F1: Lewis Hamilton goes cross-country skiing
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Toto Wolff has suggested that Red Bull, and possibly even Aston Martin, could finally overtake Mercedes this year and put an end to their seven-year period of unrivalled dominance in Formula One. The Silver Arrows have had the best car by a long way for the majority of recent seasons while Lewis Hamilton has spearheaded the team’s successes, winning six Drivers’ Championship titles since joining from McLaren in 2013.
Last season served as a continuation of the sport’s current reality, with Hamilton storming to the title with 11 wins from 17 races and Mercedes finishing almost 300 points clear of second-placed Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
However, despite their superiority in recent years, Wolff is aware of the threat from Max Verstappen and new boy Sergio Perez as the German competitors chase an eighth consecutive campaign at the top.
While the regulations for 2021 remain largely unaltered from last year, mandatory changes to floor designs will provide tricky challenges for those on the grid to overcome.
Wolff has claimed that Red Bull, who are known for their strong aerodynamics, could take advantage of the new rules to oust Mercedes from their dominant position this season.
He also suggested that Aston Martin could pose a serious threat after the team surpassed expectations last year under the Racing Point name with what was essentially a carbon copy of the Mercedes W10, the title-winning challenger in 2019.
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“The change to the floor, from which a part has to be cut out basically, is decisive in a technical sense,” Wolff told Speed Week.
“It has forced a rethink of the entire concept. So we cannot rule out that Red Bull or Aston Martin will come up with a better solution.”
Despite Wolff’s concerns, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is of the persuasion that Mercedes remain the overwhelming favourites to achieve yet another clean sweep in 2021.
He told Autosport earlier this month that his team are preparing for another tough battle against the might of the Silver Arrows, but stressed that they will be eager to make the most of any opportunity they get to close the gap.
“We’ve seen one team be totally dominant for the last seven years,” said Horner. “And with continuity going into this year of largely the car and drivers [being the same], on the Mercedes side you would expect them to be in a very strong position again.
“But I hope by using the lessons we’ve learned from 2020, we can put a more sustained challenge to Mercedes, who will undoubtedly be incredibly strong and very much the favourites this year, particularly off the back of a car which was arguably their best car of the hybrid era.
“That will be quite a challenge for us, but one we are relishing.”
Horner also suggested that the reigning champions will be desperately hoping to get off to a flying start after Verstappen pipped both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to the final chequered flag of last season in Abu Dhabi.
“The Mercedes is quite a machine, but we’ve demonstrated that you can beat them by working hard, by applying yourself to the task in hand,” continued the Red Bull chief.
“I think they will be tremendously motivated because of that last race in Abu Dhabi, and I expect Toto [Wolff] has used that, and James Allison, to come up with an even more competitive car for this year.
“So we don’t in any way underestimate the might of Mercedes. Our objective is to take the lessons we learned in 2020 into 2021. And hopefully, the RB16B will be a good evolution.
“Mercedes are the clear favourites with seven consecutive titles, but we are excited about the challenge this season and won’t give up in our hunt for a fifth title.”
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