1. I think they are constantly told what to say and what not to in this day and age for fear of offending some pathetic asshole.

  11. It’s possible. It doesn’t help that Hamilton’s own team persisted with a flawed design into this season and had to abandon it after the opening races: complaining that Red Bull can start early for next season doesn’t sound as convincing when Mercedes wasted time and resources on a doomed project. And Ferrari? By their own admission, they’ve still no idea why their car performs so intermittently. Again that sounds like internal issues, not the fact that nobody can catch Red Bull.
    At the risk of repeating the same point ad infinitum, if Red Bull had a second driver genuinely competing with Max, ensuring that, say, one Verstappen DNF would reel in his lead (which was how some interest was retained even when Hamilton was beating Rosberg most years and Bottas, especially after mid-season) then they’d be far fewer complaints. One team winning is a bit tedious sure, but nothing like as bad as one driver turning up for a race weekend and everyone assuming he’ll win again.

    1. Coventry Climax
      25th August 2023, 14:18

      I agree to a certain extent, but not about how the complaining would stop with a better second Red Bull driver. For that to happen, it would take Verstappen to become British and change his name to Farstepping or such.

  12. Just let Graveltrappen win em all immediately. Cheaters gonna cheat.

  13. Dirty driver suits that dirty team, they go hand in hand.

  14. They are already managing their superiority.
    People were talking about how Alonso was “just” 10 secs off Verstappen in Canada, turns out Max was driving in lower power modes than Alonso for the entire race.

    If they can do that and win confortably, why would they push to win showing everything they got?

    So we can assume they have an answer to everything other teams have in the near future and beyond that.

    1. Strange how verstappen only decided to drive in low power mode in canada, or maybe also that race where he wasn’t able to close in to perez, perhaps sometimes he just doesn’t have more pace than that.

      1. i mentioned Canada only because that was the smallest gap of the season in races not disrupted by Safety Cars.

  15. Coventry Climax
    25th August 2023, 14:13

    That’s the spirit boys!
    Throw in the towel. Stop fighting. Stop developing anything but the ’26 car.
    And of course you can only pray you come out on top then.

    Political FIA pressurizing cow dung. Seeking the real challenge in the wrong place, boys.
    Just do a better job.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      25th August 2023, 16:08

      Political FIA pressurizing cow dung. Seeking the real challenge in the wrong place, boys.
      Just do a better job.

      How? The other teams can’t breach the cap because Red Bull already did that so the next team will receive a proper penalty.

      I guess they can try all kinds of radical designs but the majority of those will flop and you may find yourself with a very uncompetitive car that may throw you into Williams territory for a 5+ years. Who in their right state of mind would do that? Mercedes did it and it really didn’t pay off for them.

      Plus with the cost cap, you now have to fend off challenges from other teams since in-season development is limited.

      1. Coventry Climax
        25th August 2023, 18:00

        Which is why they want the FIA to change the rules. I don’t even mind if they do, as long as it is between seasons and not during seasons, and that’s what this whining is all about – a cry for help.

        You don’t need a radical design to beat Red Bull, you need a design that you understand and works – clearly not the Mercedes zero sidepod design. I didn’t advocate for or say anything about a radical design, that’s your interpretation.

        All I said is: Solve your own mess and don’t go cry for and/or rely on someone else to do it.
        Although I must say that last bit is remarkably similar to how the entire world seems to work these days.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          25th August 2023, 19:46

          Well, the problem is that this is a sport that people pay a lot of money to watch. Imagine if tennis came down to 6-0,6-0,6-0 in every match. You always hope for some competition to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, Red Bull either hired the best and worst driver in the world or something else is going. Mercedes and Ferrari want to challenge Red Bull (as does everyone else) but they can’t and if they don’t hit the jackpot with their design, they probably won’t manage that next year either or the year after that. Once the initial design is not competitive, you’re not catching up unless Red Bull’s upgrades slow the car down.

          It’s their job to try and beat Red Bull but when you have 1 bishop on a chess board and the other person has 2 rooks life is very tough. If that deficit continues into the next round and the next round and the next round, it’s hard to win unless you start a new game.

          On top of that, Red Bull is deathly allergic to intrateam competition unlike other constructors.

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