Christian Horner admits Red Bull cannot afford to be beaten by Mercedes in Monaco if they are to remain in touch with their arch-rivals.
A gap of 29 points has opened up in Mercedes’ favour just four races into the season – a margin Red Bull cannot allow to grow in the Constructors’ World Championship if they are to sustain realistic hopes of the title.
Monaco looks to offer one of Red Bull’s better chances against Mercedes, even though Max Verstappen does not have the best record there – his highest placing was fourth in 2019, when he chased winner Lewis Hamilton for much of the race but was demoted from second due to a five-second penalty incurred for an unsafe release from the pits.
Horner, the Red Bull team principal, points to evidence from the latest race, the Spanish Grand Prix, as to why Verstappen and Sergio Perez have a strong chance in Monaco – specifically the twisty last sector in Barcelona which presents similar challenges to the street circuit in the Principality.
“Sector 3 sometimes gives a good indicative view of how the car could be in Monaco, where hopefully we should be competitive,” said Horner.
“I think every grand prix this year bar Bahrain, there’s been less than a tenth of a second between ourselves and pole position.
“It’s been phenomenally close and we need to make sure we beat Mercedes in Monte Carlo. But we know that will be incredibly tough.”
Although Red Bull have stepped up considerably this year, they are still 3-1 down to Mercedes in terms of race wins – and specifically Verstappen to Hamilton, with the duo having filled the top two positions each time.
The cars have been closely matched in terms of qualifying pace but the seven-time consecutive World Champions have had the edge on Sundays, especially with a superior strategy in Bahrain and Spain.
“I think the Mercedes, we’ve seen it since Bahrain, I think their race pace has been better than ours at each grand prix we’ve seen so far, and I think their [tyre] degradation has been better than ours,” added Horner.
“We knew the last two circuits [Spain and Portugal] would play to their strengths, they’ve done that, but we are an awful lot closer than we have been and I think if we can find some more race pace, it’s still very tight between the two cars.”