Red Bull’s 2018 Formula 1 challenger had the pace to match race-winner Lewis Hamilton at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, according to team principal Christian Horner. 

Both Red Bull drivers failed to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for the front two rows of the grid in Barcelona qualifying but Max Verstappen went on to claim his first podium of the season in third. Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and 50 seconds behind Hamilton following a spin under a Virtual Safety Car period but recovered to post the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages. 

Verstappen suffered front-wing damage after colliding with Lance Stroll’s Williams under the VSC but managed to hold off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the final rostrum spot. Horner believes the performance both Verstappen and Ricciardo were able to extract from their RB14 cars was on a level-par with the leading Mercedes pair. 

F1 Driver Ratings - Spanish GP

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“It was a strong race for us. We had again another strong race car,” Horner said. “This track is a bit like Melbourne, very, very difficult to overtake at. As soon as Kimi retired it was clear that the pace of our car and the degradation of our tires was very strong. 

“We were able to go further on the soft tire than any of our rivals. Our target from very early in the race was to try and make the one stop work. We believed it was the quicker way to complete the race. Both drivers got their heads down.

“Lewis pitted and emerged between Max and Daniel. Daniel dropped a little bit of time at that point. Max leading the race for 10 or so laps. Both drivers pitted at half distance. It looked early on that both the Ferrari and the Mercedes of Bottas had pitted that it was unlikely that they were going to go to the end.

“Despite the damage that Max had on the front wing, which was worth a few tenths of a second, he was able to manage the gap to Sebastian who had five or six lap newer tyres, to the end of the race without any major issue. Again we saw the potential of the car with Daniel as soon as he had clear air recording the fastest laps of the race.”

Horner was once again left frustrated by Red Bull’s inability to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in qualifying trim, with Renault’s power unit continuing to lag behind its major F1 rivals. 

“Track position is everything at a circuit like this. Unfortunately the damage done on a Saturday compromises your race at a track like this on a Sunday,” he explained. 

“Looking at the pace of the car it looked on a par with what Lewis could do, particularly in the second half of the race. So the problem is when you are caught up in traffic you are damaging the car. When you are in clean air it is a lot easier to manage.”



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