With nothing better to do with their time, Red Bull F1 is turning to fake news in order to administer a destabilizing injection into their 2021 arch-rival, Mercedes. So what myth has Red Bull been propagating? Lies. Red Bull Grand Poobah Christian Horner and Mad Dog Helmut Marko have opened their mouths like a bear trap trying to ensnare Mercedes into a painful grip of stigma. In this case, the bear trap is rusty. The issue Red Bull is trying to fake news is to do with the recent uptick in performance from the Mercedes powertrain. Mercedes comfortably beat Red Bull at the Turkish Grand, a result that has clearly unsettled Red Bull management. Sensing their jobs and reputations are on the line, and instead of finding an engineering response, they made a Machevellian appeal to the media by circulating fake news about Mercedes.
A week ago Christina ‘Good Cop’ Horner speculated that Mercedes’ performance gains in Turkey are highly unusual. Speaking to the BBC he said:
“It’s surprising they appear to have made the step they have with the power-unit,”
“We could match them with smaller [rear] wings previously; now we can’t get near. And we saw that particularly at this circuit, where Lewis had a straight-line advantage with a bigger rear wing on the car.”
“Whether one comes at the expense of the other, I don’t know, but if you look at some of the speed deltas on the back straight at some points it was 15-20km/h, which is more than if there had been DRS (overtaking aid in use).”
When it comes to fake news, Horner is an insignificant spec in comparison to Mad Dog Marko. The Red Bull Storm Trooper is most artful when it comes to planting a fake story, anything to unsettle the competition. At first, the Mad Dog pointed an accusing finger at Mercedes, perhaps in an attempt to get the FIA’s attention. Then he later, kind of semi-consciously, backtracked. About half a step. After Mercedes beat Red Bull at Turkey, the Mad Dog said:
“Their speed (Mercedes F1) on the straights is a mystery to us. Sometimes they drove 15 km/h faster than us. That’s a difference like day and night. And this despite the fact that they had packed more downforce on the rear wing than we did.”
“I don’t think Mercedes did anything illegal, but since Silverstone, something has been weird. That’s why it’s now up to us to research why they are suddenly so fast.”
“Is it just the engine or something else? We now have to work day and night to uncover their secret and then fight back as soon as possible. It’s up to us.”
“If the performance differences continue to be the same as in Istanbul, we will have a problem.”
The inference without evidence is clear, Mad Dog Marko is clearly indicating that Mercedes is cheating. But he doesn’t know how, merely it is a “secret” which is just another way of saying Mercedes is cheating.
Are the recent perceived power gains by Mercedes truly a measure of cheating or better efficiency? We can’t say for sure, but if the FIA smelt a rat they would get the exterminators in without any hesitation. That hasn’t happened. Yet. But don’t be surprised if Mercedes has been working on tweaking the rules to suit their performance agenda. The same is true for Red Bull.
Pushing the rules to breaking point is an absolute condition in Formula One. Red Bull might be onto something, or they just want a quick fix to temporarily de-rail Mercedes as the fight for the world championship enters an intense final phase of the season.