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Why Red Bull had to ignore its emotions in adopting Mercedes F1 ideas

Red Bull’s decision to incorporate Mercedes ideas on its new RB20 Formula 1 car has added a touch of intrigue to the pre-season.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

It is a move that has been viewed by some as the ultimate way to wind up its rival - in showing that it believes it can make work designs that its competitor could not.

And based on the form showed by the RB20 in last week’s test in Bahrain, all the indications are there that the world champion squad has already unleashed plenty of performance from it.

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But rather than it going the Mercedes route to prove a point, the reality is that Red Bull was actually initially resistant in taking on board its rival's previous ideas for its engine gulley and sidepod inlets.

As its technical director Pierre Wache has explained, there are emotional aspects at play when it comes to copying ideas other teams have come up with over something that you have created yourself.

Asked if he saw a certain irony in Red Bull taking on the Mercedes ideas, Wache told Autosport: “I don't see it in this way, I see it more in another way.

“You try to not be emotional [with design choices], as the first reaction is, ‘ah, it's better to have your own ideas.’

“But at one point you just have to take a step back and say, 'is the stopwatch and our system saying what's better?' So you test stuff and you take what is better.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“As a human being, you say, ‘I would prefer to do my own stuff.’ But it is dangerous because you have to go with your criteria, and if the criteria is what is better, we go for what is better.

“And also it is not exactly the same to be fair...it's a lot better.”

Wache has explained that the thinking behind adopting such a radical revamp of its car for this season was prompted by the fact that it felt it had begun to reach a plateau of performance with its dominant RB19.

Well aware that rivals were closing in on it over the course of the 2023 season, Red Bull felt that the only way to make a big enough leap was to do something very different.

Asked about what prompted the decision, he said: “It was based on the simulation and numbers.

“You know you have to improve quite a lot because the others will come back, and you know that your concept is more or less at the plateau of what you can achieve with it.

“Well maybe not the plateau, because some others will find more, but if you want a different rate of development, you have to take a little bit of a bet and more risk. So we took this decision to take more risk quite early.

Pierre Wache, Race Engineer, Red Bull Racing, Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing, in the garage

Pierre Wache, Race Engineer, Red Bull Racing, Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing, in the garage

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“It is an evolution of how we developed the car, but was clearly a push to give us the freedom to make a big change to the strategy overall.”

While there are clear risks in Red Bull not going for an evolution of the RB19 concept that was ahead of the competition, Wache is crystal clear that there was no element of it taking a gamble with what it has done for this year.

“We don't gamble, we just take risk. It is different,” he said.

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“You don't do things based on what you don't know. You say, I want to go to this direction, what can I do to achieve it? What do I have to do? And the solution is coming by itself.

“You don't gamble. Instead you say that if I do that [change], it is more risky than if I keep it. After that you say, ‘okay, we minimise the risk by studying more and more and more.’ And to be honest, aero did a very, very good job on it.”

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