Red Bull displayed “genuine pace” in the Australian Grand Prix but was unable to show it properly due to being stuck behind slower cars, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Max Verstappen started from fourth place but dropped behind Kevin Magnussen’s Haas at the start of the race and was unable to find a way past, spinning after damaging his diffuser early on. A grid penalty left Daniel Ricciardo eighth on the grid but he climbed up to fourth before being stuck behind Kimi Raikkonen after a Virtual Safety Car period, and Horner says there was only one glimpse of how quick the RB14 really is.
“The pace of our car was actually very good,” Horner said. “Both of our cars sat looking at rear wings of different cars throughout the grand prix. The only clear lap we had was when Daniel dropped back from Kimi and then went to push up to have a go in the last part of the race and set the fastest race lap.
“So we had a lot of pace in hand but where never able to show it because they were constantly within a second of someone.
“Taking the positives out of the weekend, it’s the first time in the hybrid era we got both cars to the finish [in Melbourne]. We got the fastest lap of the race, and that wasn’t just through putting a set of ultra-softs on at the end, it was genuine pace.
“I think we’ve got a quick race car and, finishing fourth, just off the podium, is always frustrating, particularly for Daniel when it’s his home race. But there’s a lot of positives we can take from this race.”
With Verstappen struggling from early on in the race, Horner says the damage picked up was having a significant effect on his car’s handling.
“As soon as he was behind the Haas, knowing how tough it is to overtake around [Melbourne], he absolutely went for it, got a bit wide at 11, 12, on lap six and that damaged the rear diffuser. And that created a significant imbalance for him which he did incredibly well to manage for the rest of the race. But then that caught him out with a spin at Turn 1.
“He was getting loss of downforce in mid-corner, nothing he could do about it. But even with that he was putting massive pressure on Fernando [Alonso]. There was a discrepancy, he thought he was ahead, I think the timing said that Fernando was a tenth ahead so we gave back the place, and then that was his race done.
“Difficult to say [how big the loss was], because he did not have a lap in clear air it is difficult to measure, but it was a significant loss of load.”