Red Bull has enough potential in its RB16 to threaten Mercedes if it can work out how to get the car working properly, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Mercedes has won the first three races of the delayed 2020 season, with Valtteri Bottas securing victory in Austria before Lewis Hamilton dominated the second race at the Red Bull Ring and then the third round in Hungary. Mercedes enjoy a significant margin over the rest of the field at the Hungaroring, but Horner insists that is not representative of Red Bull’s capabilities.
“It’s a significant gap, but it depends on how much performance we can unlock on RB16,” Horner said. “We know we’ve got the fundamental basics of a decent car here, it’s just not behaving as our simulation tools predicted as it will and we need to understand that and making sure it’s achieving what it should be doing, which hasn’t been the case.
“I think there’s a lot of good data from (the Hungarian Grand Prix), and the team’s working very hard to understand it and get on top of it.”
Among the priorities is getting to the bottom of an aerodynamic problem that has led to both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon experiencing a number of spins so far in 2020.
“I think we have got something misbehaving aerodynamically and it is a matter of understanding that and addressing that,” Horner said.
While Verstappen took plaudits for his drive to second place in Hungary after crashing on his way to the grid, Albon also backed up his teammate with a recovery from 13th on the grid to fifth that impressed Horner.
“The car spec has been changing a lot from session to session, and when you don’t have the experience, that is harder to deal with,” he said.
“In the race he was able to find his rhythm, his pace was very good and comparable with Max. His overtaking was strong against the Ferraris and whoever else he was battling out there, and if you look at his pace in clear air, it was pretty decent. We are very satisfied with Alex’s performance.
“He’s had a tough start to the year, and we haven’t given him a car that has suited him,” Horner said. “Max’s ability to drive around problems sometimes masks them, and I actually think Alex has driven very well in the races this year, and hopefully as we improve the car the Saturdays will improve, but his race craft, and his race pace when he was in clear air in Austria in the second half of the race, and his race performance (in Hungary)… he’s done a great job, and I struggle to understand any criticism of him.
“We know we’ve got to tidy the car up, and make life hopefully easier for the drivers and move us closer to Mercedes. They have a phenomenal car at the moment, and it’s down to us to close that gap and try and close it.”