Winners and losers from F1’s 2024 development war so far

A third of the 2024 Formula 1 campaign has now been completed, and most teams have made significant upgrades to their cars, all of which were truly efforts to address the weaknesses of their predecessors.

As always in development racing in Formula 1, it was about trying to fix problems without compromising existing strengths in the process. Looking at the performance attributes of a team's current car compared to what it was in 2023 can reveal a lot about the development direction.

A team's short-term loss isn't always because everything gets worse – sometimes it's part of a process that requires taking an immediate step back to allow for big gains in the future, and that's clearly the case for some of the current network.

But performance is what matters most in Formula 1. So, here's our quick guide to who's won and who's lost in the 2024 F1 development war – so far.

Winner: McLaren

Improve his weak point

You'll get very different answers to the question of how McLaren has changed this year depending on which point of comparison you use. His improvement is an irrefutable fact given that his performance is better and he has earned 167 more points than he did at this stage last season.

McLaren's car was lacking in downforce and pace at the start of the 2023 season, but a series of upgrade packages have turned it into a consistent podium finish.

McLaren finished the season with a car that was great in fast corners and struggled in slow corners, especially long corners.

But that weakness has improved this year, especially with the promotion made in Miami last month that resulted in a leap forward after a strong but unspectacular start to the season.

But team principal Andrea Stella admits that this came as a surprise and points to an impact that the team has not yet fully understood.

“The car seems to behave well at low speeds [corners]“A little more than we expected,” he said recently, before adding: “A little more than we expected.”

Getting to the bottom of this could point McLaren in the right direction on the journey to produce a powerful all-round car which Stella has previously said will take at least one year to complete.

Loser: Alps

Everything is worse

The Alpine has pretty much replaced all of last year's car's modest strengths with weaknesses. There are at least signs of progress, but it's all about recovery and damage limitation with a car that was supposed to be laying the foundations for big gains through 2025.

The A524 started the season with excess weight, a legacy of the monocoque's failure in side impact testing, but at least that issue has now been addressed.

It also lacked downforce and had poor traction. Undoubtedly it was the slowest car in the field at the start of the campaign.

Things have improved slightly since then and it is now, on average, only the second-slowest car, just ahead of Sauber. The worst of the troubleshooting has been done, and team manager Bruno Famine says it's time to move into what he calls “phase two of development.”

The car is generally stronger in fast corners than in slow corners. It is also understood that the arrival of new Executive Technical Director David Sanchez has resulted in some new ideas being incorporated into the promotion plan which will hopefully speed up the team's recovery.

Winner: Haas

No more tire chewing

The Haas car has gone from chewing tires last year to a car that performs extremely well during race periods.

While this is partly down to the team's intense focus on how to improve the way they manage the car, it is mainly down to aerodynamic characteristics.

Last year's Haas VF-23 suffered from aerodynamic instability at the rear. This year, the downforce created at the rear has become considerably more consistent. According to technical director Andrea Di Zordo, this is the main improvement.

“It is much more stable and improves driver feel and… [on] He said: “The traction.”

There is still a need to make the car a little stronger in fast corners, as well as improving front downforce.

This would strengthen a car that has been strong enough to reach Q3 four times and score seven points already in 2024.

Loser: Aston Martin

Difficult to drive

Last year's Aston Martin was strong at the start of the season, claiming six podium finishes in the first eight events. The car was very quick in the slow stuff in particular and was also a consistent and predictable machine.

However, this year that changed. In fact, this process began last year with updates that created some undesirable features. The car is not very good in slow turns – worst of all, it slides to the bottom of the ranking.

Lance Stroll points to “balance issues” – specifically “oversteer on entry, understeer mid-corner” – and the car “isn't good going over curbs.”

Fernando Alonso complained that this year the cars have become more critical about looking for downforce, making each team's car “a little more difficult for everyone” to drive.

But Aston Martin seems to suffer from this problem more than others.

This presents a lot of problems, and reflects a team struggling to continuously add performance to the car without negatively affecting its characteristics.

This is what makes its current situation so worrying since it seems to have a problem with its development direction.

Loser: Williams

Now multi-level

Williams 2024 is a classic case of needing to endure some short-term pain for long-term gains. What is considered a loser now looks like it will be a big winner on a longer timeline.

The main strength of the Williams car last year was that it had low drag and was therefore a rocket ship on the straights. This feature has been abandoned this year, but for good reasons.

It now has a car with the amount of downforce needed to be a serious midfield contender everywhere. This is reflected in the fact that Alex Albon is ever-present in Division Two – as well as reaching Division Three and scoring two points at Monaco.

The Williams FW46 is a less peak car, but now it's a good all-rounder.

As Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson says: “Fundamentally, being more consistent is the way to go.”

Crucially, Williams has also overcome one of the major weaknesses of last year's car: the tendency to lock up the front wheels under braking in slow corners.

However, Williams still has a long-term overweight problem. In the early stages of the season this cost up to four and a half tenths of a second per lap.

It all adds up to a decent car, but winter build problems and a series of accidents combined to cancel out the upgrades.

Winner: Ferrari

The climax was denied

Last year's Ferrari was aerodynamically inconsistent. This meant that the rear was lively for most of the season even for Charles Leclerc, meaning the understeer was called upon to calm that down. This instability also made it very difficult for her tires.

That started to change last year and is no longer a weakness in 2024, with Ferrari now a good car, consistent, predictable and generally kind on its tyres.

It also sacrificed some of its qualifying performance for race pace, resulting in overall gains at times as last year's Ferrari managed to be fastest over a single lap but dropped to second or third fastest in the race.

This year, Ferrari has sometimes been the best in the races in terms of tire management.

As Monaco has shown, they are also strong over hurdles and are probably the best in the field on this score.

Ferrari lacks that ultimate speed advantage to consistently challenge Red Bull. Although its average performance per lap is slightly worse than last year, it is now in a better position all-round – as proven by having gained 130 points more than it did on the same stage in 2023.

Loser: Mercedes

Slow corner struggles

Mercedes' woes have been a recurring theme in the Rules era, but despite a difficult start to the season, there are signs they could go from loser to winner in the not too distant future.

Last year, Mercedes struggled badly for rear stability in faster corners. It's a trait drivers have been complaining about since 2022.

This year, it's turned upside down. The problem now is front grip in slow corners. As Lewis Hamilton says: “The slower you go, the less the car wants to turn.”

And when the team makes changes to improve the front end for slow corners, as it did at the Saudi Grand Prix in March, it sacrifices high-speed performance.

Team principal Toto Wolff claims Mercedes knows what it did to solve the high-speed problems and what made last year's car good in the slow stuff. Now, he says, Mercedes just needs to “tie the car together to do both.”

That's easier said than done since getting a car to handle across a range of ride heights and positions is the big challenge of these regulations. But Mercedes now has a clear direction.

It is now about steady development gains rather than looking for magic bullets to unleash performance – a new experience for Mercedes under current regulations.

Winner: R.B

Midfield captain

Last year's AlphaTauri experienced instability when entering corners in medium and low speed corners. This improved in the closing stages of the season.

This year, what is now called VCARB01, according to race director Alan Berman, proved to be at its best in the slower turns.

However, it has been the class of what is considered the second group in Formula 1. So much so that it has been ahead of Aston Martin recently and has gained 24 points so far – 22 more than at the same stage last year.

The other issue that RB is working on is the fact that the car is not great off the line. But since it shares equipment with Red Bull Racing, it's more about running and preparation than the hardware.

Loser: Sauber

Lacks grip

The future Audi works team started the season with a car that might have scored points had it not been for pit stop disasters that were eliminated by wheel nut and axle modifications. But it has been the slowest over the past three events in Miami, Imola and Monaco.

Sauber – laps in the top ten

Bahrain: 14
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 14
Australia: 1
Japan: 0
China: 2
Miami: 6
Imola: 0
Monaco: 0

Last year's car was very draggy and unstable in fast corners. Sauber has less of a drag problem this year, but the main strength is still the slower corners with a significant lag behind the front runners in the fast stuff.

The main problem seems to be a lack of aerodynamic load. There have been times recently, for example at Imola, where the balance was good but overall control was missing. Even in low-speed Monaco, drivers struggled for confidence.

This car needs some serious upgrading, and fast.

Loser: Red Bull

Fight old problems

It seems ridiculous to call a team that has won five out of eight races and taken seven out of eight pole positions a loser.

But it's a relative game and given their superiority last year and the inevitable improvement by their rivals, it was almost impossible to classify Red Bull as a winner at the moment.

While the results suggest that Red Bull created problems with the new RB20 due to how dominant it was over its predecessor, the reality is that its strengths and weaknesses are very similar. Competition has accelerated and thus these weaknesses have been exposed.

“When you don't improve your weakness, you get discovered,” is how Max Verstappen sums up the situation, as the bumps and barriers in Monaco made the car difficult to drive.

So what actually is the problem? Well, the rear suspension is not as compliant with roll – so when under load in cornering – thanks to the high lateral stiffness. This is combined with a vertically aligned car, which works well with the complex floor design and reduces aerodynamic bounce issues.

However, in Monaco, Red Bull had a mechanical bounce. This cannot be eliminated without sacrificing a lot of downforce and making the car much slower.


This means, says Verstappen, that “any track that is bumpy or you have to ride on pavements is going to be difficult.”

Given that Monaco was a worst-case scenario for Red Bull, the car would still thrive on the majority of the circuits.

This could mean that at circuits like Baku and Marina Bay in Singapore, and perhaps even traditional circuits with a lot of pavement like Montreal and Monza, Red Bull could face a bigger challenge.

But when you're starting at the top, you have to make rapid progress to stay consistent. And even though Red Bull has lost the development war, it's still on track to win the prizes that really matter – and more races.


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