Wolff: New aero hurts Mercedes more than Red Bull
By Mat Coch
Sunday 4th April, 2021 - 12:44pm
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes his team has lost out more than its rivals following changes to Formula 1’s aerodynamic rules this season.
Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, the Dutchman having topped every session of the weekend to that point.
Aerodynamic changes for the 2021 season have seen a general reduction in downforce under the cars.
A triangular section has been trimmed from the floors in front of the rear wheels, along with tweaks to the diffuser.
It’s prompted suggestions that teams with a high rake design philosophy, such as Red Bull have lost less than those – such as Mercedes – which have adopted a flatter concept.
A high rake concept sees the rear of the car run higher than the front to influence the air pressure underneath the car, energising the diffuser.
“I think we’ve probably suffered more with the change of regulations than the cars with the higher rake – and the Red Bull has followed that concept since many years,” Wolff explained.
“So it’s maybe more difficult for us to recover some of the lost downforce – but so far, what I’ve seen, and what I hope is that we can have a really tough fight.”
Over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes was seen to employ a higher rake than it has been accustomed too.
However, Wolff suggests it is not as straight forward as jacking up the rear ride height.
“I don’t think the rake is the only singular effect that we may be suffering from,” he said, suggesting understanding the tyres will also be a key factor.
“Our analyses have shown that higher rake concept has lost [less] downforce than the lower rake and in the last year of these regulations we [wouldn’t] be able to replicate the concept that Red Bull and some of the other teams have been racing.
“It’s physically not possible,” he added.
“We couldn’t run our suspensions and settings in the way that Red Bull does and so we need to do the best out of it and tune the car to what we have available.”
Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix by less than a second from Verstappen, surviving a late challenge from the Red Bull driver.
It was a win set up by the Mercedes pit wall, engineering a way beyond their Dutch rival during the pit stop sequence.
With track position, Hamilton then hung on in a tense battle Wolff expects to see continue throughout the season.
“Red Bull is a formidable team with people pushing really hard,” Wolff said of how closely matched Red Bull and Mercedes look.
“They’ve won four championships before the hybrid power units came in and no doubt they’re the strongest competitor – but [McLaren], they have a really good power unit now in the back so [we] mustn’t not consider them either.”
Mercedes leads the 2021 constructors’ championship with 41 points over Red Bull’s 28, with McLaren third on 18 after the opening round.
The season continues with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, held at Imola on April 16-18.