Christian Horner says Red Bull Racing "desperately" needs Pierre Gasly to improve his performances and match teammate Max Verstappen more closely if it is to stand any chance of fighting Ferrari for second place in the Formula 1 constructors' championship.

Gasly finished eight-tenths of a second behind Verstappen in qualifying before crossing the line sixth in the race, one lap down on his teammate who battled for victory against Lewis Hamilton and ultimately crossed the line second.

The disparity between the two drivers has been notable in Gasly's first season at the team. While Verstappen has two wins and three further podium finishes to his name, Gasly has a best finish of P4, scoring 118 fewer points through the opening 12 races.

The points gap has also started to cost Red Bull in the teams' standings, where it trails second-placed Ferrari by 44 points.

"Obviously not having two cars running at the front does hurt us, particularly in the constructors’ championship where we scored the same amount of points as Ferrari today on a track where we should have taken more out of them," Horner said after the race.

"I think he really needs to take some time out during the summer break, reflect on the first half of the season and take the lessons from that into the second half of the year. It’s vital for us if we are to stand any chance of catching Ferrari that we have him finishing further ahead.

"We need him to be racing Ferraris and Mercedes, and everything we can do to help him to achieve that is what we will do."

Gasly's difficult start to the year has led to uncertainty about his future with the team, but Horner said the current plan was to keep him in the car for the remainder of the season at least.

"Our intention is to leave him the car until the end of the year," Horner said.

"But we desperately need to see him realising more of the potential of the car."

Gasly's struggles were also referenced during the post-race press conference when Verstappen and Hamilton were asked about a potential return of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso to the sport.

Hamilton said there was "still at least a seat available that’s good enough for winning" in F1, before later saying to Verstappen: "You’re the one with the extra seat, I would say."

Verstappen replied: "I didn't say that."

 

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