Red Bull unable to think of joining title fight as they await Renault gains
"We are not thinking about championships now," admits Christian Horner as Red Bull continue to trail Mercedes and Ferrari
By Pete Gill at Barcelona
Last Updated: 14/05/17 12:35pm
Red Bull have conceded they are currently too far behind Mercedes and Ferrari to give any thought about contending for the world championships.
After the opening four rounds of the new season, the former world champions already trail Ferrari and Mercedes by almost 90 points.
"We are not thinking about championships now, we are a significant distance behind," team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1. "We are more focused on learning and taking the maximum out of each grand prix."
The downscaling represents a deep disappointment for the team given the year began with popular predictions they would prosper amid F1's 'rules refresh'. Instead they have fallen even further behind Mercedes, the team which replaced them as F1's new dominant force three years ago, and have been forced to watch on enviously as a resurgent Ferrari continue to take the fight to the Silver Arrows.
"The bottom line is that Ferrari and Mercedes did a better job in interpreting the rules than we did," Horner acknowledged. "And then you are in a position where you are playing catch-up."
Although Red Bull's much-anticipated upgrade produced a vastly improved display in qualifying for the Spanish GP, they remained over six tenths adrift of pole position in Barcelona even after what Max Verstappen described as his best qualifying display of the year.
"The step we did is massive," said the Dutchman. "The car is in a much better balance from the entry to the exit of a corner. It is much more stable and you can push much more."
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However, there's a big but coming: any car improvements can only be half the story in the battle to chase down the frontrunners. While Ferrari and Mercedes design and build their own engines, Red Bull are customers of Renault and unable to control their own competitive destiny.
Publicly, criticism has been muted. But the sense in the paddock is that Red Bull's frustration with their power supply is mounting and the team are convinced their Renault engines still lag far behind those of Mercedes and Ferrari. To compound that sense of unease, Renault's upgrades have been delayed and the date of the next set of updates is unclear.
"Obviously for us, the sooner the better," said Horner. "It seems that Renault has chosen a path that is showing true potential but I think they've got some complications in terms of being able to extract the power unit's full potential. Hopefully they'll be able to release that sooner rather than later."
In the meantime, it's a waiting game for the team and their drivers.
"Much will depend on the engine, as we know that Mercedes and Ferrari can turn up their engine in qualifying as they please," said Verstappen. "And that's what we can't do.
"We have to keep on pushing on the car side and await what comes from the engine. Unfortunately we can't control that."
Don't miss the final word on the Spanish GP in the F1 Report on Wednesday at 8.30pm on Sky F1. Leading F1 journalist Peter Windsor joins Natalie Pinkham and Marc Priestley to look back at all the Barcelona action.
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