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World Championship situation: Are Red Bull’s nerves now fluttering?

A look at the current world championship situation: who has emerged stronger from the latest Formula 1 races and how badly Red Bull has been hit after nine Grands Prix

Red Bull has been more dominant in Formula 1 in the past. That is the interim conclusion of the 2024 season after nine race weekends so far for Max Verstappen’s team. Because victory in Monaco went to Ferrari and the pursuers have made up a lot of ground in the world championship

Even Red Bull team boss Christian Horner speaks of “difficult races”, even though Verstappen has won two of the last three Grands Prix and was on the front row of the grid in Canada at the same time as pole man George Russell. “And that with a car that, according to both drivers, has deficits,” says Horner. “So we have a lot that we can improve.”

That is why Horner is not without worries ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona: the Red Bull performance in Monaco and Canada raises questions. “Because there are tracks like Singapore later in the season. That could become a factor,” says Horner.

“We really assume that Ferrari, McLaren and, since Canada, Mercedes will be competitive at every track. Although we have won six out of nine Grands Prix so far, we need to be on top form to keep them at bay. “

WM standings: the competition is catching up

In fact, Red Bull has not been the best team in terms of points on a race weekend since the race in Miami and even lost out to two other racing teams in Monaco and Canada – mainly due to Sergio Perez’s retirements.

So is the Formula 1 giant in trouble? Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff doesn’t think so and told Sky: “You can’t underestimate Max and Red Bull. They are still the benchmark.”

However, McLaren in particular has made “huge progress”, Wolff emphasizes. “And we mustn’t forget Ferrari either. So we now have four competitive teams.”

“In Canada, there were two or three teams that could potentially have won the race. Maybe not quite us. But the most important thing is that the gaps are getting smaller,” says Wolff.

Red Bull: Back to old strength in Barcelona?

What this means for the rest of the 2024 Formula 1 season remains to be seen. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz is only cautiously optimistic: “I think both McLaren and Ferrari can pose a threat to Red Bull. But we can’t afford races like in Canada [with a double retirement]. We need more races like Monaco. “

For now, however, there are tracks on the calendar that should suit Red Bull on paper. That’s why Wolff calls Barcelona a “good test” for all teams, because the circuit there has “all kinds of corners” and can therefore serve as an ideal yardstick. “Perhaps it will be interesting to see whether Red Bull is strong there again,” says Wolff.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is expecting a comeback from the world championship leaders: “I think Red Bull’s strengths will be more visible on a track like Barcelona. But let’s wait and see. And behind Red Bull, we’ll all be pretty close together. “

Ferrari tries to make sense of the Canada defeat

However, Ferrari in particular has some homework to do in the next European phase of the championship, after “a kind of special case” in Canada, as Sainz puts it. “We first have to see what happened there. It seems like we’re struggling more in qualifying than in the race this year. But if you’re a second down in Q2, then there’s just something wrong with the car.”

And in Canada it “never clicked” for Ferrari and “we were never fast enough”, says Sainz. “Obviously, the other teams prepared the tires better than us in qualifying. In the race, we were then stuck in midfield and weren’t able to make any progress. “

Mercedes believes: Now we can do something

Other Mercedes: After the Canadian Grand Prix, the star brand expressly sees “the positives” and believes it has taken a “real step” with the W15. Team Principal Wolff says: “The direction of development is right. The drivers say they can now push with the car. They have more confidence, which makes everything much easier for them.”

The enthusiasm at Mercedes is so great that Head of Engineering James Allison even made a snide comment in the direction of Red Bull. The tenor: The latest upgrade there was more of a “downgrade”, in other words a step backwards.

Horner simply said: “Even with our downgrade, we beat their upgrade. That was a particularly rewarding victory. “

Red Bull admits: Not much more to come

But has Red Bull recognized the signs of the times and will soon upgrade the RB20? Horner is keeping a low profile: “There will be minor updates over the summer months.” A major update is “possible”, but the team boss does not want to commit himself.

Just this much: “It’s only about small changes. You have to think very carefully about where you bring your updates this year. And we have almost reached the [technical] zenith. That means the rate of improvement is no longer that high. “

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