Red Bull’s Helmut Marko is expecting the new spec Renault engine, which scheduled for the Montreal race later this year, will enable his team to compete with both Mercedes and Ferrari.
Red Bull were pre-season favourites to be the ‘next in-line’, challenging the Mercedes team for grid supremacy. After two ‘up and down’ tests, Red Bull also failed to shine in Australia, even before cruel reliability woes came into force.
Car #33 of Max Verstappen qualified in 5th place on the Saturday, some 1.297 seconds away from Hamilton’s pole time. Max finished Sundays race in the same position, and was nearly half a minute behind eventual winner Seb Vettel.
Helmut Marko admitted there is some expectation from the Renault upgraded engine, but further work was also needed on the chassis side of life when he spoke to Motorsport.com.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said.
“The race speed makes us think positively. But from our side there is a lot to do, and Renault’s side as well.
“Montreal is their biggest step. Something smaller is coming in Barcelona, but a reasonable step in Montreal.”
When prompted on whether an improved Renault power unit would provide enough grunt to move the team further up the grid, Marko said: “We hope so, if we improve our chassis dramatically as well.
“Our engineers think so, and the simulations say so, also.”
Disappointing in some ways that the new spec engine is taking so long to refine, as the new regulations offer no token restrictions this year, opening the door for big step developments. One restraining factor remains though, only 4 of each power unit components can be used this year. So the the teams are trying to bring the spec changes to the car centred around their engine usage time frames.
Helmet also commented on the pre-season target to enable the cars to be around 4/5 seconds quicker than last year. At Albert Park we saw that target fall quite a way short.
“I think it was a positive race, but I was so fixed on Verstappen that I didn’t look at many other things. But we were only two seconds faster, and that was a little bit of a disappointment.” said Marko.
Will the extra lap time come from ‘other’ circuits, or will they come from future developments to the tyres, power units, or chassis? Most likely combination of all three, and by year end the FIA will be exploring ways to slow the cars down again.