We saw Mercedes dominate the sport from 2014 to 2021. Now we are seeing Red Bull do something similar. Red Bull did dominate the sport once before, but not as long as Mercedes. Will this time be different for the Austrian Constructor? They have several teams chasing them, not far behind.
We saw Red Bull dominate the sport back in the early 2010s. Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel won 4 World Championships from 2010-2013. This dominance was put to a stop by Mercedes as a new era dawned on F1. The Turbo-Hybrid era.
How did Mercedes become Dominant?
Mercedes was introduced as a constructor on the Formula One grid, back in 2010. The team decided to hire Nico Rosberg who was a driver, just reaching his prime, and for the second driver, they decided to bring back a former 7-time world champion, Michael Schumacher. This would be the first time for Michael Schumacher on the grid after his retirement at the end of 2006.
At this time Mercedes were still building the car and the team. It was led by Ross Brawn at the time. In 2013, the team decided to hire Toto Wolff who was then a shareholder with Willams Racing, as their new Team Principal. From the beginning, Toto was very clear about his motives, he only wanted to win. Second would be unacceptable for them.
After the end of 2013, FIA introduced new engine regulations which started a new era, the Turbo-hybrid era.
The Turbo-Hybrid Era
The Turbo-Hybrid era marked the beginning of Mercedes’s Dominance and the end of Red Bull’s. There was a huge performance gap between the teams, none of them was able to come close to the pace of the German Constructor. Mercedes had built such a powerful engine, that it took the rest of the top teams years to just catch up with them, and even then they were not able to beat the team. During this period, Mercedes won 8 Constructor Trophies from 2014 to 2021.
In 2013, Lewis Hamilton decided to switch teams from McLaren to Mercedes. Looking back at this right now, it looks like the best move any driver has made in the history of Formula One. This move helped him achieve 6 more World Championships in addition to the one he already had with McLaren. Only one other driver has 7 World Titles in the sport, Michael Schumacher.
There would be races where Mercedes would have a 7-second lead to the rest of the grid within 2 laps after a safety car restart. This car almost seemed unfair. But no matter how many protests were thrown at them for certain designs of the car, none of them fell through and all their cars were declared legal.
The end of 2021, marked the end of the Turbo-Hybrid era. Although Hamilton was not able to win the WDC in 2021, Mercedes was able to bag the WCC.
For the 2022 season, the FIA introduced new regulations in Aerodynamics and an engine freeze. The engine freeze will start from the 2022 season lasting till the end of the 2025 season. These new regulations, made it easier for cars to follow closely to the car in front, thus improving the level of racing. So far, Red Bull seemed to have taken maximum advantage of these rules and is currently dominating the sport.
Mercedes on the other hand, is still struggling to keep up with the pace of Red Bull. They can achieve podiums and maybe challenge for a couple of wins, but they are not able to consistently achieve it.
Why Red Bull won’t be able to hold the position for long in 2023 and beyond?
Red Bull seems to have a significant advantage over the rest of the grid, but this may not last for long. Here’s why.
The 2021 Red Bull budget
Back in 2021, Red Bull exceeded the budget cap. This resulted in a fine and a 10% reduction to their Aerodynamic Testing time for the 2023 season. While it does not seem to have made an impact on the team so far, it could make a difference in the near future. The penalty regarding the Aerodynamic testing time will slow down their development for the current car and the 2024 car. This would be challenging for Red Bull with Aston Martin and Mercedes with significantly more testing time.
Aston Martin finished P7 in the 2022 standings, therefore has a lot more Aerodynamic testing time than any of the other teams who are fighting for podiums. This could mean faster and better car upgrades over the next few races. This could help in closing the gap to Red Bull and maybe even challenging Red Bull for the championship in 2024.
2026 Regulation Changes
The FIA has announced the changes to the engine from the 2026 season. This change might offer a challenge for Red Bull. The Austrian constructor has made a deal with Ford to provide them with the power unit from the 2026 season onwards. This could lead to a few issues for Red Bull.
Ford has not been in Formula One for several years now, and it is unclear how its power unit will perform compared to Mercedes or Ferrari. Red Bull has taken a gamble by going with Ford for the 2026 season. But they made this decision as they did not have much choice.
A team like Mercedes or Ferrari will never supply for Red Bull as they are direct competitors. Renault also will not be an option due to their ugly break-up after 2018. Red Bull had no other choice but to reach out to other manufacturers after the exit of Honda. They tried to make a deal with Porsche, but it did not fall through. So they went with the American Manufacturer for their power unit needs.
Will the Ford Engine be able to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari who have a lot more experience in Formula One? Only time will tell. If Ford is not able to manufacture a competitive engine, it could mark the end of the current Red Bull Domination.