Red Bull principal Christian Horner believes title rivals Mercedes manage their tyres better than his team does.
Mercedes began the 2021 season with victory courtesy of Sir Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, but as Imola played host to Round 2 of this brewing title fight it was Red Bull and Max Verstappen who struck back.
Hamilton started from pole but lost out to Verstappen at the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as the pair established themselves as the contenders for victory.
Disaster would strike for Hamilton though when he went off into the gravel while trying to lap George Russell. The red flags triggered by Russell’s collision with Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas would come to Hamilton’s aid, but he still found himself down in P9 at the restart.
From there though it was a classic recovery drive from Hamilton to finish P2, with a bonus point for fastest lap keeping him one point ahead of Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship.
In the early stages of the campaign it definitely appears that Red Bull do have a slight pace advantage, but Horner feels that what Mercedes do a better job of is managing their tyres.
“I think we’ve got a good car, we can see Mercedes are still very very quick and I think their [tyre] deg is better than ours,” Horner told Channel 4.
“I think you’ve only got to look at the end of the stint on the inter, and their pace at the end of the race. Lewis got the fastest lap by a decent margin, he had the benefit of the DRS, but their pace is very, very strong and we’re going to have to go some to really keep them under pressure.”
After the disappointment of Bahrain, Horner was delighted to see his team respond so quickly and emerge victorious at Imola, showing that this is indeed their strongest pace out of the starting blocks for many years.
“It’s always tough to lose a race like we did in Bahrain where it’s so marginal and so to come here and get that victory, there’s only one point between the two drivers, there’s still a huge distance in this championship still to run, but it’s by far the best start we’ve had for quite a few years now,” he said.
“So we just want to keep building the momentum.”
And pushing Red Bull along nicely is this improved Honda power unit for 2021.
“It’s fantastic for Honda, their first win since Senna in I think 91 here, so we just want to build that momentum and we’ve got to take it all the way through the year,” Horner concluded.