Christian Horner says Red Bull are still trying to understand why Mercedes have “mind-boggling” speed in a straight line.
With a new ICE fitted at Interlagos, Lewis Hamilton has been rapid all weekend, cruising to P1 in traditional qualifying on Friday before fighting his way up to P5 in the sprint on Saturday after starting from the back of the field due to his disqualification.
The Mercedes man pulled off the vast majority of his moves on the pits straight, being far quicker in a straight line than any driver he came up against.
Horner says the speed of the W12 is “mind-boggling” but is still happy with the result of the sprint, with Max Verstappen taking P2, and optimistic about the main race.
“To be honest with you, it’s no real surprise because we saw it yesterday,” he told Sky Sports.
“You can see particularly Lewis’ straight-line speed is just mind-boggling.
“But for us, losing the start…you know, they took a gamble on the soft tyres, we obviously started on the mediums and had a bit of an issue with the gear sync.
“But still, front row here, two more points, we’ll take that and it’s a different race tomorrow. Much hotter.”
Lewis and W12 woke up feeling hungry. 🖤🔥 pic.twitter.com/HzvIqyUwyM
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 13, 2021
Red Bull were widely considered to be the stronger of the two teams in Sao Paulo given how they usually fare better at higher altitudes, as they did at the last round in Mexico.
Given that, many have been surprised by Mercedes’ pace, but Horner says the Red Bull camp expected it.
“We’ve seen this coming for a few races now,” he added.
“In Turkey it started and then in Mexico we saw the straight-line speed. I think they were about 14kph quicker at the end of the straight than we were.
“So it’s no great surprise. We saw it yesterday, it’s just phenomenal. We’ve got to try and focus on our own performance.”
That said, Horner and co have not figured out exactly how and why their rivals have become so much faster in a straight line in recent times.
He is certain it is not superior power alone and says his team are working hard to get to the bottom of the matter.
“It’s something that’s enabling the car to do that kind of speed,” he said.
“Something must happen because physics wouldn’t allow the kind of horsepower delta you would need to achieve that. [It] would be pretty significant.
“So we are obviously trying to understand what it is and go from there.”