Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Ferrari are “the stand-out competitors” in terms of straight-line speed performance so far in the 2019 Formula 1 season.

Barring the Melbourne season-opener, Ferrari has led the way in terms of top speeds on the straights during the opening rounds of the campaign, though it is yet to convert its apparent advantage into victories, with Mercedes making the best start to an F1 season since 1992 thanks to three straight one-twos.

While Horner is convinced Ferrari is the leading team in that department, he insists he is not suspicious about what the Italian squad is up to with its fuel.

“Suspicious is probably the wrong word,” Horner replied when asked about his recent comments saying that Ferrari’s fuel “smells like grapefruit juice”.

“They [Ferrari] are obviously doing a good job because they have been, particularly in a straight-line, the stand-out competitors this year. And so obviously fuel is part of that performance. I think they are doing a good job.

“ExxonMobil are seeing some good gains on our side as well, they are working very hard in partnership with Honda. It is a particular area of interest for development, as it is effectively free and open and unconstrained, so there is definitely performance available in that area.”

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly will have brand new engines at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix when Honda introduces its first power unit upgrade of the season. Honda is also working to improve its engine modes for qualifying.

“I think they are making progress with it,” Horner added. “There is stuff in the pipeline that will certainly help but others aren’t standing still.”

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