Marko claims Red Bull poaching Mercedes engineers created ‘some difficulties’

Red Bull have remained at the front amid the changes to the technical regulations in 2022, while Mercedes have fallen back.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has been pondering the reasons as to why Mercedes have struggled thus far in 2022, and has suggested that their lack of pace is due to the new fuel blend as well as the engineers who have jumped ship.

A raft of new technical regulations were introduced to Formula 1 ahead of this year, including new ground effect aerodynamics and a change of fuel, forcing the teams to adopt all-new philosophies of how to design, manufacture and enhance the performance of their cars.

One of the consequences of the alterations was weight. The cars are naturally heavier this year, so the weight limit was increased to 795kg.

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Once the cars had been built though, many teams complained that this was an unrealistic limit, so the FIA agreed to increase the limit to 798kg.

Dr Marko supports Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s claim that Ferrari’s car is lighter than that of the Milton Keynes and Brackley sides.

“I agree that Ferrari is a bit lighter than Red Bull and Mercedes,” he said, as quoted by the Italian edition of

The budget cap for this year has been reduced by $5 million to $140 million, so, with tighter restrictions, the Austrian stressed that teams cannot afford to just throw upgrades at the car and hope they stick.

“I can’t yet confirm when we will bring a lighter version to the track, today it is very difficult to take the weight off a car because there are budget cap constraints to always keep in mind, you have to find the right compromise,” he added.

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“But one thing is certain: this season it will not be possible to stay in the leading positions with an overweight car.”

Alfa Romeo were reported to be the only team to have made a car that fell below the initial 795kg limit and the 78-year-old, given the Swiss team’s protests against the increase, believes that this was probably the case.

“From the information we have and above all from how vehement they have fought against the increase in the minimum weight, it is safe to assume that they are [the lightest],” he explained.

“Presumably they also have a shorter wheelbase, but I cannot confirm this, let’s say that together with the competitiveness of the Ferrari engine their weight explains the performance we are seeing.”

The new E10 fuel blend – made up of 90 percent fossil fuels and 10 percent ethanol – is part of Formula 1’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2030, and Dr Marko indicates that every manufacturer on the grid has now converged in terms of performances, neutralising the superior advantage Mercedes have had in the hybrid era.

“The hybrid era was conditioned by the superiority of their power unit. Initially I think they were two seconds faster but they kept it all hidden,” he said.

“Today the differences between the engines are not that great, and Mercedes-powered teams can no longer turn a knob and solve their problems.”

Mercedes appeared to have the second-best power unit behind Honda in Saudi Arabia last weekend, although it is worth mentioning that Ferrari ran a much higher downforce setup to capitalise on the twisty first sector.

It is therefore evident that the chassis, and especially the floor where the magic now happens, is in desperate need of improvement.

The Mercedes team have a tremendous team of skilled brains and hands at Brackley – they have won eight straight Constructors’ Championships for a reason – so Dr Marko sees no reason why they cannot be fighting for victories again in the near future.

“The Mercedes team is also made up of first-rate people in the chassis area, and I am fully convinced that they will return to fight for the win when they manage to keep the hopping of their car under control. And Hamilton is only nine points behind Verstappen today,” he affirmed.

The aerodynamic deficit does not account for the entirety of Mercedes’ near 7mph deficit on the straights to Red Bull.

To contextualise that, DRS gives the cars an extra 12mph on the straights, so there has to be a logical explanation as to why the Silver Arrows are lacking over half of what a DRS straight gives you, and the Austrian theorises that the new fuel blend has caught them out.

“I can’t say exactly, but I think there is a link. It is a logical explanation, personally I believe that everything is related to the new gasoline,” he suggested.

The departure of Dan Fallows to Aston Martin from Red Bull was the main talking point regarding engineers over the winter after the two teams settled a legal dispute, but it masked the fact that a number of Mercedes employees headed over to Milton Keynes.

This is another factor, in Dr Marko’s mind, as to why the eight-time champions have fallen behind.

“Yes, something like this. I think that a loss of this size is not indifferent, it is quite normal that it can create some difficulties. And just before that Andy Cowell was gone,” he said.

Those workers have started to prepare for the team’s powertrains project as, once their deal with Honda ends after 2025, they are expected to make their own engines and gearboxes in Milton Keynes.

“They are already working on the engine in accordance with the 2026 regulations, we are very happy to be able to cope with this program,” he said.

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“The thrusters are expected to be fully functional in the second half of this year, which means the test rigs will be calibrated and functional. At the same time, of course, we will also have to set up a production line and this will be the next step.”

While that is happening though, Porsche are said to be interested in providing powertrains for the team at the end of the current engine freeze, and they are set to be given the green light to proceed with their ambitious plan by Volkswagen next week.