Skip to main content

After another year of domination, the Red Bull team has radically transformed its single-seater, at a time when Mercedes and Ferrari are drawing inspiration from it. Here’s a look at the game of deception that’s already underway, one week before the start of the 2024 season in Bahrain.


Red Bull, betting on change

After a year in which the Austrian team won 21 out of 22 Grands Prix, Red Bull is facing quite a challenge. While a number of rival teams, notably Mercedes and Ferrari, have sought inspiration in the ultra-dominant RB19 to design their F1 2024, Adrian Newey and Pierre Waché, the men at the head of Red Bull’s technical project, have completely revised their copy.


The Briton and the Frenchman have come up with a structurally different RB20, except of course for the engine, which is fixed by regulation. To achieve this, the two engineers even looked at the concept of the Mercedes 2023, the W14, and its original aerodynamic approach (absence of the original pontoon and specific air inlets).


Newey and Waché tried to make the most of this approach, which didn’t fully convince them. Indeed, at Red Bull, the only team to have perfectly interpreted the new regulations for 2021, they feel they have reached the end of the road in exploiting the aerodynamic flows of the single-seater designed two years ago.


An ambitious gamble, then, for a team that has also been destabilized from within by the Christian Horner affair (the team manager is under internal investigation for harassment).


Finally, like all its rivals, the Austrian team must also begin to prepare for the new regulations to be applied in 2026, the text of which is currently being finalized. Chassis, engine and aero will be overhauled, hybridization will take on even greater importance and the use of biofuels will be imposed.


This overhaul is designed to “green” F1′s image, and offers an opportunity to put the teams back on an equal footing in front of their drawing boards.


In the meantime, the 2024 concept will have to live through this season and the next, and all those who missed it can get ready to spend two dark years. And who knows, they could be overtaken by other hard-working teams, like McLaren and Aston Martin last year, or even by the emergence of the former AlphaTauri company, renamed Visa Cash App RB, owned by the Red Bull family.


As for Alpine, starting from scratch, it’s hard to place them so high in the outsider category. Winter testing ended on Friday February 23 in Bahrain, where the first GP will be held next week, on Saturday March 2. But these tests only provide a glimpse of what’s to come, as the teams do their utmost to hide their trump cards.


Ferrari, like a galloping horse

Winning in 2024 while preparing for the arrival of Lewis Hamilton in 2025 and working on the new 2026 regulations: Ferrari is dreaming big, under the watchful eye of team boss Fred Vasseur, who arrived in 2023.


After a first season spent learning, understanding and deciphering the world of the Scuderia and gaining acceptance, the 55-year-old Frenchman set about preparing for 2024, urging the Maranello engineers to review the balance of their 2023 single-seater.

But Vasseur hasn’t stopped there: he’s also injected new energy with the ongoing arrival of skills from other teams. The aim is clear: to rearm Ferrari for the arrival of the new regulations in 2026.


The task ahead for the French boss promises to be a complex one. Not only will he have to manage Charles Leclerc’s assumption of power, but also channel the moods and emotions of Carlos Sainz, who in Singapore gave the Scuderia the only victory to elude the Red Bulls in 2023.


Indeed, the Spanish driver will be pushed towards the end of the year to prepare for the arrival of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2025. Finally, Fred Vasseur will have to look ahead to 2026 and offer Leclerc and Hamilton a single-seater capable of winning.


Ferrari, the third force in 2023, is expected to come up with a concept similar to the RB19, Red Bull’s virtually invincible single-seater. From the very first laps, Charles Leclerc noted that the SF-24 was much better balanced and, above all, “more docile to drive (than its predecessor). This time, the car is healthy. We’ve worked well. But what about the others?” confided the Monegasque.


Ferrari has been chasing the drivers’ title since 2007 (Kimi Raïkkonen) and the constructors’ title since 2008, and is aiming for 2026, but must offer a “well-born” F1 car by 2024, which Hamilton will inherit. It’s now up to Charles Leclerc to get the SF-24 up to speed on the grid, so as to start with a head start on the Briton.

Mercedes and its shooting star


Formula 1 is paradoxical. Everyone lives with everyone else, ten months out of the year. The paddock is a village where everyone spies on each other’s moves. And yet, when Lewis Hamilton (39) announced on February 3 that he would be joining Scuderia Ferrari, not one of F1’s key figures or followers had anticipated the hard-hitting announcement.


An uppercut for Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. And the pain of having to work together for another season. For the better, if the W15, which has optimized its 2023 copy and picked up a few ideas from Red Bull, Aston Martin, Williams and Alpine, proves to be fast. For worse, if, as has been the case over the past two years, Mercedes once again makes the wrong choices.


Nevertheless, the Germans are optimistic, even if Toto Wolff is cautious: “There are no miracles in this sport. Red Bull has been ahead of the game since the introduction of the new regulations in 2021. We’re facing quite a challenge. But I like the challenge.


On the drivers’ side, now free of any allegiance, George Russell (26), who is entering his third season with Mercedes, is invited to take over. And Russell knows that, as the season progresses, a natural distance will develop between him and the future Ferrari driver. If the W15 is successful, this could cause a rift between the two Britons. After all, there can only be one crowned head in their kingdom.


This post is originally from L’Équipe