The 2021 aerodynamic regulation changes were designed to shake-up the competitive order and Mercedes has been hit harder than Red Bull due to its car concept, according to its team principal and CEO Toto Wolff.
Changes to the floor and rear brake ducts were introduced with the explanation that it was to peg back overall performance to ensure the Pirelli tires were still suitable this season. That was due to the fact that a radical change in regulations was delayed until 2022 — freezing multiple aspects of the 2020 cars and tires for this year — but Wolff claims it was to change the competitive picture, and hurts the low-rake angle concept used on the floor of the Mercedes chassis more than the high-rake approach taken by Red Bull.
Max Verstappen tops Lando Norris in second Bahrain GP practiceF1 TV Pro: Take race weekend to the next level with a 7-day free trialMcLaren’s Brown predicts Verstappen-Russell at Mercedes in 2022
“I am sure it has been specifically designed to somehow change the pecking order,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “But we know that. We knew that the low-rake concept is going to be a car that is going to be more penalized than the high-rake, but it’s still a big challenge for us. We like it — we embrace the competition. It’s just about doing the best possible job without complaining.”
Wolff says it won’t be possible for Mercedes to make a change to its car concept as a result, due to a number of aspects that are already frozen for this year.
“First of all, I don’t think a rake is the only singular effect that we may be suffering from; there’s new tires that we are racing in 2021, and we haven’t even started. So definitely our analysis has shown that higher rake concepts have lost less downforce than lower rake.
“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 — we couldn’t run our suspensions and setting in the way that Red Bull does. So we need to do the best out of it and tune the car with what we have available.”
Despite his comments, Wolff says he is excited by the prospect of the battle with Red Bull that is in store, and also highlighted McLaren as a potential threat prior to Lando Norris finishing FP2 ahead of both Mercedes cars.
“If it looks like it was a carry-forward car, I think we 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. It has been may be more difficult for us to recover some of the lost downforce. But so far from what I have seen and hope is that we can have a really tough fight. This is what the fans want to see, and what we would like to have.
“Red Bull is a formidable team, with people pushing really hard. They have won four championships before the hybrid power units came in, and no doubt they are the strongest competitor. But these guys here (McLaren) they have a really good power unit now in the back. So we must not not consider them either.”