Formula 1 technical director Ross Brawn has said that Mercedes and Red Bull must work to avoid a repeat of McLaren and Ferrari’s 2009 struggles ahead of the 2022 season.
Sir Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa became embroiled in a gargantuan battle in 2008, with the Briton eventually coming out on top to claim his maiden world title while Ferrari claimed their 16th Constructors’ Championship.
However, the two teams managed just three victories between them in 2009 as Brawn’s, Brawn GP, team claimed both titles; Jenson Button won his sole world championship that year.
Former Red Bull driver Alex Albon previously suggested that Red Bull compromised work on this year’s car in Max Verstappen’s own fight with the seven-time champion last season, but advisor Dr Helmut Marko has since insisted that the Milton Keynes squad are ready to help the Dutchman defend the championship he won last year.
Mercedes claimed the constructors’ title in 2021, drawing similarities to the 2008 championship, and 2009 saw a new set of regulations introduced, as the aerodynamics changed and KERS was introduced for the first time.
Ironically, teams like Ferrari and McLaren will have been able to start preparations for this year’s brand-new set of technical regulations quite early on last season, and Brawn says that the leading two from last year need to be wary of the threat from behind having committed so many resources to their 2021 campaign.
“Mercedes and Red Bull could be impacted,” he said.
“Last year, human resources were devoted to fighting a very intense world championship. Some of the teams further back didn’t have that consideration.
“If I had been Ferrari or McLaren in the very early part of last year, I would have put everything into the 2022 car.”
However, the former Brawn and Mercedes team principal does not believe any setback in performance for either Mercedes or Red Bull will be as drastic as it was 13 years ago.
“That is what happened in 2009. The year before there was a big battle between Ferrari and McLaren and they fell flat on their faces. I don’t think it will be that severe but is a good point.
“A team has to balance its financial resources each season, too, and you cannot simply throw money at it. That is what teams with deep pockets did in the past. It will provide us with a more competitive field for the future.”
The 67-year-old is optimistic that the new regulations aimed at improving overtaking will bring more teams into the lead picture, but insists that the prowess of the best on the grid will still shine through.
“Last year was a great season between two drivers and two teams. But we really would like to see more teams in that battle,” he added.
“I don’t think the regulations will change the general order dramatically – the good teams will always do a good job – but it will bring the field closer.”
Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz claimed eight podiums between them for McLaren and Ferrari respectively last year, while George Russell has signed for Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas following his podium at Spa for Williams in August.
The former Ferrari technical director is encouraged by the amount of promising young talent out there.
“We are blessed with a number of great drivers – McLaren’s Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at Ferrari and George Russell moving to Mercedes – so if there are three or four drivers in the mix for the title than that is even better,” he stated.
The new season commences on 20 March in Bahrain following two pre-season tests in Barcelona and Sakhir.