As Ferrari and now Red Bull notably struggle, Mercedes are racing “in a different universe”.
That is Sebastian Vettel’s conclusion after the utter dominance in qualifying not only of the works Mercedes cars, but also Racing Point’s ‘pink Mercedes’ as together they lock out the top two rows in Hungary.
“They’re not on another planet. They’re in a different universe,” said the Ferrari driver.
The big surprise is how badly Red Bull is suddenly struggling.
“We were counting on them here but of course we cannot judge from the outside what’s wrong,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.
Max Verstappen is just seventh on the grid, a huge 1.4 seconds from Lewis Hamilton’s pole.
“If they continue like this, it will be hard to catch up with them this season,” said the dejected Dutchman.
Explaining the problem, Verstappen continued: “We simply lack grip and we’re not very fast on the straights either.
“We’re way too slow and it’s just really bad,” he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Let’s see how we go in the race but I don’t remember being this slow for a long time.”
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko had to admit that, despite all the pre-season hype and promise, “the design of the car has probably gone in the wrong direction”.
“Now in the short time until Silverstone we have to figure out what appears to be a fundamental problem,” he added.
“The only thing that is clear is that the error has to be in the area of the chassis. The gap of 1.4 seconds to Mercedes on this circuit is insane,” said Marko.