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Formula 1: Red Bull can only defeat itself in the 2024 season

Even before the start of the 75th Formula 1 season, there was already a party atmosphere at Red Bull. During the season test in Bahrain, loud music boomed from the garage of the Austrian racing team. No wonder: The top dog in the premier class of motorsport has reason to celebrate – world champion Max Verstappen’s new company car dominated the action on the desert circuit on the Persian Gulf.

The competition also recognizes this without envy. While Mercedes driver George Russell spoke of Red Bull being in “a league of its own,” Andrea Stella needed three letters to describe his first impression: “Wow!” The McLaren team boss, after all one of the Austrians’ biggest competitors, I could hardly stop being amazed. At the test in Bahrain, where the first race of the season will take place next Saturday, Red Bull presented a bold, aggressive aerodynamic concept that differs greatly from that of the competition. A risk that seems to be working.

The tenor in the paddock is clear: Red Bull, which won 21 of 22 Grands Prix last season, will be the measure of all things this year too. More precisely: Max Verstappen. The Dutchman, who has been crowned world champion for the past three years, is superior to his teammate Sergio Perez in all respects because, compared to the Mexican, he does not make careless mistakes and is a master of tire management. He has even acquired a new nickname: “Robot”. Motorsport boss Helmut Marko: “Max is incredible. The ability to adapt to a car and get the most out of it is very, very rarely seen in Formula 1. He is a talent like Ayrton Senna once was.”

Horner is allowed to stay until the lawyer decides

Red Bull has secured the role of favorite for the time being. Only the private life of team boss Christian Horner clouds the picture. An internal investigation is underway against the Briton, which the parent company Red Bull has initiated through an external lawyer. The accusation from an employee from Horner’s inner circle: “cross-border behavior”. The Brit, who has been in charge of the team since 2005, is said to have sent at least 150 messages to them, garnished with spicy photos. It is unclear when the lawyer who interviewed both Horner and the employee will submit his report.

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Even the Red Bull bosses around the founder’s son Mark Mateschitz and managing director Oliver Mintzlaff, former CEO of the Bundesliga soccer club RB Leipzig, are not supposed to know when a result can be expected. It now seems clear that Horner will be allowed to continue in his office until then. If Chalerm Yoovidhaya has his way, it will stay that way: The Thai, who owns 51 percent of the Red Bull Group and thus the voting power, is a supporter of Horner. He should not view the Brit’s behavior as a reason for termination.

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An assessment that is causing people to shake their heads in Formula 1. This is also why the competition from Mercedes, McLaren and Co. is trying to create atmosphere. The motto: If the focus at Red Bull is not on racing, we can use that to close the performance gap.

Mercedes faces next season without a win

However, it won’t be easy. Because there are trouble spots at Mercedes too. During the winter break it was announced that Lewis Hamilton was making use of an exit clause in his contract, which runs until 2025, and would be leaving the team at the end of this year. The seven-time world champion has already signed a multi-year contract with Ferrari. On the one hand, Hamilton is fulfilling a childhood dream, and on the other hand, the Brit seems to have a better chance of winning his eighth world championship with the Scuderia.

Lewis Hamilton jokes with his former teammate Valtteri Bottas

Source: picture alliance/Eibner-Pressefoto/Photo: EIBNER/Thomas Fuessler

The Italians are already considered the second strongest force behind Red Bull – even ahead of Mercedes. They are optimistic that the Silver Arrows will be able to be competitive, unlike in the previous two years, when the team gambled away with the aerodynamics concept and plunged into a deep crisis. But another season without a win is quite likely.

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At Ferrari they are now hoping for at least one Grand Prix success. The Italians are not only on the rise because of the Hamilton coup. After years of sadness, there is euphoria again. Team boss Fred Vasseur managed to form a unit again in his debut season with the Scuderia.

Ferrari works under Vasseur with a can-do mentality

“Before I took the job last winter, a lot of people warned me,” Vasseur said. Ferrari is a chaotic racing team that would not be easy to manage if it had been said, “I would have problems changing things here”.

He perceived it differently: “Of course there is more unrest in the biggest team in Formula 1. Also because there is greater media interest and every step is scrutinized. But history shows that Ferrari has managed to be successful under similar circumstances in the past. We want that too.”

Ferrari is hoping for at least one Grand Prix success

Source: picture alliance/HOCH ZWEI/Hoch Zwei Photoagency

To achieve this, there must be a “doer mentality” at Ferrari again: “We have to be ambitious and not afraid of making mistakes.” That seems to be paying off. During the tests in Bahrain, the red racer confirmed expectations of being the second fastest force behind Red Bull. But there is still a long way to go before Ferrari can challenge Verstappen & Co. That’s how long the music will continue to play in the Red Bull Garage.

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