If Red Bull want to be on pole in Bahrain, their team boss Christian Horner believes Ferrari may be the team to beat.
Based on their testing performance in Bahrain, Red Bull went into the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix carrying the favourites’ tag.
And the opening day of practice only further strengthened that, with Max Verstappen topping FP2 just under a tenth clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
“It’s been a positive day for us really,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“Both in the warmer conditions earlier in the day [and] that last session, the short run and the long run both looked pretty decent.
“But fuel loads and engine modes, there are so many caveats but we are pretty satisfied with today’s running.”
When the engines are turned up though and the fuel comes out for qualifying, will Red Bull retain that slim advantage?
If Red Bull are to stay on top and claim the first pole of 2022, Horner suspects Ferrari could be their main roadblock.
“I think Ferrari are very quick. You can see Leclerc today was quick, Carlos Sainz was quick, whenever they have been on track during pre-season they have looked very impressive,” Horner explained.
“So they could be the car to beat tomorrow.”
Asked if it would be nice to have another competitor join the battle at the front in 2022, following the intense scrap with Mercedes in 2021, Horner replied: “We don’t really mind who the competitors are.
“Each of the teams are competitors, but it’s great to see Ferrari back and competitive. They have been a giant that’s been quiet the last couple of years and they were always going to get it together.
“They started very early on this project and they have come out with a great car.
“I’m just delighted with our guys, after the intensity of last year, that we’ve managed to hit the track running with a decent package we can develop and evolve through the season.”
🏁 End of FP2 🏁
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 18, 2022
The early signs suggest that at least initially it may be just Red Bull and Ferrari battling for poles and wins unless Mercedes can uncover some extra pace.
Once the qualifying simulations reached their peak on Friday, George Russell was the fastest Mercedes driver in P4, six-tenths slower than Verstappen.
A key issue for Mercedes, it would seem, remains the bouncing down the straights, a phenomenon Horner says Red Bull do not suffer with as severely.
Asked if Red Bull are struggling still with ‘porpoising’ like Mercedes are, Horner said: “I think to a lesser degree – theirs looks particularly aggressive.
“I think the guys have done a good job. We had a fair amount of it in Barcelona but I think we have started to understand it and get on top of it.
“It’s obviously an inherent thing with these regulations. It’s just trying to understand what triggers it and calms that down.
“They are so sensitive to the ride height that the lower you go, the worse it gets.”
Pushed for some advice for Mercedes, Horner, with a smile, responded: “We are very much focused on how we can improve our car.
“It’s such a new set of regs. I’m sure development…what we see as a running order here will vary significantly.”
While it was a positive Friday for Verstappen, the same was not so true for his team-mate Sergio Perez who could manage only P7 in FP2, a second off Verstappen’s pace.
Horner said though that the drivers had split their approach in a bid to gather as much data as possible.
“He was trying a couple of different things on his car,” said Horner of Perez’s struggles.
“Of course when you are limited in time, just the two hours of running with such a new car, you diverge with the set-ups, try to gain as much data as you can.
“So both aerodynamically and mechanically they were just trying a couple of different things.”
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