‘Mercedes spent a significant part of their budget but the gap hasn’t changed’

Michelle Foster
Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023. Jenson Button

Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023

Christian Horner doesn’t believe Mercedes in the “B version of their car” have closed the gap to Red Bull this season with the team boss saying it was “very similar” in Spain to what it was in Bahrain.

Red Bull have been the team to beat throughout the first third of this year’s championship and so far there are no indications – even small ones – that one of their rivals is going to come through and beat them.

Aside from at the Australian Grand Prix, Red Bull’s race-winning car has been 20 or more seconds up the road from the nearest non-Red Bull driver. That was Fernando Alonso at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton in Spain.

Mercedes overhauled Aston Martin as the second fastest car at the Circuit de Catalunya where Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell bagged a double podium to also leapfrog Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship by 18 points.

Mercedes are celebrating a “huge step forward” as Toto Wolff put it, but Horner has all but quashed that claim saying he believes the gap hasn’t changed much at all.

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“Certainly Mercedes have gone a step further,” he said as per Motorsport Italy.

“They’ve basically introduced a B version of their car. They must have used a significant part of their development budget to do what they did.

“I think if I look at the gap at the end of the race it’s very similar to what there was between us in Bahrain.”

The numbers, however, have the gap from the leading Red Bull to the leading Mercedes at 50s in Bahrain whereas in Spain it was only 24s.

“All that’s happening,” Horner added, “is that the order behind us is changing from race to race.

“Fernando was behind us last week, while Mercedes was second force in Barcelona. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops over the next few races.”

The team boss is relishing Red Bull’s current purple patch, the team on course for their third successive Drivers’ title and second double in a row.

Having lost the titles to Mercedes in 2014, the Brackley squad ending Red Bull’s four-year run, Horner applauded the entire Red Bull team’s efforts to get back on top.

“We spent seven years trying to get back into a winning position and, you know, losing hurts,” Horner said.

“I think my team has been working very hard to get to today’s position and I think the whole team, as a unit, not just Max, but the whole team is performing at such a high level.

“We have a phenomenal car. We have two great drivers and Max who continues to evolve as a driver. He is becoming more and more refined and the capability he has inside the car is really impressive.”

“I don’t pay too much attention to other people’s comments. I think what matters is the score at the end of the weekend. And, I have to say, that looks pretty good for us.”

Verstappen leads the Drivers’ Championship by 53 points ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez with Alonso third, a further 18 points adrift, while Red Bull have a massive 135-point lead over Mercedes in the teams’ standings.