Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes his team will get closer to Mercedes and Ferrari by the middle of the season, in part due to Honda developments.
Honda is bringing its second specification of internal combustion engine (ICE) to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend, although the Japanese manufacturer admits that is in part due to quality control concerns after a problem for Daniil Kvyat in China. Horner points to the top two teams’ ability to use a ‘party mode’ in qualifying and the race as extending the gap to Red Bull, and expects that deficit to be reduced.
“I think (Honda) are making progress with it,” Horner said. “There is stuff in the pipeline that will certainly help (with ‘party mode’) but the others aren’t standing still.
“It is all about evolution. Our goal this year has been all about closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari and we are doing that. (In China) we split the Ferraris, we are certainly closer on pace to Mercedes. There will be more ‘concertinaring’ that will happen between now and the halfway point of the year.”
However, despite expecting to see the gap reducing further, Horner says he will not set hard targets for Red Bull and Honda in terms of race results.
“I think doing that is a waste of time. My view has always been you look at what is the quickest car and you look at what is the quickest way we can get there, and that varies from race to race. It was Ferrari in Bahrain and it was Mercedes (in China) and obviously everyone is working as hard as they can to close that gap. To say it is by this race or this race, history dictates it is a fallacy.”
While the switch from Renault power units has opened up different development opportunities, Horner is reluctant to describe the changes to this year’s car as a new concept because the Honda installation has coincided with new aerodynamic regulations.
“That is very difficult to say because there has been a regulation change and an aerodynamic change, so I think the chassis is getting into a much happier place now. We had a very good test after Bahrain where we understood some of our issues and gone some way to addressing them; there is still more progress to be made but we’re on the right path.”