Toto Wolff admits Mercedes ‘advantage’ over Red Bull

Red Bull's 12-month budget cap penalty will end towards the end of this year, with the punishment having started after it was announced last season.

Ahead of the forthcoming season, mind games appear to have already started between fierce rivals Red Bull and Mercedes, with the latter hoping to reclaim their crown from the Austrians in 2023.

Red Bull ended Mercedes’ eight-year streak of winning the Constructors’ Championship last season, by claiming their first since 2013.

The Germans, of course, slumped to third in the standings, the lowest they’ve finished since 2012.

Given their incredible success throughout the turbo-hybrid era, though, the Brackley-based team are expected to bounce back this year and be amongst the title fight.

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With that in mind, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already downplayed the impact Red Bull’s budget cap penalty will have, perhaps in case the Austrians use their penalty as an excuse should the season not start how they hope.

It was announced towards the end of last season that the Austrians had exceeded the 2021 budget cap by $2.2 million, with the FIA having punished them accordingly for breaching the limit.

Red Bull were fined $7 million and had 10-percent of their allocated wind tunnel time removed for 12 months, meaning they’ll receive fewer wind tunnel runs during the bulk of this season.

The penalty actually started towards the end of last year, with the side having already served virtually four months of their 12-month penalty.

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner has previously revealed that the penalty is “limiting significantly the amount of runs that we can do in our wind tunnel over each quarter”; however, Wolff doesn’t believe the penalty’s effect is “going to be big”.

Whilst he recognises that the penalty is still “good” for Mercedes and will “bite them a bit”, Wolff is convinced that a team as big and successful as Red Bull will be able to work through their penalty.

“I think they’ve done a very good job last year in having a car out there that was half a second or more quicker than everybody else,” Wolff said at the launch of the W14.

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“The lack of wind tunnel time is certainly not great for them, and an advantage for us this season. But, if you have an efficient machine, you can certainly compensate for that, or large parts of it.

“So long-term, good for us, but we’ve been in that situation, obviously without a penalty, in the years before – we’ve won and, therefore, we had less wind tunnel time than everybody else for the last two seasons.

“It’s certainly going to bite them a bit but, if they are efficient as an organisation, which they’ve demonstrated, it’s not going to be big.”