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F1 two-tier society: top teams still further away?

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E s is a scary series. Since the Australian GP in 2013, since Kimi Raikkonen won the season opener in the Lotus, the winners have been in a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull. 117 races have been started in the meantime. Lewis Hamilton won 51 races for Mercedes during this period. Sebastian Vettel in equal parts 26 for Red Bull and Ferrari. Nico Rosberg 22 for Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen seven and five respectively for Red Bull. Valtteri Bottas three for Mercedes. Fernando Alonso two for Ferrari. Kimi Räikkönen one for Ferrari.

There is no end to the series in sight. The top three teams spend the most money and they have the most staff. Year after year they are approaching the budget mark of 400 million euros. It's a vicious circle that nobody can break out of. Because losing a World Cup has become too expensive, the loser keeps increasing his budget. As paradoxical as it sounds. In the hope of finally winning. The winner, in this case Mercedes, knows this and is following suit.

The arms race means that the remaining participants only get seventh, eighth and ninth places. Renault, HaasF1, Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Williams only cut off better if one of them fails at the front. The gap is now so great that even bad starting positions do not change anything. Max Verstappen plowed past midfield drivers in Russia and the USA as if they were driving a Formula 2 car. There are other examples. Lewis Hamilton after his spin at Silverstone or Sebastian Vettel after his start-up crash in France.

Maximum fourth place

If you want to move up, you have to upgrade. But it takes years to mature into a top team. See Renault, which is recruiting and poaching staff, modernizing its systems and tweaking the budget, but is still behind the top teams and torments itself in the midfield.

The rule changes for 2019 do not offer any hope for improvement . “The new wings won't change anything. Unless someone lands a lucky strike with the design, ”says Renault operations manager Alan Permane. The aerodynamic changes cannot be ignored, but far less drastic than, for example, in 2017.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull can build on the basis of their 2018 cars. HaasF1 team boss Guenther Steiner even believes that theRule changes will move the top teams further afield. “You have more people. And more people have more ideas. ”

For the big ones, it is no problem to develop in parallel. With their inflation of aerodynamicists and designers, the top teams can dig deeper into the rules, spy out gray areas, develop concepts and play through them. The fact that they are limited by the limited wind tunnel time of 25 hours per week and the limited CFD computing capacity of 25 teraflops is a fallacy.

'More people think more about it before they even go into the wind tunnel' , explains Steiner. The South Tyrolean knows that HaasF1 can only go one step up. “We want to finish fourth and beat Renault. We never catch up with the top teams with the current formula 1 corset. ”


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