Horner: Mercedes nervous about tyre degradation

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Christian Horner believes that heading to Sochi, Mercedes is nervous about tyre degradation, as shown by radio messages at Mugello.

During the Tuscan Grand Prix, both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were told to stay off the track’s kerbs in order to preserve their tyres.

It wasn’t the first time this season that the team has had such concerns, with the Finn picking up a puncture in the late stages of the British Grand Prix.

Red Bull team principal Horner says that the messages at Mugello showed just how worried Mercedes is about tyres.

“I expect Mercedes to be fired up and pretty dominant as it [Sochi] is their type of track, but as we have seen this season tyre degradation is an interesting factor,” Horner said in his column on the Red Bull website.

“They weren’t stretched last weekend but you could hear how nervous they were, instructing their drivers to stay off the kerbs. So, it would be great if we can be competitive in Sochi and put them under a little bit of pressure because that is when things can happen.

“Championship wise, we are very much outsiders now and every race is a cup final for us. We are just going to go for it as we have nothing to lose. We are determined to get ourselves back into a position to contend for championships and we will get there.

“Mercedes are setting the bar high at the moment and are doing a great job, but everybody is beatable. You just have to work hard, work smart and have the right people around you and I very much believe that is the case in this Team.”

Giedo van der Garde has claimed Max Verstappen’s back-to-back retirements could be due to Honda prioritising engine performance over reliability in their pursuit of Mercedes.

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Red Bull was unable to fight Mercedes last time out as Max Verstappen retired after a mechanical issue caused him to drop down at the start and be taken out.

The Dutchman was extremely frustrated on the team radio and in the paddock afterwards, and Horner thinks that’s good.

“In the heat of the moment when you have gone from the adrenaline of the start to the disappointment of ending up in the gravel trap, it is only natural to vent on the radio,” he added.

“We really felt that in the race we could take the fight to Mercedes. He had done the hard work in beating Lewis off the line and it was going to be game on, but of course, that did not materialise.

“It was the second race in a row and a huge frustration for him because he is hungry and wants it so badly. If he did not have that hunger, he would not be the driver he is and the one that we all want to watch fight for victories each weekend.”

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