Red Bull’s “unforeseen” 2021 triumph shows they can be caught – Russell

2023 Dutch Grand Prix

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George Russell is not as pessimistic as his team mate about Mercedes’ chances of catching up to Red Bull before 2026.

Yesterday Lewis Hamilton suggested that Red Bull, who have won every race in 2023 so far, may not be caught until the next major regulations changes in 2026.

However, Russell believes that recent examples of teams making large strides forward in performance – including Red Bull themselves – show that there’s a possibility the world champions can be caught over the next two seasons.

“When you look at the turn of form that Aston Martin had over last winter, the turn of form that McLaren has had, that definitely gives optimism that it can happen,” Russell told select media including RaceFans.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2020
Mercedes dominated the 2020 season…
“Obviously, Red Bull are going to continue to improve. It’s going to be difficult for sure. But we saw Red Bull catch Mercedes in the ‘Mercedes era’ as well, in 2021, and that was unforeseen. As well as 2020 for Mercedes was a really dominant year, yet in 2021 Red Bull started with the quickest car.”

Russell says the phenomenon of one team dominating the sport has is “definitely part of the nature of Formula 1”, but pointed out a key advantage that Red Bull have forged in the current era.

“Probably a factor of their huge success has been their reliability as well,” he explained.

“Historically in the past when you look at how many cars used to break down in the nineties or the eighties, it was a hell of a lot more than what you see today, for example. I think probably for about 25 years now, there’s always been a team that has dominated during a certain period. It is definitely a bit of a shame.”

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Russell believes Red Bull’s dominance is unfortunately masking a competitive battle between their nearest rivals behind them.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
…but Red Bull started 2021 with quickest car
“You can’t take it away from Red Bull – they’re obviously doing an amazing job and you need to give them credit for that,” he said.

“But it’s a shame because the fight for second at the moment between us, McLaren, Aston Martin and Ferrari is actually really exciting. So I don’t know how you achieve that in the sport, but that’s the goal, for sure.”

But with Red Bull having spent many years with Mercedes frustratingly out of reach before catching them during the 2021 season, Russell says his team are working to do the same to the champions.

“We’ll be pushing for that, but we’re not going to put any huge expectations upon next year,” he said.

“We’re just taking it race-by-race, making sure we’ve got all of the right information to make the best decisions possible between now and the Bahrain test next year.”

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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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11 comments on “Red Bull’s “unforeseen” 2021 triumph shows they can be caught – Russell”

  1. Yeah, I think Russel is right not to want to give up the hope they can catch the RBR cars. This year, they might get closer and closer, with luck, on the right track, they could win one. For the next 2 years, Mercedes shouldn’t relent.

    But we know how Hamilton can sometimes be overly pessimistic when he’s feeling somewhat down.

    1. I think Hamilton just likes to be the underdog, probably helps him perform better or keep motivated more easily.

    2. I think Hamilton has anxiety issues probably more than anyone else on the grid.

      1. I think you’re projecting. Hamilton still leads damned near every record, or is tied with Schumacher.

        1. Don’t think that has to do with the subject at hand, they’re talking about when he has a bad car, he set his records with a dominant car.

  2. George must have forgotten that Red Bull didn’t catch Mercedes!

    There was a rule change to the floors that caught Mercedes out and equally benefited Red Bull.

    Being an F1 fan is a lesson in perpetual denial, hoping in a sport that is more of an exhibition.

    1. Agree, sometimes teams don’t naturally get caught and the fia needs to intervene, otherwise you might be in for a decade of dominance or more.

    2. I don’t think you are being objective here. During the winter break 20-21, nobody knew who would gain or loose performance over the new floor rules. They were on request of Pirelli, because the increasing downforce loads on the tyres.
      At first, most engineers said that it would be an advantage for Mercedes, because they had a longer floor, and the cheese cut would have have less impact.
      Nobody would have thought mcLaren and RedBull would gain advantage after this rule change.

      1. The point is that redbull didn’t catch mercedes outright. Whether it was meant to be for or against redbull doesn’t matter. In the end they benefitted and caught up due to the change and not through out development during stable regs.

  3. That’s the catch. That new floor rule for only that season hit Mercedes where it hurt them the most.

    If they can identify where Red Bull’s superiority comes from and do something similar before the end of this era of regulations, maybe they can save one or two seasons from complete blandness.

  4. But with the new cost cap and aero/development restrictions, I thought it was impossible for a team to be so far ahead no one can catch them? Unless, of course, they spent a few extra million on R&D getting ahead of their competitors?

    And George should know from his time at Williams– if you’re really far behind, it’s easier to make progress. It’s those final couple of tenths that are really expensive.

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