Lewis Hamilton could be even further adrift of Max Verstappen at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after Red Bull introduced a number of important upgrades to their RB18 challenger, according to reports. Mercedes pipped Red Bull to last year’s Constructors’ Championship honours but have since fallen behind their rivals in terms of outright performance after struggling to get to grips with the all-new technical regulations.
The Silver Arrows managed to sneak onto the podium at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after Hamilton was gifted a third-placed finish when Verstappen and Sergio Perez were forced to retire with mechanical issues during the closing stages of the race. However, the unexpected result only served to paper over the cracks for Mercedes, who were almost a second per lap slower than Red Bull and Ferrari for the vast majority of the contest.
It seems as though mid-season development will be the deciding factor in this year’s battle for Constructors’ Championship glory as all 10 teams look to fine-tune their respective packages in accordance with the new regulations over the coming months. Mercedes could be set to fall even further behind Red Bull in Saudi Arabia, though, with the Austrian outfit having tweaked Verstappen’s car with a number of performance upgrades before it takes to the streets of Jeddah.
The Dutchman’s RB18 has been fitted with a new nose, front wing and rear wing, according to RacingNews365. The report claims that the nose cone has been changed to include a modified version of the front air intake, while the angle of the front wing has also been lowered in order to reduce drag.
The rear wing is also said to have been trimmed, with Red Bull set to compare the new version to the design used in Bahrain during Friday’s free practice sessions. It remains to be seen whether Perez’s car will be fitted with similar upgrades when the on-track action gets underway as Red Bull look to close the gap between themselves and Ferrari while extending their early advantage over Mercedes.
Hamilton will seemingly have a mountain to climb once again in Saudi Arabia this weekend as Mercedes attempt to make up for lost ground by clawing back their performance deficit over the coming weeks and months. The Silver Arrows remain some way off the pace in spite of their best efforts and will need to keep working hard behind the scenes to stand any chance of clinching a ninth successive Constructors’ Championship triumph at the end of this year.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff recently admitted that Hamilton is unlikely to secure a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ Championship triumph until at least next season as a result of the team’s slow start to the new campaign. “If we look at the pecking order today, it seems it will be a very long shot to even think about being in contention for the Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championships,” Wolff told reporters after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“We probably scored the maximum points that we could have on Sunday, and we need to take it from here. Every weekend counts, but at the moment we have to be realistic and when you are third on the road you cannot think about winning it.”
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