Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes recent mistakes by Mercedes might be a sign of complacency to creep in due to its ongoing dominance.
Mercedes has won the past six drivers’ and constructors’ championships, and is on course to make it seven in a row with Lewis Hamilton comfortably leading team-mate Valtteri Bottas this season. However, an incorrect team instruction regarding practice starts contributed to Hamilton picking up two time penalties that limited him to third place in the Russian Grand Prix, and Horner wants to put the pressure on even more.
“That’s why we desperately would like to get a car to challenge them, because I think operationally we have a very strong team,” Horner said. “We demonstrated that again with the fastest pit stop. If we didn’t break the record they were certainly very, very close to it. It was the fastest one that we’ve measured – I got 1.8 seconds on my watch.
“But look, we only focus on ourselves, they obviously have had some issues and when you’re constantly at the front, it’s easier sometimes to be the challenger team. Sometimes complacency can slip in when you’ve had such a period of dominance.”
Hamilton’s penalty was his second expensive one in three races, after Mercedes called him into the pits when the pit lane was closed at Monza and picked up a 10s stop-and-go penalty that cost him what looked set to be a comfortable victory.
Max Verstappen qualified an impressive second ahead of Valtteri Bottas but lost out immediately at the start and finished over seven seconds adrift of the Finn by the end, however Horner doesn’t believe Hamilton’s penalties opened the door for a Red Bull victory.
“Mercedes had a faster car than us this weekend,” he said. “Obviously we benefited from Lewis’ penalty, but I think Max has just extracted every ounce of performance out of the car throughout the weekend. [It was] our best result here in the six years we’ve been coming, so pleased with the drive from Max.
“I think this circuit was always going to be difficult for us. We had quite a lot of clipping here and that always has an effect, so I think it was skewed by that energy recovery. But we knew that before we got here, so it was always going to be a more challenging race for us.”