Red Bull unhappy with Mercedes upgrade

Bahrian F1 testing
Hamilton and Verstappen met again in Bahrain for second testing

Mercedes are at the center of a row over the legality of their car after introducing a radical new design at the second pre-season test.

Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn said the car’s aerodynamics around its side-pods was a “very extreme interpretation of the regulations”.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Germany’s Auto Motor Und Sport: “Mercedes have gone a step too far.

“That does not correspond to the spirit of the regulations,” he said.

“For us, these wings are illegal.”

Red Bull initially described the quotes attributed to Horner as “incorrect”, before clarifying they were not “official”.

Horner later told Sky Sports: “I was slightly surprised to be reading comments that I was supposed to have been making.

“I haven’t paid a great deal of attention to [the Mercedes car]. It is obviously a fairly different concept, but that is for the aero guys and the designers to get into.”

The revised Mercedes has been dubbed the “no side-pod car” because of the extreme way the world champions have managed to shrink the bodywork besides the driver around the car’s cooling requirements.

Horner also seems to have taken issue with the integration of a shaped side-impact structure on which the rear-view mirrors are mounted.

He said: “Those are not mirror mounts, but two wings. In addition, they have built vertical baffles on top. They have nothing to do with the mirror mount.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto also raised questions about the Mercedes design.

“No doubt it is a great car – that should not be a surprise to us,” he said. “A concept quite different to ours, quite interesting with the cooling layout, and the side-pods.

“On the mirrors, it was surprising – we were not expecting that. We always said the mirror should have no aero[dynamic] purpose and the way they treated their cars there is a significant aero purpose in the mirrors.

“The risk in the future is that all teams will start designing mirrors that look like spaceships. In the spirit of what we intend to do for the future, it is something we need to discuss.”

Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff said he was not concerned about any problems developing with the rules.

Wolff said governing body the FIA ​​had been involved throughout the design process.

“It’s clear that sometimes when you come with an innovation it creates the kind of debate we’re having here,” Wolff said. “It was expected.

“We were keen in not running alone with that, but being in touch with the FIA. That’s why I think it will be OK.”

Brawn emphasized that under F1’s new governance procedure this year, rules can be changed mid-season if eight of the 10 teams agree.

“Once the interpretation Mercedes has made has been understood, then we can get a balanced view on what impact it’s going to have,” he said.

“‘Spirit’ [of the rules] is such a gray area. At the end of the day, you have to go on the wording of the regulations. But that wording can be changed with an 80% team majority.

“If something has slipped by [in the rule-writing process], then the teams are aware that that can happen. So that could happen live during the season. We’ll have to see how this one plays out.”

Mercedes at F1 testing in Bahrain
The Mercedes car featured different sidepod designs

Brawn said his primary concern was whether teams’ designs undermine the intent of the rules to make racing better by allowing cars to follow each other more closely than in the past.

Out on track, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly set the fastest time of the day, ahead of the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin.

Headline lap times in testing are unreliable indicators of actual competitiveness because of the myriad ways teams can alter their cars’ specification to affect lap time.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were ninth and 11th fastest after Russell drove in the afternoon session and the seven-time champion in the morning.

Russell said of the car’s new features: “It looks interesting but it’s not about how it looks it’s about how fast it goes. It caught quite a few people’s eyes this morning.

“I am proud to be part of a team that is pushing innovation and seeing something pretty spectacular being pulled off is pretty incredible.”

The session was stopped eight minutes early when Red Bull’s Sergio Perez had a spin and then inadvertently reversed into the gravel and became stuck when trying to get going again.

Fastest times, Bahrain – day one

1 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpha Tauri 1:33.902 *

2 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Ferrari 1:34.359

3 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:34.531

4 Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:34.736 *

5 Alex Albon (Tha) Williams 1:35.070*

6 Lando Norris (GB) McLaren 1:35.356**

7 Valtteri Bottas (End) Alfa Romeo 1:35.495

8 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:35.706

9 George Russell (GB) Mercedes 1:35.941

10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:35.977**

11 Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes 1:36.365

12 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:36.745

13 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:36.768 **

14 Zhou Guanyu (Chi) Alfa Romeo 1:37.164

15 Pietro Fittipaldi (Bra) Haas 1:37.422**

* = C4 tyre; ** = C2 tyre. C5 is softest, C1 hardest

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