The last two Formula 1 races were a positive surprise for Red Bull Honda. At Spielberg Max Verstappen celebrated the first victory of the new era, at Silverstone the Dutchman would probably have finished at least third if Sebastian Vettel hadn’t taken him out. The question now is: Were they just two opportunistic results or have they further closed the gap to the top?
“In the past races we’ve started to bring some performance to the car. That worked out well,” says team boss Christian Horner with satisfaction. There’s no question that at the home race in Spielberg they still benefited from the problems Mercedes had with the cooling system in view of the high temperatures. But that doesn’t apply to Silverstone.
The fact that there were only 0.183 seconds missing the pole time of Valtteri Bottas in qualifying – despite a small turbo lag problem – is seen as an extremely positive sign. The historic circuit is now regarded as a power circuit – not really the strength of Red Bull. In particular, the Renault engine has always been a major problem there in recent years.
“We are driving a little less wings this year”, Verstappen reveals and then explains: “So we are not so far away on the straights. And somehow our car still works very well in the high-speed corners. Even if we drove with fewer wings last year, it didn’t give us that extra performance on the straights.”
Had Max Verstappen passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc early on, who knows where the Red Bull might’ve ended up.
“Max spent most of the race looking into the exhaust of a Ferrari,” Horner recalls, explaining: “We didn’t see his true pace in the race because he was stuck behind a Ferrari 99 percent of the time.”
“I don’t think we would have had the pace of Lewis,” he adds “But we wouldn’t have been far away. We’re getting closer and closer,”
“We saw it in Austria and [in Silverstone]. […] Honda finds performance, and the guys are fully motivated. We also find performance in the chassis.”
“It looks like the gap has narrowed compared to previous races – not only in the race but also in qualifying,” confirms Honda boss Toyoharu Tanabe.
“We need to understand in which corner or on which straight […] our speed was better,” he explains “We don’t have any answers yet however”.
Honda and Red Bull aren’t exactly sure why their performance has been better in the recent Grand Prix, indeed there was no power upgrade for the engine at the time as the next scheduled one is after the summer break. Further, the drivers will face grid penalties by this point.
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) July 16, 2019
Both already have the third engine in the car, so there will inevitably be penalties for the next change. Christian Horner has already indicated that they could take them in Monza. That would be the second race after the summer break. Meanwhile Auto Motor und Sport claims that the next update of the Honda Power Unit could deliver up to 25 hp more.
Could Red Bull do even better in Hungary?
“The second half of the year could be quite exciting for us,” Horner admits.
It’s likely to be difficult to mix it up at the very front as the Red Bull are already 87 points behind front runner Hamilton. But further victories seem to be possible if the development continues like this.
Maybe even before the summer break? “Hungary has always been a good track for us,” Horner recalls. Hockenheim is “probably more of a Mercedes country”, but after the good performance at Silverstone you at least don’t travel completely hopelessly to Germany. “But Hungary is certainly the best chance for us before the summer break,” says the team boss.
In Hockenheim it will now be a matter of confirming the improved results of the past two weekends. If this succeeds, and possibly another success in Hungary, the motivation for the team for the second half of the season will increase once again.
Could we even see Red Bull be the team beating Ferrari and regularly challenging Mercedes in the latter stages of this season?
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