Four races remain in the 2019 Formula 1 season. And at Red Bull, after the Japanese Grand Prix, hopes are dwindling that another F1 victory will be clinched in these last four remaining races of the 2019 season.
Max Verstappen won the upcoming Grand Prix in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 respectively. But the Dutchman is not currently dreaming of a “hat-trick” result at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.
“You have to be realistic. Of course we were very good there in the past two years,” he ironically recalls at an appointment at a sponsor event with TAG Heuer this week. I say ironically as it is this very sponsor who’s name was put on the Renault power unit that enabled the Red Bull’s of past seasons to excel in the high atmosphere, low air density location that saps engine power. A strange trait that the lower powered Renault engine seems to do well in Mexico city. I digress…
Verstappen continues: “But I think we’ve had it a little harder this season so far – even with the car’s balance. That’s why I don’t expect us to repeat this so easily,” Verstappen admits with skepticism.
It will be especially difficult against Ferrari, “who are very fast on the straights this year”. When asked whether he would, therefore, feel satisfied with a podium finish in Mexico he replied: “Yes. Especially if you look at the past races.”
In fact, since the summer break Red Bull has only clinched a single podium position in five races – Singapore, Verstappen finished third.
The Dutchman was the man of the hour before the summer break and clinched three podium positions in four races, including two victories. “You have to take your hat off to Ferrari. Whatever they did over the summer break, we also need this recipe,” smiles team boss Christian Horner at “Sky” and recalls: “Since then they have had a great run in qualifying.”
In all five races since the summer break a Ferrari driver was on pole position.
“In Hungary they were virtually beaten, and after the summer break they clinched five poles. An incredible performance from them. At the same time we also got closer to Mercedes – only Ferrari overtook us both,” Horner broods.
That’s why it’s currently so difficult for Red Bull to finish on the podium.
Helmut Marko never made a secret of the fact that he wants to clinch at least five victories this season. But at the moment you can doubt that Red Bull will win three of the four remaining races. Verstappen, who triumphed at Spielberg and Hockenheim, is resigned to the fact that in 2019 he will no longer be on the top step of the podium.
“I don’t think there is another track this season where we can do a particularly good job,” he shrugs his shoulders and explains:
“I think it would be the maximum for us at the moment to be close to the podium or on the podium every weekend. The Honda home race in Japan was also a disappointment”
“It was a bit of a shock that we lost eight-tenths on Ferrari on the straights,” Horner admits, and Helmut Marko explains with regard to the latest Honda upgrade and the new fuel, which should bring further performance:
“We are satisfied with what it has done. But compared to Ferrari it’s of course a tough one to lose eight-tenths of a second on the straight”.
In the end, the race for Verstappen finished after the collision with Charles Leclerc, and was already over on the first lap. Team mate Alexander Albon celebrated his best Formula 1 result so far in fourth place. But he was not able to keep up with the top either.
Verstappen kicked off the podium by Vettel 2016 – Live on TV
“We were close, but we didn’t quite have the pace. We’ll take a look at that and come back stronger in Mexico,” he explains rather optimistically.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, but historically we’ve always been fast there,” Albon concludes.
Of course Horner is rather more bullish about Red Bull’s prospects saying that they were able to take “some positive things” with them from Japan.
“We still have a lot of work to do. But we know where we have to work and we still have some positive things in the pipeline,” says Horner.
Nevertheless, the statistics on the four remaining tracks – with the exception of Mexico – don’t exactly favour the bulls. In Austin, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi, they’ ve had no wins since 2013 when Sebastian Vettel clinched the last Red Bull victory on all three tracks, all of course with Renault power.
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