With Red Bull having taken its fourth consecutive F1 victory at the Styrian Grand Prix to extend its lead in the title battles, Mercedes is facing a challenge to improve its car in order to not let the championships slip from its grasp.
But while the clear progress that Red Bull is making with its RB16B car has been important in allowing Max Verstappen to stretch his advantage, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto also thinks other factors are at play.
He believes that the stability Red Bull has had in committing to its senior figures through thick and thin has been crucial for helping the team become stronger over time.
He suggests that is in contrast to Mercedes, which over the past year has seen engine chief Andy Cowell and technical director James Allison step down, plus face huge delays in finalising the contract of lead driver Lewis Hamilton.
Asked after the Styrian Grand Prix about his views on the fight between Red Bull and Mercedes, Binotto said: “Before looking at the technical aspects, and it must be acknowledged that Red Bull has done a great job, I think it is right to point out that they are reaping excellent results because they can count on a team that has been stable for many years.
“Despite having had to face difficulties, despite not having won, they have continued to build a group to try to improve their car. And what we see now is the result of that work.
“If, on the other hand, we look at Mercedes, already in the last year there have been significant internal changes, with roles that have perhaps been revised. Plus the signature with the driver that arrived only in February.
“I think they are signs of a distraction that has led to the current situation.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
While Binotto did not make any direct comparison to Ferrari’s situation, he has long been clear that the best way for Ferrari to make progress over the long term is to give the current structure time to show what it can do.
Binotto also does not back up Mercedes’ views that Red Bull’s straightline speed gain has been helped by a step forward in engine performance.
He suggests that Red Bull partner Honda may have been forced to wind down its engine in the opening rounds of the season because of reliability concerns, and only now has unleashed its full performance which it could show at limited times earlier in the campaign.
“I don’t share [the view] of what I hear and read about, because the performance of the Honda engine, looking at the GPS data, corresponds to the performance they had at the beginning of the season in Bahrain,” he explained.
“Then, they had to reduce performance due to reliability issues. I think by solving that, they’re back to the standards they had at the start of the season.
“There has been no step forward. We, from Bahrain onwards, always had the same level of performance because the engine allowed us to run like that.
“So for Red Bull, it is not a question of having taken a step forward, because that would not be allowed in the regulations.”