Red Bull principal Christian Horner believes Mercedes’ straight-line speed advantage over his team was “skewed” by the Sochi Autodrom.
Although Honda have made great strides in recent seasons in terms of engine power, Mercedes are still seen as the benchmark in that department.
Nonetheless, Horner thinks the lack of braking zones at Sochi, and therefore the reduced opportunity to generate extra energy for the batteries, made the deficit look bigger than it actually is.
In Formula 1 it’s termed ‘clipping’ when the batteries run out of the 160hp boost down the straights.
“I think this circuit was always going to be difficult for us,” Horner is quoted by Autosport.
“We had quite a lot of clipping here and I think that has an effect.
“So I think it was sort of skewed by that energy recovery. But we knew that before we got here. So it was always going to be a more challenging race for us.
“I think Mercedes had a faster car than us this weekend.
“Obviously we’ve benefited from Lewis’s penalty, but I think, Max has just extracted every ounce of performance out of the car throughout the weekend. It’s our best result here in the six years that we’ve been coming.”
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Despite the issues Verstappen was still able to finish the Russian Grand Prix in an impressive P2, marking an end to his difficult spell of back-to-back DNFs.
While he wasn’t able to make an impression on Bottas who cruised to victory after Hamilton served his ten-second time penalty, Verstappen was able to keep himself well out of Hamilton’s range as the Championship leader worked his way back up the order.
Asked if he felt that Verstappen is outperforming the RB16 with these kind of results, Horner said: “Well, a car will only go as fast as somebody can drive it.
“We know that Max is driving at a very high level: we know that Lewis is capable of doing the same. Max, his qualifying lap in particular was sensational, and in the race he made no mistakes at all. It was a very mature and measured performance.”