Red Bull’s lack of competitiveness compared to Ferrari and Mercedes in the Brazilian Grand Prix was due to the team protecting its engines, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Max Verstappen dominated the Mexican Grand Prix to take his second win in four races, and the Dutch driver also challenged for victory in Japan and showed impressive pace in the United States. However, at Interlagos the two Red Bulls finished fifth and sixth respectively, with Verstappen fading away from the top three as the race went on and providing little resistance to the recovering Lewis Hamilton.
“We ran pretty safe on engines,” Horner explained to Sky Sports. “Obviously reliability has been a concern. I think the layout of this circuit, that long, last sector, just is a bit more punishing for us than Mexico. We couldn’t make up the time in the middle sector, which obviously is where we needed to.”
Renault has struggled for reliability in recent races, with only two of the six Renault-powered cars finishing in Mexico and Toro Rosso suffering issues throughout Friday practice in Brazil. Asked how much performance Red Bull gave away as a result of its conservative power unit usage, Horner replied: “Probably a couple of tenths.
“But you could see that couple of tenths was about what we were missing. Then Max is driving the car harder to stay with Kimi [Raikkonen] and Valtteri [Bottas]. When you get too close that starts damaging the tires. You’re in a vicious circle at that point. You’re pushing to keep up, but you’re losing the tire at the end of the stint.”
And Verstappen himself agreed with Horner that he was having to push his tires harder than his rivals but was satisfied to secure fifth place as a result.
“It was definitely the best position we could do,” Verstappen said. “We just lost out a lot on the straights, as you could see when Lewis passed me. We have no chance on this track. It’s really hard.
“On the positive side, the first 10, 15 laps in the stint, we were competitive. But then you try to compensate what you lose on the straights and you’re asking maybe a bit too much from the tires and the car balance – not like in Mexico for example – and you have more drop-off. Then it just gets a bit more difficult.”