Red Bull push on while Mercedes ended development 'a long time ago'

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Mercedes and Red Bull are adopting very different approaches to car development in the latter part of 2020.

At the Eifel Grand Prix, the gap between the two leading teams was the smallest it has been all year in qualifying, with Max Verstappen all-but matching Lewis Hamilton though finishing a quarter of a second behind Valtteri Bottas.

The race was a different story as the dominant W11 still having more than enough in hand to keep the RB16 at bay, but team boss Toto Wolff has claimed the reason for the closer battle is a switch in focus to next year.

"We finished them a long time ago,” he said on if there were any more upgrades due this year.

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“That has always been in the past what we looked at. It’s a very thoroughly thought-through decision because not in every championship can you afford to close the book early.

"But the rules changed quite a lot for next year and, in that respect, we decided to, like in previous years, switch to next year's car.

"This is why you can see the shifting performance between the teams," the Austrian noted. "We always have a very strong start and middle of the season, and then whoever continues to develop is strong at the end.”

The decision to essentially give up on this year's car though is strange because development of the chassis, suspension and gearbox is all frozen for 2021.

Indeed, the only significant rule change is to the floor which has been reshaped to cut downforce and ease the strain on the 2019-spec Pirelli tyres.

And it is for that reason that Red Bull is vowing to push on with improvements to their current car.

“Next year’s car is not much different than this year,” motorsport advisor Helmut Marko told Auto Motor und Sport.

“We are developing further because we can take over a large part in to 2021.

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“There will still be an upgrade," the Austrian confirmed, “but we must first process the data from the Nürburgring."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner also sees the next few new circuits as important to shaping the direction the team goes in next year.

"It felt like we were a step closer today," he said after the Eifel GP. "There were areas of the circuit where we were equal to or better than the Mercedes.

"[Looking forward] We’ve got Portimao, we’ve got Istanbul, we’ve got Imola.

"They’re all circuits that will be quite interesting for us and we’re keen to finish the season with positive momentum, having understood quite a few of the issues that we’ve had with RB16 so that they’re addressed going into RB16B."