Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the performance gaps at the end of the 2017 season demonstrates that the power unit performance differences are still significant in Formula 1.
Mercedes has dominated the sport since the introduction of V6 turbocharged power units in 2014, with this year marking the team’s fourth consecutive championship double. New aerodynamic regulations were meant to play more to Red Bull’s strengths, and Mercedes was beaten on eight occasions, but Horner’s team was unable to seriously challenge for victory following Max Verstappen’s win in Mexico.
Asked if anything had changed in the last two races of the season, Horner replied: “No, you just have more power-sensitive circuits.
“Brazil is power sensitive. [In Abu Dhabi] you could see, Mercedes were in a class of their own. If you listened to their radio content, when they turned the engine up, you only have to look in the middle sector – they go half a second quicker or slower, depending on which engine mode they choose.
“Hats off to them, they are doing a great job in that area, but engine performance is a key differentiator.”
While acknowledging Red Bull’s need to keep developing its chassis after an impressive rate of improvement this season, Horner points to power unit supplier Renault as needing to make the biggest gains in both reliability and performance in order to help his team’s chances of success next year.
“Reliability wise we have DNF’d in far too many races. RB13 has had 13 podiums and 13 DNFs. So not that I am superstitious but I will be looking forward to getting on to 14. Reliability has cost us dearly this year. If you assume that each of those DNFs equates to an average of 10 or 12 points, you don’t have to be a mathematics professor to work out how costly that has been for us this year.
“So reliability is a key issue next year, but also maintaining the chassis development that we have had during the second half of the year, and we desperately need the engine to concertina in performance.”