Max Verstappen says Red Bull is currently the third-quickest team because Honda’s upgrade at the French Grand Prix did not provide as big a step as other power unit manufacturers have achieved.
Honda brought its second updated power unit to last weekend’s race at Paul Ricard, with both Red Bulls and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat getting the new specification.
While Ferrari has been quick in a straight line, an update introduced by Mercedes in Canada also showed good performance in France, while the Renault-powered McLaren was notably quick on the straights there.
Verstappen says further progress from Honda is needed.
“We’ll probably finish fourth or fifth (in Austria), though that depends on Ferrari making mistakes,” Verstappen said. “Maybe even third if both Ferraris make a mistake! We’re just lacking pace at the moment; you have to accept that and, in the meantime, keep working hard on the car and mostly the power unit.
“You can see Ferrari and Mercedes have made another step. Renault, too. I think ours was just not big enough here, so we have work to do.”
Reflecting on his performance in France, Verstappen pointed out that he didn’t feel far off Charles Leclerc’s pace for the majority of the race but couldn’t match him in the closing stages.
“The start was pretty good. After that, you saw we’re lacking top speed. The first lap was tough, but after that I got into my own rhythm. I tried to follow the Ferrari ahead, which worked for a time. But in the last six laps or so, I couldn’t keep that up with the tires; and after that extra stop by (Sebastian) Vettel, there was no pressure from behind so I cruised home.
“The team kept telling me about Mercedes and Ferrari lap times, but I told them I really couldn’t go any quicker. I was trying everything I could.”
Verstappen has finished in the top four in every race except Canada so far this season, crossing the line fifth in Montreal.