While Mercedes as a team suffered a cut of its advantage over the rest of the field due to changes to technical regulations, the gap between them and Red Bull has been fine through the opening of the season.
In the first 4 races we have seen at least one wheel-to-wheel fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, both have finished on the podium in every race we have had so far making the difference at the top of the drivers’ championship just 14 points. It can be said that they have been having their best-ever starts to a season.
After last weekend’s race, the Spanish Grand Prix, Christian Horner, Red Bull team boss, said that the fight with Mercedes would be settled by “marginal gains”, as both teams evaluate when they should switch their focus to the development of their 2022 cars.
Horner’s rival team boss, Toto Wolff, agreed with him, stating that fine details could be key in this year’s championship fight.
“It is about marginal gains, it's about eking out in every possible performance area, limiting DNFs, mistakes, and trying to extract every bit of performance that you have in your car and in your power unit,” Wolff said.
“That is going to go all the way, because I doubt that one of us is going to go extreme in terms of balancing the 2021 regulation versus 2022. We simply can't let '21 go.
“At the same time, every single week you lose for 2022 is going to cost you immense performance, because the development slope is much steeper than with the mature regulations that we have today.
“So, it's a fight of the giants, and I still have the feeling that we haven't got the pace on Saturday that we should, but we seem to be quicker on Sunday. And I simply love it.”
We could see a perfect example of that fight in Spain where Hamilton scored a narrow Victory over Verstappen after being passed on the opening lap, making the team switch to a two-stop strategy on route to first place for the reigning champion.
After the race, Hamilton stated that he had learned more about Verstappen during their fight than in all their other races going head-to-head, according to motorsport.com.
Toto then praised Lewis for continuing to find areas of opportunity to keep learning, keeping his comments about Verstappen as an example.
“I think he's just faultless,” Wolff said. “That is no guarantee he will be all season, because we all make mistakes, and the car can break down.
“But his ability of learning, still, after so many seasons, is very impressive.
“If you have the possibility of following the other team and the other drivers so closely, then you learn even more and that may be an advantage.”