Red Bull Racing wary of Mercedes but the latter is looking at the former with a similar view ahead of F1 Hungarian GP as Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon add more.
Amid the chaos of 2020, one thing remains certain – at least on the F1 side of things: Mercedes are extraordinarily fast, as they so often are. And, with Ferrari far down the order – behind even some supposed ‘mid-field’ teams, Red Bull seem to be their only true challenger.
However, in the eyes of the Red Bull F1 drivers Verstappen and Albon, it will be tough for their outfit to truly rival Mercedes on pace, such is the performance of the Anglo-Saxon team’s black-painted W11.
Said Albon – who also discussed his incident with Sergio Perez from Austria – of their rival teams’ pace, “It was a good race. I lacked bit of pace whole weekend, to be honest, so need to check where to find the time.
“I was happy to get fourth and score some points after first weekend’s disaster. But I think it will be hard for us to be quicker than Mercedes. They are really quick in high-speed, long corners which is a bit like Hungary, we just need to work on that. Max and I will have the same areas where the car is weak, so we just need to adjust it.”
His own performance came under scrutiny but Red Bull team principal Christian Horner came to his rescue. “I was asked some questions about Alex’s early race pace, but let’s remember that he came off the back of a strong weekend the previous week where he was challenging Lewis for victory,” said Horner.
“During his first stint on the soft tyre, we were concerned about potential blistering on the front right, so he was managing his pace to ensure he was able to achieve the target lap for his pit stop. This meant he gave away significant pace to the cars ahead, but as soon as he changed to the medium compound, he was back on pace.
“If you look at the analysis, Alex was within a tenth of Bottas, who was chasing Max. He also did a very good job in holding off a very fast Sergio Perez at the end of the race. Alex’s feedback is very good and he and Max work well together which allows us to try different things on each car and make accurate comparisons, which is what we did in Austria.
“Alex is improving with experience, he has a good feel for what the car is doing and that’s very encouraging. We all want him to succeed and let’s not forget he’s only done 11 races with the Team whilst Max is in his sixth season.”
Meanwhile, Verstappen chimed in, saying that his team have a lot of work to do as he shared his perspective on the last race from within the cockpit of the RB16. “I tried but we’re just a bit too slow, so I pushed as hard as I could and also when Valtteri was trying to pass me I tried to make it a bit difficult. I knew he was going to get by one lap later but it was at least fun because the rest of the race was pretty boring.
“I was just pushing as hard as I could to try and stay with them. But clearly, it’s still not good enough. The gaps, compared to the guys behind were massive. I was a bit shocked. I tried everything I could but it’s still not enough. We’ve still got some work to do. I think, as a team, we want to win and we want to fight for the Championship and if you want to fight for the Championship of course you need to win races, so we need to look into it.
“I think we were losing quite a bit on the straight as well. So it’s a bit of both at the moment.” Red Bull team principal Horner addressed his team’s drivers’ races, as well as the RB16’s pace, while talking about Hungarian GP.
“The results and feedback from the opening two races have allowed us to target specific areas and tailor the updates accordingly,” said Horner. “It is a very busy time in the factory and everybody is fully motivated in spite of Mercedes looking so strong in the opening races. Hopefully we will give them a harder fight in some of the upcoming races.”
On Mercedes front, they are not counting out the Austrian outfit at all, despite having some clear advantage on them. “I think where we lost to Red Bull is the slow speed, particularly Turn 3 and 4, seem to be our vulnerabilities [in Austria],” said Toto Wolff. “Everywhere else on the straights and in the fast corners, we are quicker.
“We just need to continue to develop and push and understand the car, and Budapest is a totally different ball game. Lots of downforce, lots of these slow and medium-speed corners. I’m 100% convinced that Red Bull will come very strong in Hungary. It’s a track that historically they have shown great performance.
“We have improved there too in the last few years, but it was always a difficult weekend. Hot temperatures are maybe still a little bit of an Achilles’ heel for us, and as far as I have seen on our weather forecast, it could be up to 30 degrees on Sunday. We need to prepare well, put all the focus on Budapest, and then hopefully do the best out of that.”
Here’s Valtteri Bottas on Lewis Hamilton’s fight
The story was edited by Darshan Chokhani