Max Verstappen said after securing pole position for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix that Red Bull’s performance gains compared to Mercedes are not just down to new regulations introduced this year,
Both Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton have claimed that changes to the aerodynamic regulations – removing part of the floor at the rear of the car to reduce downforce and slow cars using tires that could only be partially developed due to the COVID-19 pandemic – were designed to hit Mercedes. The focal point is the larger impact the changes have had on low-rake cars such as the Mercedes and Aston Martin, compared to high-rake Red Bull and AlphaTauri.
Verstappen, though, said it’s unfair to single that reason out.
“It’s (been) our philosophy now for a long time; I don’t think you can point it out on that,” Verstappen said. “There have been a few factors. We knew our weaknesses from last year that (were) not only to do with rake. I think on the engine side, Honda has worked really hard to improve their engine in general, and I think they’ve done a great job.”
Verstappen believes Honda has had the most impressive winter of its time in partnership with Red Bull, after upgrading its power unit so successfully.
“Yeah, I think you could say that. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the previous years it wasn’t impressive. Their turnaround has been pretty good and their understanding of the engine is impressive. It’s really enjoyable to work with them as well; they’re really passionate and emotional, which I like. They are just flat out all the time. They want to win – you can really see that. Big credit to them also for the result today. They had a great winter.”
After securing the fourth pole position of his career by 0.4s, Verstappen said the RB16B feels more comfortable to drive, having improved on the negative points of its predecessor.
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“It’s not relief, but it’s what you always aim for. The last few years, it hasn’t really materialized. The regulations haven’t really changed a lot. We knew what our weaknesses were last year and it seems like we addressed them so far at the beginning of the year. Of course, very happy with that! Great start for us but no guarantees for the future. But very happy so far with the whole weekend.
“Basically my first lap in Q3 wasn’t amazing, so I knew there was more in it. Of course, you never know how much but finally the balance was there and then (I could) push a little bit more. The track was quite hot so you had to be careful with not overheating the tires. Luckily, when it mattered, we could perform.”