Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022

Ferrari look “extremely competitive” but Mercedes haven’t shown their hand – Horner

2022 F1 season

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Ferrari have got off to a strong start in testing for the 2022 Formula 1 season.

The F1-75 has been consistently among the quickest cars on the track since pre-season testing began at the Circuit de Catalunya two weeks ago.

Mercedes caused a stir yesterday by revealing a significant upgrade to their W13 which now features much slimmer sidepods. Horner said it was hard to tell at this stage what different it has made to their performance.

“The jungle drums speak fairly loud on these kind of things in Formula 1 and there’s been rumours of fairly radical interpretation,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “Even so it obviously visually is quite a departure from the concepts we and other teams have taken.

“That doesn’t mean to say it’s naturally better or worse – it’s just a different interpretation. Of course there’s compromises that have been made with their layout to accommodate that. So it’s impossible to draw any conclusions other than it looks very different.”

He said another of Red Bull’s rivals has impressed him most since testing began. “For me the car that looks the most settled on circuit is the Ferrari at the moment,” said Horner.

“They’ve had a very strong testing period so far both in Barcelona and in Bahrain so far. I would say they’ve looked extremely competitive on track.

“But you have to remember these cars are still very immature. The rate of development will be fast and intense and I expect that to change and Mercedes are going to be a huge factor in this championship, I have no doubt.”

Horner countered reports elsewhere yesterday claiming he had suggested Mercedes’ sidepod design contravenes the rules. “It looks like it ticks all the boxes,” he said.

“Comments have been quoted that certainly weren’t made,” Horner added. “I think that the car is obviously innovative, it’s an interesting solution.

“As far as we’re concerned the Mercedes car looks like it complies with the regulations. It’s just a different interpretation, a different solution.”

While Ferrari’s pace stood out for Horner, he also believes Mercedes are yet to reveal their real potential.

“It’s just impossible to tell. I think what you can say is that it’s only going to be next Saturday [in qualifying] you’ll get the first snapshot when the fuel comes out, people run as close to the weight limit as they can and we’ll see how competitive they are.

“We’ve got a complete clean sheet of paper. I don’t think Mercedes have fully shown their hand here. I think Ferrari are the form team you’d have to say at the moment. Hopefully we can be in there as well. It looks like McLaren have a strong car, Alpine have been quick so it’s impossible to predict.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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27 comments on “Ferrari look “extremely competitive” but Mercedes haven’t shown their hand – Horner”

  1. Red Bull didn’t show anything either yet so we have to wait all for the end of the test.

  2. The backpedalling was so intense, I’m surprised I couldn’t feel it from here in the UK.

    1. @sham Backpedaling from what? Made up quotes that he never said?

      1. He was quoted by people with a lot more proven integrity that Christian Horner himself, or indeed than the Red Bul PR team.

        I know who I believe, you believe what you choose.

      2. Red Bull’s own PR team backtracked on their original denial by later claiming that Horner was not making official comments, but withdrew the original claim that he didn’t make those comments.

        We therefore have a situation where even his own team are not denying that he made such remarks, just that he was making them on his own rather than at the behest of the team. The only person claiming that he said nothing is Horner himself.

        1. If he’s such the evil person that so many make him out to be then I’m not sure why he would backtrack. You’d think he’d double up. Indeed it seems to be moreso Binotto that is suggesting they need to at least have discussions on things such as Merc’s mirror setup.

          All good. The more different things teams try that are deemed legal, the more avenues for teams to go down as they develop the cars.

          1. @robbie It does indeed sound to me that Horner made the comments ‘off record’, or ‘retrospectively off record’ (which doesn’t really exist of course). I’m not sure it matters much either way. More interesting are the motives for the backtrack: it seems like either Red Bull want to see what happens – maybe they’re interested in developing a similar approach – or maybe they want to time any challenge to maximize damage to Mercedes, making them use up test time and then have it ruled out. I’m inclined to think it’s the former, based on the fact the latter won’t run in the short term (Mercedes having cleared the developments with FIA supposedly). So it would be a DAS scenario at worst, allowed for just one year, or maybe ruled out by the new super majority vote, or whatever it is, among teams halfway through the season.

          2. @david-br
            I agree with everything you’ve said. I think both Mercedes and Ferrari are immune to the super majority vote. You need 8 out of 10 votes to get a concept scrapped. Wolff is too political for this kind of traps. Also having seen the Mercedes sidepods design since it was in the drawings, he must have realized that teams will try to get it banned at all costs because apparently it is almost impossible to copy mid-season.

            Wolff can rely on his friend Lawrence Stroll and Williams since he is still owns a minority 5% stake in the team. Ferrari on the other hand is a strategic partner for Haas and Elkann who is also president of FCA that are title sponsors of Sauber through the Alfa Romeo deal.

          3. @david-br I just don’t think there has been a backtrack, but rather Horner’s words yesterday were twisted for the sake of the headlines by a media outlet. And it worked. In either of your theories you’d think Horner’s strategy would have been to keep mum yesterday, if he was poised to make some other strategic move around legalities.

          4. @robbie Well I think it’s safe to presume Horner (Red Bull) must have some kind of strategy in response! Maybe they’ll think it won’t give much benefit (though I doubt they think that). Remember CH is famous for wanting to ‘test’ these kind of innovations by other teams by launching appeals and contestations. It would be perfectly standard (red Bull) behaviour for Red Bull to do so. Not that they’re the only teams to pose challenges, obviously.
            @tifoso1989 I’m sure Mercedes/Wolff have looked to cover these angles ‘politically’ too, but it is interesting that they have a B-plan already lined up (the Barcelona iteration) if they need it.

          5. @david-br I’m confident that RBR’s strategy right now is to control that which they can, which is to focus on their own car and their knowledge of it, while they observe what is working for other teams at the same time. They’ll have utter confidence in why Newey has taken them the direction they have. If Horner et al have questions they start by asking for clarifications on the regs first, and then they know if there needs to be further conversations that might result in protests, followed potentially by appeals. Standard stuff. Of course for many fans as soon as they hear of someone asking for a clarification that is tantamount to accusations of cheating.

            For the time being I think Horner (et al) would not even be able to discern yet at this point if Mercedes has anything worth worrying about, and I have no doubt that there has already been general discussions around the paddock with the key people in F1 that have confirmed that Mercedes car is within the regs. It is really Binotto that is the one that seems to want to further the discussion on Merc’s mirror setup, and again, if he is given clarification that their setup is fine, then the paddock moves on with that knowledge that a mirror brace can actually be an aero device too, if indeed that is what Mercedes’ is.

            Just wanted to add an observation of my own which is that even though we heard from the first test in Spain, and now from this test of the porpoising going on, including comments from LH, and knowing some have said ‘it has affected everyone,’ I just wonder (perhaps it’s wishful thinking) if RBR are one of the teams it is affecting the least, simply because I’ve not read them talking about it much, nor have I seen footage, albeit I admit I haven’t poured over the computer searching for it other than in a minimal way either. Just to tie it in with the discussion above, I just wonder if RBR are perfectly happy with where there (Newey’s) car is right now and couldn’t give a toss if they see Mercedes sidepod-less car bouncing down the road while their’s doesn’t. Of course I could be wrong and maybe it is just as much an issue for RBR, but is it? Not that I’ve picked up on anyway.

  3. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    11th March 2022, 12:59

    As someone who has had the pleasure to have several chats with Tobi Grüner, I would always believe whatever he says as opposed to Horner. Which is a shame, seeing him drop to near the same low level as Toto Wolff…

    1. If anything Wolff is more open and doesn’t play with words to appear angelic while piercing with prongs in the way Horner communicates.

  4. No one has & no one ever does in pre-season testing.

  5. Ferrari is 7th and 8th.

  6. Hey RaceFans. Could you post the article where Alonso said for a spanish magazine that “F1 pilots do not like new cars”. I know that posted it first but it would be a good thought.

    1. @apophisjj Somewhere in a small filing cabinet in a basement in an obscure office in a remote corner of the world is a folder waiting to store media articles under the label ‘New introductions in Formula 1 that Alonso didn’t complain about.’
      It remains empty.

      1. @david-br What other introductions has he complained about? At least give some evidence.

        1. @mashiat Sorry, just my impression that there’s never a new season without Alonso complaining about something! Do you really want me to go off looking for evidence? Sounds like hard work… :O(

          1. @david-br I struggle to think of many he has complained about. He has complained about the stewards a lot, but rule changes, not so much.

        2. I’m fairly certain he was really disparaging of the 2014 regs, but that was likely because Ferarri had massively dropped the ball on the engine design!

  7. Seann Sheriland
    11th March 2022, 14:02

    CH seems worried. That is a good sign.

  8. @apophisjj @david-br Goes along with what i’ve heard from more than 1 person.

    Like with the last era of ground effects the drivers don’t like how stiff the cars have to be, They don’t like the way they bounce/skip over every tiny imperfection on the track & they cannot stand the porpoising. And apparently if you raise the car to reduce the porpoising they just start to bounce more over the bumps elsewhere & “refuse to turn at low speed”.

    They don’t like how little feel the tires are providing or how “BLEEP” the cars feel at low speeds. I was told more than 1 driver have said that at slow speeds the cars feel worse than any junior category car & that once you go below a certain speed you just lose all feel for what the car is doing & it then just picks up a crazy amount of understeer & the front end grip doesn’t come back. Apparently drivers who struggle with understeer are likely going to be nowhere from now as all these cars do is understeer like a truck at low speeds.

    As one person described it to me, It’s all of the things drivers hated about the last era of ground effect cars but in some areas quite a bit worse.

    1. @gt-racer Fair enough but I’m sure these issues will start to iron out, plus drivers complain about everything anyway. Especially about not being able to overtake or even get close because of dirty air. So let’s hope that has improved at least. Other drivers seem to like the idea of the field being bunched closer together (though I suspect it won’t be much different, maybe even worse…). The big tyres still strike me as an unnecessary hindrance however ‘road relevant’ they might be.

      1. @gt-racer @david-br While I never like to hear of drivers ‘hating’ their experience, at the same time I haven’t gotten the same vibe from comments made by drivers. They all sound fairly pleased with the new cars. But even if that is just them being politically correct or making their teams sound on top of things for the sake of bravado, I think what is exciting here is that it sounds like the designers and engineers have a real challenge on their hands, and it sounds like perhaps the cars are going to be a bit of a handful, at least at low speeds, and that to me just makes it sound like much more of a driver vs driver series and one that may do a better job of separating the men from the boys, and that can include in the wind tunnel and the factory too. If they’re very understeery and that becomes something they’ll have to live with, then they’ll have to just drive accordingly, especially going inside with a car on the outside.

        As it relates to the last era of ground effects, let’s be mindful that today’s drivers have just come off of having the most aero downforcey cars than ever, so perhaps the difference they are feeling now is more exaggerated than how it felt back in the 80’s. I’m sure the teams currently have much much more in their toolbag for dealing with the issues that have arisen, than teams had 40 years ago.

        1. Oh and here I just went to the article where LH is talking about porpoising and he’s talking about oversteer. Methinks everything is still very much up in the air and the only thing that is going to be constant is change, as usual for F1.

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