The gap is slowly getting wider and Red Bull need to claw points back quickly.
Like all the Formula One teams they have specialists in every department. Being the best and remaining at the top is not just about the car and the driver, but the back room staff who we don't get to see on camera coming up with multiple scenarios which the team decides on.
This last weekend in Barcelona it was a perfect example of mathematicians plus engineers calculating what was required by the Mercedes team to win. In the past this has been Red Bull's strong point which has served them well in their race victories.
I do believe Mercedes saw this as a weakness on their part and have recruited and added to their team in key areas. During any race a team is back at the factory not only calculating various scenarios through calculations but have a simulator with the exact race conditions programmed in. This is one area where data and technology are a massive advantage as it allows you to make live calls during the race giving a huge advantage.
In Barcelona Lewis Hamilton pitted on lap 28 5 laps later than Verstappen which would have made everyone think it was a one stop race as the medium tyres he had on would have comfortably made it to the end. Pirelli stated that 42 laps was the life span for that particular tyre with Verstappen just over pushing his for 43 laps and Hamilton for 38.
Only a small portion of the team is at the track as one could easily see another team of 100 plus working back at the factory on race day. Their weekends are Tuesday and Wednesday as normal weekends are workdays if the team is racing. I wouldn't really call it work as for many who are in this field this is living the dream.
The back room staff calculated that the option of pitting a second time was their best chance of success even though when Hamilton pitted on lap 42 he was less than 1 second behind Max Verstappen. The tyres were 14 laps old already and as we know Mercedes is a great car out in front and a lousy follower. Being behind Max for a number of laps would have degraded the tyres quicker and one could presume were in a similar condition to Verstappen's out in front or very close even though they were 5 laps newer.
The calculations and simulator suggested that a change of tyre on lap 42 would still bring them a race victory on the last lap. A gamble in many ways but the data is so accurate they were confident on this move. I presume the data suggested otherwise if Hamilton had stayed out and why they took what many thought was a risky, but bold move.
History was on their side as this same scenario happened two seasons earlier in Hungary against the same team and driver. It became very clear and obvious to everyone what a great move this was as the 23 second gap with 22 laps to go started dropping rapidly. On some laps the difference was dropping by 2 seconds and it was only a matter of time before Hamilton caught Verstappen.
The only lap where Verstappen gained any time was when Bottas didn't really want to let his Mercedes team mate pass him. Hamilton caught Verstappen 4 laps earlier than expected proving the tacticians right leaving Red Bull with no time to change anything. The window they had and should have taken was on lap 43 to counter the Mercedes move.
Next week the race is in Monaco which is a slower more bendy street circuit with only a few overtaking points. This will be interesting as Red Bull on this type of circuit will not be the same as last weekend and expect a one stop race. Tacticians may prove everyone wrong yet again as I expect the Red Bull back room must have had a rollicking for letting a race lead slip through their fingers. These teams take pride in the tactics involved and hate being out thought and out played.