Red Bull a copied Mercedes? F1 expert Danner analyzes new cars

The ten kittens are out of the bag, all Formula 1 racing teams have presented their new cars for the 2024 season. Since then, screenshot analyzes of air ducts and side pods have been doing the rounds, and some observers are even asking whether industry leader Red Bull has copied Mercedes. It’s all just smoke and mirrors, says our expert Christian Danner.

“The things that are relevant to performance are always the things you don’t see – for example: the underbody,” says the former Formula 1 driver in an interview Evaluating the cars presented based on eye-catching designs is “unserious”.

Whether there is “a tiny piece of wing at the inner end of the front wing – so what! It’s ridiculous to throw such things into the balance because we can’t do it,” explains Danner. Only an engineer “who can see in the wind tunnel what a two-centimeter piece of carbon changes” can do that.

Red Bull in particular caused a stir with its RB20. Observers speak of a particularly “aggressive” evolution of Max Verstappen’s world champion car from last year and point to vertical air intake slots on the strikingly undercut side pods. The question of whether Red Bull has taken up a Mercedes concept from previous years is also making the rounds in many portals and specialist magazines.

He takes such analyzes “with a certain indifference,” says Danner: “Whatever is visible there is not the reason why the car is faster or slower. That has never been the case.”

Formula 1: The relationship between air resistance and downforce must be right

Photographers captured what could be seen and journalists evaluated and analyzed it down to the smallest detail. “I don’t know whether this is an aggressive design – I wasn’t there in the wind tunnel. A few millimeters of flap or a different cooling inlet are neither a reason for me to be worried that the car won’t work, nor to say that it is Now the absolute breakthrough,” emphasizes the RTL commentator.

The key is to have a car “that has a good relationship between air resistance and downforce and is drivable. That the rear axle doesn’t do something different in every corner, as was the case with the Mercedes last year,” says Danner. With the “ground effect” cars introduced in 2022, it is crucial “how low you can drive without damaging the car. That makes a night and day difference.”

New “Racing Bull” a highly controversial sister model”

Overall, the cars have become “very much the same” in the third year of the current regulations, says Danner. “It’s not like anything stands out. If you painted all the Formula 1 cars in dark gray or black, you would have almost no chance of telling them apart.”

With the new “Racing Bull” from the former AlphaTauri team, there is a “highly controversial sister model” in the field, Danner alludes to allegations from the competition. McLaren CEO Zak Brown is particularly concerned about the increased technical cooperation between Red Bull and its junior team. The American fears that the Racing Bulls will form a B team of world champions in the future and more or less send a Red Bull copy into the race.

The Racing Bull has become “quite a different car,” says Danner, but he sticks to his basic thesis. “The things that make up the speed are not visible to the normal eye. It can be assumed that the Racing Bull has a suspension like the Red Bull, which enables it to ride lower and thus have more downforce and stability , because he got the suspension one-to-one from Red Bull.”

Danner believes in Mercedes’ upswing

And Mercedes? Danner believes the Silver Arrows are on the road to recovery after two disappointing years. “What they have built should finally work again. Because they have now brought their measurement and simulation tools up to date. I believe that they will be competitive,” said the F1 expert. “But believing doesn’t mean knowing. Let’s just wait and see what the drivers say about their boxes.”

After all: “Beautifully painted” is the new Mercedes W15: “Black, silver – wonderful.”

Martin Armbruster

To person:

Christian Danner (65) made the leap into Formula 1 in 1985 by winning the Formula 3000 European Championship. Until 1986, he drove in the premier class for several small teams and scored four championship points in 36 Grand Prix starts. He then drove in the US IndyCar series and became the first German racing driver to score points in Formula 1 and IndyCar. Danner won five races in the DTM between 1988 and 1996 and retired from active motorsport in 1997. From 1998 to 2022, the Bavarian commented on Formula 1 on RTL alongside Heiko Waßer, and in 2024 the duo will return to seven races for the free TV channel. Follow Christian Danner on Instagram.