Red Bull gamble exposed: Marko admits copying Mercedes could backfire

Dr. Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s top Austrian consultant, openly admits that the world champions are taking a bold leap with the 2024 car, which astonishingly mirrors in many ways the Mercedes concept that failed in 2022 and 2023. This move has sent ripples through the Formula 1 community, especially considering Red Bull’s dominant performance in the ground effect era to date, making their decision to not pursue a straightforward evolution of their successful design a topic of intense discussion.

Marko, speaking to Servus TV, didn’t mince his words about the radical departure from their previous design philosophy. “It is more than an evolution, it is a small revolution and it is the basis of what will be used in 2024,” he declared, setting the stage for a potentially game-changing season.

The speculation doesn’t stop at the design changes seen so far. The F1 community is abuzz with the possibility of Red Bull experimenting with the ‘zero sidepods’ approach before too long, a concept Mercedes ditched after unsuccessful attempts. Marko’s confidence in their new direction is backed by data, as he explains, “If we look at the simulation and wind tunnel data, it (the concept) worked very well.” However, he also acknowledges the pitfalls Mercedes encountered, saying, “Mercedes was also convinced by the data of their concept, but in practice it didn’t work at all.”

Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s legendary designer known for his innovative and sometimes unconventional approaches, is at the heart of this strategic pivot. Marko sheds light on Newey’s design preferences, noting, “Adrian Newey has always favoured cars without radiators, although clearly and logically this isn’t something you can ask of the engine engineers.” This comment hints at the radical nature of the changes being pursued, with Marko adding, “We don’t have as extreme a solution as Mercedes, but we follow a similar direction in the concept.”

Former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde offers an outsider’s perspective on Red Bull’s daring move, suggesting that the issue with Mercedes’ concept might have been execution rather than design. “I think it’s really cool that Newey and the people around him can think of this and have the idea ‘we’ll take it to the next level’,” van der Garde commented on the DRS De Race Show podcast.

Despite the optimism, van der Garde acknowledges the inherent risk, especially with Red Bull’s car featuring “almost closed” vertical air inlets. “I don’t know how they are going to do their cooling, so I hope they won’t have too many problems with that,” he said, echoing a sentiment likely shared by many in the F1 paddock.

The decision to embark on this design path reflects Red Bull’s relentless pursuit of innovation, as van der Garde notes, “You have to continue developing – you have to find something new.”

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