Red Bull’s technical guru Adrian Newey reckons Mercedes have “recently found a bit more power” after Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position in Hungary.
Chasing a record ninth Hungarian GP win, the Mercedes driver clocked a 1:15.419 to beat Valtteri Bottas to pole position by three-tenths of a second.
Max Verstappen was a further tenth behind in third place.
Out-paced by Mercedes in Friday’s second practice, Red Bull decided to run a smaller wing on Saturday but even that wasn’t enough to put them on a par with Mercedes.
According to Auto Motor und Sport, Red Bull lost five km/h on the straight to Mercedes on Friday leading to their decision to change wings.
That, though, compromised them in the corners with Verstappen down 0.123 seconds in the second sector alone.
Newey says Mercedes have found something extra with their power unit.
“We’re running the same power as before,” he said of Red Bull’s new deficit. “Mercedes must have recently found a bit more power.”
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Verstappen says Red Bull need to establish exactly where they are losing ground to Mercedes.
“Lost a bit of lap time but nevertheless, I don’t think even with that we could have had pole,” he said.
“Not the greatest weekend so far. I think in general just always been a bit behind and yeah, we just need to analyse why that is.
“I think Silverstone was quite strong. Of course I know they brought new bits again to the car so yeah, we just need to of course work on ourselves and then try to improve the situation because of course we cannot be happy with this.”
Verstappen heads into Sunday’s race with an eight-point lead over Hamilton in the title race.
Strategy is set to be crucial on Sunday with Verstappen starting on the soft tyres and Hamilton and Bottas on the medium Pirellis.
“We talked about it and they told me that they wanted to go on the soft instead and then keep the medium new so we ran that and then yeah, quite a lot of people actually improved their lap time,” said the championship leader.
“At the end of the day it would have been safe to go through but only with two or three hundredths I don’t think you want to risk it that much so that’s why they told me to finish the lap.
“It is what it is. We’ll find out on Sunday how the tyres are going to behave.”