“When they take a new engine, they have a little more power for a weekend, so to me that’s no big surprise”, said Max Verstappen after being clearly beaten by Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the São Paulo Grand Prix. Forty-eight hours later, after two frantic climbs by the Mercedes driver to victory this Sunday, the bell tune has changed slightly at Red Bull.
To say that Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez were powerless against Hamilton and his new engine would probably be an overstatement given the resistance offered by the Dutchman, but it was clearly not easy for them to defend themselves. Christian Horner is captivated by the evolution of the balance of power between the two teams.
“Their top speed is really impressive. The new engine, they have a Monaco rear wing here, it’s very, very impressive.”, says the director of Red Bull Racing on Sky Sports F1. “Obviously, as a driver, Max can’t defend himself in the face of this. If any other driver had to be less than four tenths to be able to pass, Mercedes was nine tenths or one second away and could be in the braking zone at the end of the straight line. So it’s a very powerful weapon with fast circuits that happen in the last three lessons. “
Could we see a claim from Red Bull regarding the equality of the Mercedes W12? Not for the moment, replies Horner, who is careful not to rule out this possibility definitively. “We are not going to file a complaint after this course”, answers the Briton. “It’s important to understand where that speed comes from, they obviously had a new engine here. They have a Monaco-type downforce level. [Hamilton] overtook Max, he was going almost 30 km / h faster on this lap. It’s just something we have to understand, and it’s up to the FIA to uphold the rules in F1 and to govern, so we trust them and their testing and investigation. “
There are only three Grands Prix left to go in this 2021 season, and Verstappen’s lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ championship is reduced to 14 points, while among manufacturers, Mercedes is now 11 steps ahead. What can Red Bull expect from arriving on three new tracks: Losail (Qatar), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and the new Abu Dhabi track?
“It really depends on the type of circuit, because we saw today that it is impossible to fight with [la Mercedes]”, says Horner. “I think Max did an exceptional job giving 75% of the race having Lewis behind him, with the speed he had. We’re going to fight, we’re going to everything. We’ve worked so hard to get into this. position, and Mercedes has never been in that position. They won by dominating, everything was done at this point. We are pushing them to their limits as much as possible and will continue to do so until the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi. “