The shocking new reality for Red Bull and their ‘youngest ever World Champion’ (in waiting), is that Adrian Newey has produced what is termed in the UK colloquial terms – a duffer.
Yes, Max Verstappen is busy collecting points, 27 points to be precise, which is more than the Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. However, victories are still out of reach for the Dutchman at the moment and his teammate Pierre Gasly certainly looks lost at sea.
“We didn’t deserve third place. We lacked the speed.” admits Verstappen after the Bahrain GP, “Nevertheless, we scored good points and made the most of it.”
His new team-mate Pierre Gasly must be happy if he scores any points at all.
“Pierre had a solid race and some good overtaking manoeuvres. That should give him self-confidence,” spins team boss Christian Horner.
TJ13 has recently published a number of articles highlighting some suspicions on the new Red Bull Honda, first up the fact that in winter testing the team didn’t seem that fast: possibly close to Mercedes, but Mercedes were sandbagging in the extreme. Second being the sound analysis of the power outputs during Q3 of Bahrain. Honda are well down on Ferrari and Mercedes (more on that here).
Verstappen’s story in the race sounded like a copy of his story during Friday practice. “I never really had grip. It was tyre management from start to finish. Whether the wind made it more difficult, I can’t say.
“In any case, it didn’t help. Both tyres were problematic for me. We chose the wrong setup before qualifying. We had to drag that along in the race.” concluded Verstappen.
In Australia it took 180 minutes during free practice until the engineers had adjusted the car to the extent they felt they had the best setup. An extraordinary amount of time.
It appears for Bahrain, a similar issue occurred for Red Bull – “It’s difficult to hit the window perfectly,” Verstappen admits.
During the Bahrain testing after the Grand Prix, TJ13 published some statements from Red Bull that pretty much admitted to the car being problematic and actually surmised that their favoured son Verstappen might even break contract early due to some secret clauses in his contract.
Laughable is the rhetoric from Helmut Marko in Australia, obviously still nursing ‘a semi’ from Verstappen’s podium for Honda, their first since Barachello’s in 2008.
I quote: “With our car, he will be able to fight for the title. Absolutely.” and “if we talk about pace, then we were on equal terms with Hamilton.”
And now we’re hearing from the same man that “The trend was already there in Australia, but not as blatant as in Bahrain,
“We didn’t get the soft tyres to work. The car slides at the front, it slides at the rear. On the medium tyre, our car was transformed.”
And when asked, it seems that Marko blames the aerodynamics.
“Newey was deeply immersed in himself. That means he recognised the problem,”
And when asked if he thinks their aero guru Adrian Newey can find a fix, the rather resigned statement of “I hope.” is the best he can give.
Horner summed it up during the Bahrain test after the race – “With this [aero] problem, it is difficult to keep up the pace of Ferrari and Mercedes.
“When the safety car went onto the track three laps before the end of the race, the winner Lewis Hamilton was 30 seconds behind. Charles Leclerc without an engine problem would have finished 40 seconds ahead”
The statements of these senior team members point to an unstable downforce inherent in the car, and rarely this happens at Red Bull.
The cars are usually known to work in a large setup operating window. So Newey and his team have a hard task ahead of them. At the moment the Haas are just as fast in the corners and could become dangerous on certain stretches with their superior Ferrari power unit.