17 July 2016
Horner: Confidence growing at Red Bull
Christian Horner expects the dynamic brought about by the pairing of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to keep Red Bull chipping away at F1 powerhouse Mercedes in 2016.
Christian Horner acknowledges that there is still a gap to close before his Red Bull team can tackle Mercedes on a regular basis but, with two fired-up drivers in harness, he is confident that the Silver Arrows won't always be out of reach.
While Daniel Ricciardo has not enjoyed the best of fortune when it comes to hunting down race wins in 2016 – Spain and Monaco come to mind as 'ones that got away' - new team-mate Max Verstappen has shown that, given the opportunity, the RB12 can lead the way, the young Dutchman following his surprise debut win in Barcelona with several feisty performances, not least when harrying points leader Nico Rosberg at Silverstone last weekend.
While denying that the dynamics in the team have changed since Verstappen replaced the hapless Daniil Kvyat alongside Ricciardo, Horner has little doubt that the teenager's arrival has coincided with an upturn in belief at the Milton Keynes camp.
“Obviously we have got two very strong drivers in the cars and they are pushing each other hard, which is great to see,” he noted, “There is a confidence in the team that you can see is growing, [and] the car is improving.
“There are still areas [where] we can find time and performance, but we're actually in the race with Mercedes at certain circuits, which is great to see. And, hopefully, there are circuits coming up, like the next one [in Hungary], where we can sneak a bit closer still.”
Verstappen's form, despite the positive reputation he established at Toro Rosso, has surprised many in the paddock, and his Silverstone performance – where he battled Rosberg all the way to the flag, crossing the line in third place before a penalty for his opponent swapped their places post-race – was just the latest in a string of showings that only serve to mark him down as a future champion.
“I think he drove a strong race and, in the wet and damp conditions, he was obviously very competitive - his move around the outside of Rosberg was great TV,” Horner enthused, before going on to find an explanation for Ricciardo's inability to match Verstappen on the result sheet.
“He got a little bit unlucky with the VSC period, [and] that cost him probably about ten seconds, which allowed [Sergio] Perez to effectively get a free stop ahead of him. But that is just the rub of the green. You can't anticipate when there is going to be a VSC. [Ricciardo] then cleared Perez and was slowly catching on that group, but the damage was done to his race. He is going to have a couple of Sunday's come up where I am sure everything will fall his way and it will be swings and roundabouts.”
The first of those weekends could come in Hungary, where the tortuous nature of the Budapest circuit mirrors the Monaco scenario in which the Australian shone earlier in the year, and Horner expects his veteran to bounce back.
“I think Daniel is dealing with [recent results] very well,” he insisted, “I think he is a class driver and has demonstrated already this year that he is at the top of his game. No team-mate likes being the second of the cars to finish and I am sure he will respond positively.
“But [the Ricciardo-Verstappen dynamic] is a positive thing in the team. There is no animosity or anything. It is just two guys going for it and going flat-out. It is very healthy for us.”
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