Horner: Merc big qualy threat
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner is tipping Mercedes to pose a big challenge for pole position in Saturday's qualifying session at Sepang.
Last Updated: 23/03/12 11:06am
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has pinpointed Mercedes as the team to watch in qualifying at the Malaysian Grand Prix in wake of a strong Friday for the team at Sepang.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton topped both practice sessions in the sweltering conditions on the opening day at the Malaysian circuit but it was Mercedes who proved to be their closest challengers on the timesheets with Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg finishing the afternoon in second and fourth places respectively.
The F1 circus arrived in Malaysia with Mercedes' ingenious rear wing-stalling device continuing to dominate paddock talk, with many observers expecting the DRS-activated F-duct to prove more potent at Sepang owing to the two long straights at the end of the lap - particularly during qualifying when DRS usage is unrestricted.
Asked by Sky Sports News's Craig Slater if he felt his Red Bull team could get in the fight for pole position after underperforming in qualifying in Australia, Horner acknowledged McLaren's strong one-lap pace but also suggested Mercedes were likely to pose a major threat.
"It's always a trade [between qualifying and race pace]. For sure the McLaren single-lap pace looks tremendously strong at the moment; our race pace is looking quite encouraging," Horner said.
"But you always want more, you always want to find more and we've certainly got things in the pipeline that will hopefully help in both areas - both on race pace and single lap pace.
"Certainly the one to watch over a single lap is very much the Mercedes - they in particular look very strong."
Question marks still remain over Red Bull's own qualifying pace after a typically low-key start to running in Malaysia and Horner says the World Champions are still learning about how to get the most out of the RB8.
"I think it's very much early days. We maximised as much as we could out of Melbourne. We made a good recovery after underperforming on the Saturday in qualifying," he said.
"But it's a voyage of discovery at the moment: we're learning more and more about the car during the Friday running here. Both drivers ran different programmes, we acquired a lot of data and we'll look to apply that into tomorrow's qualifying."