Three potential rival teams to Red Bull in 2024

Analysis: Which of Red Bull’s rivals will be its closest challenger in 2024?

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Red Bull’s domination of the 2023 Formula 1 season was arguably the most emphatic demolition of the competition ever seen in the series’ history.

On paper, there is little reason to expect their rivals will be any closer this year. The rules are largely unchanged, meaning much of the thinking which went into the RB19 will still apply this year. Some of Red Bull’s rivals seemed utterly bewildered by the nature of their advantage, which was slight in qualifying trim but routinely crushing on race day.

Max Verstappen has asserted himself as the foremost driver of his generation and nothing about Sergio Perez’s performance last season gave the impression he is likely to give his team mate any headaches.

A consequence of Red Bull’s superiority last year is it gave them the confidence to halt work on their last car early and advance their 2024 project. That may have negated the effect of their development restriction penalty imposed for exceeding the 2021 cost cap, if it was ever going to make much difference in the first place.

So the prospects of a close fight this year rest entirely on how well each of Red Bull’s nine rival teams (one of which they share an owner with) have closed the gap to them over the off-season. Here’s our assessment of their chances.

2023 F1 teams one-lap pace comparison

Red Bull’s advantage chiefly lay in its performance over a race stint. One-lap performance gives a clearer indication of the relative gaps between the various teams, but tends to exaggerate how close each was to Red Bull when it mattered on race day.

Data above based on five-race averages excluding the Belgian and Dutch grands prix due to the lack of good-quality dry weather data at those rounds

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Singapore, 2023
Hamilton rarely had the opportunity to race Verstappen last year
Mercedes wrote off their chances of taking the fight to Red Bull almost from the word go in 2023. As they neared the end of their first win-less season in 12 years, Lewis Hamilton admitted he realised at the first test they wouldn’t be contenders.

Having taken a wrong turn when the current technical regulations were introduced in 2022, then failed to correct it last year, Mercedes wasted no time in making a significant change to the technical side of their operation, reinstating James Allison as technical director last April. Now it remains to be seen whether they have finally sussed the intricacies of the latest rules and have successfully scaled their operation to work effectively within the strictures of the budget cap and aerodynamic testing restrictions. The latter, due to their second place in last year’s championship, will constrain them more than any team bar Red Bull at the beginning of the year.

There is little to fault elsewhere: Ample resources, great facilities, strong engine. The W15s will be shared by Hamilton, the most successful and one of the most experienced F1 drivers ever, plus George Russell, who has already marked himself out as a rapid and intelligent racer. The big question mark here is the chassis.


Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Vasseur had an encouraging first season at Ferrari
The departure of Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto in the wake of their 2022 campaign prompted predictable criticisms from some claiming he had been an unjust victim of heavy-handed management. But in his fourth year in charge Binotto had presided over a season in which Ferrari squandered their early potential, being out-developed off the track and outmanoeuvred on it.

The decision to recruit Frederic Vasseur from Alfa Romeo was vindicated over the course of his first season in charge last year. The team realised early on the SF-23 – developed long before Vasseur arrived – did not have the potential to be a Red Bull-beater. Like Mercedes, they could not make the drastic changes needed to overhaul their car mid-season, so their eyes turned to 2024.

In the meantime Ferrari did a superb job to extract the best available from their existing car in the second half of the season. Carlos Sainz Jnr was the only driver not in Red Bull overalls to win a race, though with better luck Charles Leclerc could have won in Las Vegas. By the time the year was over the tifosi, who have now gone 15 years without a championship to cheer, could at least feel confident that if Ferrari produce a competitive car they are well-placed to exploit it.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2023
Red Bull Ring upgrade transformed McLaren’s season
McLaren’s situation is markedly different from the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes. They started from a low base but their rate of development was the envy of every team. They described their Austrian Grand Prix update as their most successful in years and the graph above spells out why: Having been 1.5% off the pace over the opening five rounds they slashed their deficit to 0.3% in the five races following the introduction of that upgrade.

Andrea Stella impressed in his first year as team principal and in the second he will have the benefit of two major hires who arrived this month: Rob Marshall (after many years at Red Bull) as technical director for engineering and design, and David Sanchez as technical director for car concept and performance. What’s more, their slow start to last season means they only ended the year fourth in the standings, permitting them greater development potential under the ATR than Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari.

While their driver line-up may be the least experienced on the grid bar that of Williams, the pair are capable, hungry and extremely fast. Lando Norris regularly extracted the best from the car last year and Oscar Piastri justified the hype his arrival generated.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin, Bahrain, 2023
Aston Martin had the best off-season of any team last year
If Aston Martin can repeat the leap forward they made last winter they can certainly threaten Red Bull. But the team admit that isn’t realistic, and while they excelled in several respects last season they were also notable weaknesses, which led to their slump from an early second to an eventual fifth in the championship.

Much of the best of Aston Martin was glimpsed in the first third of last year: Their stunning out-of-the-box pace exploited by a seemingly indefatigable Fernando Alonso, backed by a team of impressive operational sharpness who ensured no point slipped their grasp when they got on the stewards’ case in Jeddah and Monaco.

But they took a misstep with their car at mid-season which accelerated the rate at which their rivals cut into their lead. And Alonso’s team mate Lance Stroll squandered points all year long, easily costing them at least one place in the standings. Still, his performance relative to his car’s potential was arguably comparable to that of Sergio Perez at Red Bull.

The team had a good chunk of last year to acclimatise to its remarkable new factory and the benefits it brings. How successfully it can harness that, and how far Stroll can raise his game in his eighth season, will be the keys to their overall performance this year.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Monaco, 2023
There were few highlights for Alpine during 2023
In the ninth season since Renault returned to Formula 1 as a full manufacturer, the team now known as Alpine was supposed to be much further along the road to getting on terms with the front runners. But it fell disastrously short last year, and its management’s reaction may have set it back further.

In the last 12 months, through departures voluntarily and compulsory, this team has lost a team principal, chief technical officer, Davide Brivio and a sporting director with decades of service. Max Verstappen often speaks of how the stability in Red Bull’s operation is a vital part of their extraordinary performance, but that stability is absent here. They still have a long way to go.


Williams arguably over-performed last year, scoring a seventh place which flattered their performance over the final races. While things look good for the future they’re in the early stages of a rebuilding process headed up by James Vowles which has involved recruiting Pat Fry from Alpine. They are on the right path but regular points scores would represent a realistic step forward for them in 2024.


Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Las Vegas, 2023
Ricciardo could have the closest thing to a Red Bull this year
How competitive Red Bull’s second team might be in 2024 is a fascinating prospect. Having initially forged their own path under the post-2022 technical regulations they have begun to move their design closer to that of the lead team – a logical move, given the success Red Bull have enjoyed.

While F1’s rules put strict limits on anything that might resemble collaboration, as they share common parts the junior team stands to make strides if it indeed plans to go down the ‘clone car’ route as Racing Point did so effectively with its controversial ‘pink Mercedes’ in 2020. With an increasingly experienced Yuki Tsunoda and fired-up returnee Daniel Ricciardo driving, this could well be the dark horse package of 2024.


The team formerly known as Alfa Romeo is already thinking past the arrival of Audi as its new manufacturer partner to 2027 as the year it reaches full strength. A recruitment drive is underway as they prepare to lead the Stuttgart marque’s first assault on F1. It has already welcomed back former technical director James Key as it plots an extensive overhaul of its car for 2024 but this is not a team which expects to be at the sharp end soon.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


At the beginning of 2022 it looked like Haas had leapt on the opportunity offered by the regulations change to reach the front of the midfield. But the team soon lapsed into a familiar pattern of starting a season strongly only to be out-developed by their rivals over the campaign.

Worryingly, a major overhaul of its VF-23 late last year did not appear to perform as intended, leading the team to run it and its predecessor side-by-side. Their experienced drivers voiced their dissatisfaction at the lack of progress as they slumped back to last in the championship, the progress of 2022 proving short-lived, and hopes of getting among the front runners any time soon remote.

Formula 1

Browse all Formula 1 articles

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

31 comments on “Analysis: Which of Red Bull’s rivals will be its closest challenger in 2024?”

  1. Quite interesting that all the slower teams closed the gap to the leaders in the final few races. Building up a better understanding of the car setup perhaps? Actually making a decent step forward with their final in-season upgrades having had the time to analyse what works on the leading cars?

    The faster teams did not close the gap which seems to rule out anything that applies to the whole grid e.g track conditions.

  2. My estimation:
    1. RedBull – will win most of the races
    2. McLaren / Mercedes – possible threat to RedBull for single race wins
    3. Ferrari – podiums at best
    Everybody else will be backmarkers. I don’t trust Aston Martin remaining a podium contender, and Alpha Tauri is obviously an unknown.

  3. Let’s be honest, it’ll be another 20 wins plus for RedBull this year.

    They could run the car they finished last season with and still win races. Let’s not forget they shifted development to 2024 around mid season while McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari were playing catch up. So to think anyone else will challenge is extremely naive. I hope it’s closer but it won’t be.

    What will be interesting is how close RB are. I expect them to be fighting for podiums which could really will hurt the others as they’ll be taking big points and making it even easier for RedBull.

  4. Personally I think Mercedes and Ferrari have the most to gain but I have my doubts on their technical understanding. McLaren have a car that clearly works but they have to focus on efficiency now without losing downforce. This as Ferrari and Aston have shone can destabilize the car if not very careful.

    Red Bull would still be favorites but I expect many to win a handful of races.

    Out of 24 I expect RB to win between 12 to 18 races. The remaining team the other 6 to 12 races making the titles a formality.

    1. Honestly, after the season we just had, red bull winning 12 races would be nice, titles are no big deal as long as there’s some competition for race wins.

  5. Interesting data it seems like Ferrari was much closer to RB than expected. Based on this data it should have been a much closer fight especially at the end of the season.

    1. Not that surprising, as it ignores (but mentions in the accompanying text) the main advantage Red Bull had, and that is its ability to keep the tyres working near maximum performance for much longer than its rivals.

      For all the hullabaloo about the Red Bull floor being exposed in Monaco, the Red Bull suspension is much more interesting. Of course it all interacts to varying degrees, but the outright pace of the Red Bull in qualifying has been beatable, maybe not everywhere, but certainly often enough. The races are where the other teams don’t stand a chance.

      1. Yes, I don’t know how feasible it is, but would need a race pace graph, especially this year, but even other years, thinking about 2021 for example, there’s people who overestimated how strong that year’s red bull was, but I remember it took many races until red bull finally could compete with mercedes on the hard tyres in the race, I think in austria.

      2. Still the data is based on five-race averages excluding the Belgian and Dutch grands prix due to the lack of good-quality dry weather data at those rounds. So I guess it’s the average of the five race fastest race laps not the qualify laps. When you remove Max from the 2023 results it would have been much closer with multiple race winners in the top 6. So based on this data the top 4 teams were much closer at the end of 2023 that’s good news for 2024

  6. The BS stops when the green flag drops.

    But it is fun to dream

    1. If the graph were all we needed to judge, next year’s order would be Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren. But, of course, nobody knows how next year’s cars will differ.

  7. I imagine it will be very similar to 2023 but I do expect to see a few more victories for teams other than Red Bull. Ferrari seem the most obvious challengers to me. Surely they put it all together enough to get a few more wins. Other than this Merc may get a win or two and McLaren.

    I expect RBR to still win between 15 to 20 of the 24 races and both championships but not quite so easily as 2023.

  8. Red Bull should be the class of the field unless the wheels come off. Can’t really see a world in which they’ll not have the best car given the limited changes in regulations.

    Mercedes had a car that at time was the second quickest car and close to the Red Bull on the odd occasion then at other times they were the 5th fastest car. Their 2023 concept was flawed and hopelessly compromised from their refusal to drop the zero pod concept. Even when the car was fast, it looked unstable and hard to handle which is complete contrary to how the Mercedes looked in their title winning years. Given their relatively good performance while carrying so many compromises and issues, there should be huge gains to be made for next year but potential has to be produced and there is a big question mark over their understanding of the current regulations. I wouldn’t bet against them delivering a competitive car but I just don’t see them gaining a second in race pace, maybe they’ll get a big enough boost to at least give them a chance of wins.

    Ferrari are always hard to read but all the signs from last year were they tried to maintain some of their 2022 concept and this was then discarded. Their changes were less obvious than Mercedes but they likely also still had some compromises that meant they had a limited development path with last years car. I expect them to take another step forward and would also expect their engine to gain some power over the winter (on reliability grounds).

    I think it’s time for McLaren to take a step forward or you can write them off till the next rule change. Their car was the second best car for the majority of the second half races and arguably they showed the most promise in developing their 2023 concept. In theory they should be able to take a step forward and consolidate their performance level. If they do not then I have serious questions over the long term viability of the team as a serious contender.

    I expect Aston Martin to go backwards, I’ve seen nothing to suggest they actually understood what was good on their car last year and copying Red Bull further will likely just cement in their best of the midfield pack as it’s unlikely Mercedes and Ferrari will both screw up the start of the year this time.

  9. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    5th January 2024, 16:55

    I recall being on another forum writing it is going to be all ORBR in 2023 which got lots of boos and it wouldn’t happen, etc.

    Well as above I suspect it is going to be another demolition job despite Horner trying to play it down.

    Yes things may get closer but that is nowhere near enough for a title challenge.

    Yes it’s negative but it is also being realistic that last year teams were needing to find around 1 second per lap so how much will they need to find now with all the work ORBR has been able to put into the RB20?

    Let’s not split hairs that sometimes it was only 0.4S per lap or whatever we are talking about beating the RB20 not just living in its slipstream.

    1. They don’t need to find 1 second per lap. We are not back in 2014.
      Remember the Ferrari was capable of winning with pace into the 2nd half of 2022?
      We have seen how close the chasing pack can be on raw pace in quali with new tyres. What they need to do is create a more stable platform for their tyres to work over a stint. Even Perez couldn’t get it to work and he was in a RB. If Merc can sort their mess out then Lewis will be able to stay with Max with tyre usage in my opinion. Remember ’21 when they were both streaking ahead of their teammates? Now we only have Max doing that which is a shame.

  10. Mercedes have a new gearbox coming. It will be narrower, so the tunnels will be wider, in the totally all-new car, with new suspension, which James is quite good at :)

    not sure about this seating position thing tbh. How different is it? And how does it have an effect? The inner ear senses rotation, but that’s the same anywhere on the car

    1. @zann
      Hamilton complained that the driver position was too far forward, like they were ‘sat over the front wheels’, meaning that the kinetic feedback was skewed and made it difficult for the driver to ‘feel’ the rear tyres and balance. Presumably the effect is kinetic, vibrations and forces passing through the body, which, aside from steering feedback, is pretty much the only way a driver can tell how close they are to losing adherence, how the back end of the car is behaving etc. Mercedes were able to change quite a lot over 2023 but the seating position (chassis) were hardwired in. For a driver who like Max stands out for his sensitivity to car balance and adherence, it must have been a major performance dampener.
      The other major element they couldn’t change (or change enough) was the suspension. I’m not sure why this isn’t mentioned more. Newey said that, faced with the new regulations, their first priority was to ensure that the car ride height was as stable as possible (thus keeping the underfloor aero effects as constant as possible). After that height stability was achieved, they could pile on downforce. As we all saw in 2022, Mercedes easily generated downforce but they couldn’t stop the car from bottoming out and porpoising. So they got their design priorities the wrong way round and apparently continued into 2023 with essentially the same inverted design philosophy. By the time they realized that approach would need to be abandoned, the chassis and suspension design were locked in for the year.

      1. well apparently they can only move the driver’s helmet within the planes Xc -50 and Xc -175, which is only 125mm. Is Xc just where the cockpit happens to be or is it relative to something more fixed? I can’t see it. Anyway yes it’s some kind of sensing isn’t it, tho James thinks it’s all in his head :) Or about the feedback he’s getting from the steering at least. Perhaps if James Allison thinks it’s not real then we’re allowed not to understand it

        yes suspension, this was Mike Elliott’s blind spot and downfall wasn’t it. And yes it’s an underrated part of Adrian’s brilliance, hopefully James is up there with it too, I think he might be

        1. @zann As far as I can tell, it’s to do more with the centre of gravity (mass) of the car and the driver’s position relative to that. This comes from a Ferrari site (! of all places) early in 2023:

          Lewis Hamilton mainly refers to the feeling the driver has when he takes a corner. Since his driving position is so advanced, he perceives a very precise front entry but an unstable rear when running. The location of the passenger compartment is linked both to the position of the side impact structures and to the package of radiating masses. Furthermore, the distribution of weights is constrained by the regulations. Since Mercedes uses the narrow-sidepod philosophy, it is clear that the cores are positioned towards the rear of the car. This implies that the driver’s position is forward precisely to reach the weight distribution window within which the teams must target.

          Mercedes designers thinking that the feedback from their drivers isn’t ‘real’ is possibly one of their recent failure points?

          1. that’s interesting from Ferrari @david-br, yes we can imagine the radiators being further back making a difference can’t we. Tho James thinks the problem is turn-in instability that both drivers have complained about, and if that factor was removed then the seating position would not really be a problem:

            Allison said: “Lewis’s way of expressing that is in talking about his seating position. George doesn’t ever talk about his seating position, but he describes exactly the same ugliness to the car.

            “If we could fix that [instability] properly, the only part of Lewis’s seating position that he would still dislike is that he sees a bit less of the corner apex because he’s a bit nearer the tyre than if he was a bit further back.

            “But the actual seating position itself is not giving rise to a perceptual issue that makes it hard for him to detect how to handle the car.


            and it’s not a huge difference anyway, as they all have to be behind the front axle and then within 125mm. Xc does look like a constant, as they have Xf and Xr too. And yes the cog is defined as well as you say. So all in all I think they might be up there. If they’re dumping zero sidepods they can move Lewis back a few mil to soothe him :)

  11. If PER gets his act together or RB replace him with a better driver part way through the season, I don’t see how the other teams will have a chance at winning a race next year. Mercedes could actually go backwards with their new design. Aston-Martin seems to have hit a wall design-wise during the season. Not sure they can overcome that. The McLaren is competitive on some circuits so they might have a shot to win a race or 2. They have 2 strong drivers so i think they are the only ones that have a realistic shot. RUS became unhinged last season and of course STR is just not a top notch driver.

    1. You didn’t even mention ferrari, which surprises me, I guess it’s their reputation to shoot themselves in the foot.

      1. You didn’t even mention ferrari, which surprises me, I guess it’s their reputation to shoot themselves in the foot.

        It was the thing that particularly struck me:
        You look at the graph and at no point in the season was the pace of the Mercedes better than the Ferrari, yet Mercedes finished 2nd in the WCC and Ferrari 3rd. It does make you wonder what Ferrari could achieve if they stopped the continual screw-ups.

        1. It does make you wonder what Ferrari could achieve if they stopped the continual screw-ups.

          Seems overly harsh; Ferrari was fast over a lap – but that’s not how points are awarded. They had significant tyre issues in the races. The Mercedes was also a very capable race car, and they could have had many more points had Russell and Hamilton not put themselves out of the race multiple times. Or suffered technical DNFs, or been disqualified.

          For all the complaints about Ferrari, they were very close to finishing 2nd in the WCC and the gap down to 4th was still a gaping chasm. There are certainly teams on the grid whose performance can be described as a “continual screw-up” but it’s quite a stretch to include Ferrari among them.

  12. Considering the B-team as a dark horse seems over-optimistic, but I’m most hopeful about Mercedes & Mclaren.
    Nevertheless, too early for competitive order speculations.

    1. Its never too early for speculation, lets just not pretend there’s any real science to our opinions!

    2. I agree.. Alpha Tauri isn’t going to light the world on fire. At the very best they’ll be fighting for regular points. If I had to guess –
      1) Red Bull – Will remain a dominant force in 2024
      2) Ferrari – Given their 2nd half of the 2023 season form, they’ll start off strong and stay close to Red Bull for the first half of the season.
      3) Mercedes – Since they have a completely new car, they might not start the season strong, but they’ll probably finish the season as the 2nd quickest car
      4) Mclaren – Should be a regular top 6 finisher and occasional podium contender. Mixing it up with the Ferraris and Mercedes cars.
      5) Aston Martin – They’ll be regular points contenders with the rare podium finish by Fernando… but there’s no way they’ll start 2024 like they did 2023.

  13. The question is, will Ferrari avoid their customary strategic mess-ups? If they can, they should easily be the runner-ups, even win a few races

    1. Binotto had a rare talent of being able to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory. Fred doesn’t seem to possess that quality… so I’d expect Ferrari to take wins if the car’s capable of it.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        8th January 2024, 18:40


        Binotto had a rare talent of being able to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.


  14. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    8th January 2024, 18:41

    In case you’re not familiar with the Dutch anthem, next year will provide ample opportunity for all of us to become experts…

Comments are closed.