Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Red Bull “have definitely closed the gap” to Mercedes and Ferrari – Horner

2019 F1 season

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is confident his team will be closer to Mercedes and Ferrari following their switch to Honda power for the 2019 F1 season.

Speaking at the Geneva International Motor Show, Horner tipped Ferrari to lead the way following their performance in testing.

“It’s clear Ferrari after the second test look very strong.,” Horner told Sky. “Mercedes are going to be there or thereabouts, they’re the reigning world champions so they’re not going to be slacking. I think we have definitely closed that gap.

“I think we’ll see not just in Melbourne because that’s a little bit of a unique track but look over the first three races and then ask me again how we’re faring.”

Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey has gained new motivation from the team’s switch from Renault to Honda, Horner added.

“[It’s] not just because of the rules, I think the engine change has stimulated the whole team and particularly Adrian. He sees that the engine is now getting closer and closer to the performance of the front-running teams.

“That’s really motivated him. He’s working very hard with all the guys ad girls back at Milton Keynes. Hopefully we can look forward to a good season. Our job is to try and close that gap to Ferrari and Mercedes.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Red Bull “have definitely closed the gap” to Mercedes and Ferrari – Horner”

  1. He is raising the bar considerably by these words.
    But that’s good, let the games commence.

    1. I really don’t get it. I saw nothing in testing to even suggest RedBull were faster than Renault, let alone on par with Ferrari and Merc.

      From what I saw, I think Renault are top 3.

      1. fast times doesn’t say anything but longruns tells much more. So Renault posted fast times 1 lap but their longruns were very off the top 3.

      2. Going on testing, Toro Rosso looked stronger than Red Bull.

        1. It just take a paint job to invert their rank, and not even a big one.

          1. Not quite. Just compare the front wings I. E.

  2. Yup. Well said. We should all hope they have reliably closed the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari, and we’ll only know that as the season proceeds.

    1. @robbie they don’t even have to be that reliable from the get-go. What I mean by that is if they need to use a couple more engines than Ferrari /Merc through-out the season at the expense of performance, then be it. If this enables them to have real chances for winning every other race, no matter the track layout, than RBR can afford to start a couple of races from the back. Last years, many tracks were completely off limits for them – mainly due to the lack of grunt i assume – which was a real shame for us viewers. Maybe now “they can fight”.

      1. @gechichan – agreed. I look at it this way – if they stick to the 3 engines/season rule, they need to make each engine last 7 races. However, if they take 1 extra engine, it would mean 3 engines need to go just 5 races and the 4th for 6 races, meaning the engines could run that much more marginally on reliability. Or with 2 extra engines, 4 engines can be used for 4 races each, and a 5th engine for 5 races.

      2. is still don’t understand how Verstappen could take 2nd place from P18 in front of Hamilton who started from pole…having no single issue during the GP.

        If RBR/Honda is anywhere near competitive and they have to take a few penalties, still anyhting could happen

        1. safetycars (normal or Virtual) can influence the order a lot.

        2. Tire management, safety cars, pitstop tactics, driver abilities.

        3. Well, I’ve actually paid attention, and it’s really simple. After VERs blunder in qualifying and subsequent gearbox change, he had the best car on race day.
          Ofcourse the cars outside the top-6 are no match, Vettel spun on the first lap to the back of the grid, Ricciardo DNFd in lap 9. This triggered deployment of the VSC. This made Mercedes have Hamilton doing an extra stop, opting to do the opposite of Kimi. Hamilton also lost a lot of time behind Kimi, who overtook him at the start, in both his first and second stint. And Bottas lost about 4s due to the VSC and letting Hamilton pass after his stop, and another 4s due to the undercut of RB. From that moment on he lost about 0.3s/lap, like I said, the RB was the better race car, another 4s due to another (botched) HAM-pass by and in the end even more because he had to defend against Vettel.
          So a 4th place after his epic fail in quali was guaranteed without him doing anything, and the DNF of his teammate enabled him to gain a further 2 places because of Mercedes calls on strategy in combination with the RB being the best race car that day, mainly because of different tyres and their management which is superior on the RB.

  3. If red bull raised the bar bar to match ferrari and Mercedes, then they may rue switching to Honda, with Renault they could be ahead of ferrari and Mercedes. I Bet redbull will qualify 5th and 9th in Melbourne.

    1. Since Honda’s update in Russia last year they are definitely on par, if not ahead, with the Renault engine.. During testing we could obviously not learn anything about their engine power, but the Honda endured zero issures, while especially McLaren had several issues with the Renault engine. I think Honda has passed Renault in the engine pecking order and will keep improving more than Renault in the future.

      1. Mclaren had electrical issues…. Its an illusion in your mind that Honda is ahead of Renault, We will soon find out.

        1. Your obvious bias clouds your view.
          Renault promises year after year and does not deliver. Honda does not promise anything except the intention to close the gap.
          We will see very soon how things develop.

        2. I agree. I look at last years results and there is no proof Honda caught Renault.
          Renault has appeared to make gains over the winter as they were fastest in the speed traps.
          Until RBR finishes ahead of Renault and McLaren consistently it’s pure speculation.

    2. I personally think Honda IS the reason why they have bridged the gap. The engine is probably only a little bit off-pace compared to the big 2, but this is where Newey can make the difference. In previous seasons Renault was much further away and Newey probably got frustrated (and rightly so), because everything he could humanly do, would never be enough to make up for the engine.

      1. I think you should replace the words Honda and Renault on your whole assessment!!! Are you doing propoganda advertising for Honda??

        1. Are you for Renault. They at least need it badly after five years of disappointment.

        2. @kpcart
          I’m not a Honda fan, nor for that matter a Renault fan, I’m just looking at the data. This clearly shows that Renault was far more off the pace (speed trap) in previous years during the Barcelona test, than Honda is this year, compared to the big 2.

          1. @digitalhank, I think that there is a question as to what the performance is over a single lap, and what the performance is like in race conditions – I don’t think that the answer is clear cut either way.

            Over a single lap, the Honda power unit may have a higher peak power output than the Renault power unit and therefore the car may look good in qualifying trim in the speed traps.

            However, in race trim there is a suggestion that Honda’s energy recovery systems are not quite as efficient as the Renault power unit, so in that situation the balance then shifts back towards Renault. It’s also part of the reason why Red Bull were more competitive in race trim, as there seems to be less of a gap when the teams are having to operate in self-sustaining mode.

            It may therefore be that Red Bull are a bit more competitive in qualifying trim with the Honda power unit, but in race trim that position may then reverse and they might then be better off with the Renault power unit. There were a few comments during the pre-season tests that did seem to suggest Red Bull apparently looked reasonably good over shorter stints, but there were possibly signs of slightly weaker performance over longer stints – it’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if, rather than moving forwards or backwards relative to Ferrari and Mercedes, it turns out that Red Bull are in a similar position to where they were in 2018.

          2. As this being RBR’s first season with a Honda Pu in their car, I think if they can match what they were doing last year that would be great. This debate of whether or not they should have stayed with Renault is moot. The horse has left the barn on that. Now it is going to be about the race between Honda and Renault to out develope each other as they both try to reach Mercedes and Ferrari. The Max and the Newey factors are going to be big as the season(s) go along. If Renault and Honda are pretty even Pu-wise for me Max and Newey will separate them in RBR/Honda’s favour, imho of course.

          3. So… You’re comparing 2018 Renault’s engine with 2019 honda’s? At least compare same year engines.

          4. No I am comparing how RBR did last year with how they might do this year, Pu and chassis combined.

  4. We could genuinely have a season where we go into every race-weekend not knowing which of the 3! teams would be the fastest. Also the midfield is massively competitive, which is great aswell… This could be one hell of a season!

  5. Even though I expect yet another honda season for the honda teams (tons of penalties and poor races due to gaming the penalty system) I really really hope red bull can make the step up and make it a real 3 way fight for the wins and championships. I really hope honda can build a reliable and fast engine. Even though it is still 2 division sport having a proper fight at the top end would make things a lot more interesting.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    5th March 2019, 14:05

    Oh no please don’t hype it up anymore! It’s like watching someone shooting themselves in the foot in slow motion.

    I HOPE that it’s true. Red Bull-Honda on par or close enough to snatch victory and fight with Mercedes and Ferrari would be fantastic, but if it’s not and they end up mostly broken down or qualifying and finishing races out of the top three this kind of quote is going to look remarkably bad.

    1. I agree, we only have a vague idea as to how good the Honda engine is compared to the other engines. Teams weren’t under an obligation to run their car in a way that lets others make an assessment about it. We hear some teams are going to be upgrading their aerodynamics at Melbourne, so we can’t even be sure if the car we saw is what will be presented at Melbourne.
      For me the use of just one Honda engine during testing is a reason for optimism, but the drivers would have been told how to drive. Get into a race, add some adrenaline, and suddenly instructions can seem ambiguous.

    2. Horner says he hopes they have a good season too. I don’t agree that this is hype let alone too much hype. I think RBR are being quite reasonable in what they have said. If they have closed the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari he is not saying they are now matching them…just closer.

    3. Well atleast one team is optomistic, Wolff is so pessimistic in his outlook I think Merc fans will just be relieved if they can take the fight to Williams later this season….

  7. Can.Not.Wait.

  8. Cristiano Ferreira
    5th March 2019, 14:45

    Maybe he is speaking the truth, after all they have the data to back his claim. I dont think the Honda engine is THAT powerful though.

    He is speaking about the potential the engine has to develop across the season i guess.

    At least they have the power of the dreams. Too bad McLaren could not wait a bit more to see it develop.

    1. Mclaren needed to have Red Bulls company culture to develop the Honda engine properly. Red bull took the renault pig and made it work. Now Honda is being given the Red Bull corporate gift. JMHO

      1. Cristiano Ferreira
        5th March 2019, 18:52

        But the Honda engine was really bad in 2015 and torwards middle-end of the 2017 season it showed signs of improvement. Too bad McLaren choose to keep Alonso instead of trying the engine some more.

        I mean, I understand their patience rans out, but at least they got extra cash from Honda for using it and could heap some rewards by now.

        1. Middle-end 2017 mclaren had already made their decision. And who can blame then really? The 2017 start of the season was really bad and honda’s reliability has always been totally awful, end of 2017 and 2018 included. Let’s not forget toro rosso went backwards in 2018 with honda engine whereas mclaren took a step forward with renault. Looking at results it was the right move for mclaren for sure.

  9. I think you should replace the words Honda and Renault on your whole assessment!!! Are you doing propoganda advertising for Honda??

    1. Spamming your bias does not really help :)

  10. RedBull ran both Renault and Honda engines side by side last year, so I would expect them to know what they are saying. If true, that might be a significant image issue for Renault…

  11. Honda, Red Bull and Verstappen fanboys are going to be very disappointed if they believe this PR nonsense.

    I mean they kind of have to talk themselves up, that’s Red Bull and Honda’s excuse. But disillusioned fanboys don’t have any excuse as the results are all there to see.

  12. All Horner claims is they have closed the gap to Merc and Red. And Renault hasn’t?
    Renault may be closer to Merc and Red than Honda/RBR.
    We shall see.

  13. I’d bank on them winning Monaco again. Honda last year seemed to have an ok qualifying mode but still seemed off the boil in the races. That won’t matter in Monaco.

    Not a bad place to claim Honda’s first win in there return to F1.

  14. I don’t believe Horner has any choice but to make such statements. He has to justify the switch to Honda from Renault. It wouldn’t exactly paint them in glory if he were to admit to being further behind. If they are indeed closer who’s to say it’s not due to the changes in aero regs and nothing at all to do with the PU. Maybe they would have been ahead had they stayed with Renault engines. The regulation changes should play right into their strength if Newey is the genius everyone believes him to be.

  15. Hype from RB? I notice MotorSport TV is also on the bandwagon giving very high praise the their progress. So going on whats being said I would fully expect to see RB fighting for the win in Melbourne. Anything less will be a failure.

    1. Why? That RBR has spoken of encouraging progress, and the media has seen that too, does not mean they have progressed to race winning level just like that. So just because progress is talked about, suddenly if they don’t win in Australia that’s failure? That makes no sense. If they and the media had been saying RBR will win the first race, and they didn’t, then sure that would be failure.

      1. @robbie He did not say encouraging progress though did he. He said ‘closed the gap’. Not narrowed or reduced closed I don not believe it, if they maintain 3rd in the field they have done well but with Verstappens new found maturity who knows :))
        Just as an aside Honda are still concerned with the cooling due to the very tight packaging and reliability running at full power funnily enough.

        1. @johnrkh Well Keith starts his article by saying CH “is confident his team will be closer…” So Keith has not taken his words to mean literally ‘has closed.’

          Then CH says of Adrian Newey wrt his level of motivation, “He sees that the engine is now getting closer and closer to the performance of the front running teams.”

          Then CH also says “Our job is to try and close that gap to Ferrari and Mercedes.”

          That you have decided CH has said they have completely closed the gap and are right there with Mercedes and Ferrari is to me just you wanting to see them fail or at least see them eat their words, when in fact they’re actually being diplomatic about their chances. You just chose not to see it that way. But at least you consistently have said they are concerned about the tight packaging when in fact the real comment they made is that they have some tweaks they are making ahead of Australia in that regard, and so have said ‘no big concern.’

          Your choice of interpretation of the quotes and your selectivity of them conjures an image of you sitting their wringing your hands at the prospect of their first dnf or at a poor quali or race. You can’t wait to call them failures because of your own false claims of bravado that you have intentionally inaccurately attributed to them.

          1. Your choice of interpretation of the quotes and your selectivity of them conjures an image of you sitting their wringing your hands at the prospect of their first dnf or at a poor quali or race.

            Haha No I defiantly do not wring my hands nor do I stroke a cat.
            We have Merc and Ferrari both talking down expectations, Renault as well saying they have improved but not there yet. Haas who do look good are quiet. Horner by comparison is talking up the chances like a boxer at the pre fight weigh in.
            Self praise is no recommendation.
            I do want RB to be competitive, Verstappen to start to live up the the hype without punching people or trying to run others off track.
            We will see in a fortnight.

          2. @johnrkh
            Abitboul claimed Renault found 20 or 50 bhp extra this winter.
            You can decide if it’s 20 or 50, they do not seem to know:)

          3. @johnrkh “like a boxer at a pre-fight weigh in”

            “without punching people”

            Yeah you can’t wait to see them fail. Renault gets to say they have improved but aren’t there yet, and when that is what RBR/Honda is saying you have an opposite reaction.

  16. Last year on testing day one, Verstappen’s face said it all.
    This year he had a grin on his face. Says it all to me :-)

    1. Stalker alert.

  17. If the top 3 cars match it is up to the drivers. Let´s wait and see.

    1. For RB’s sake let’s hope they won’t.

    2. then i would bet on crashtappen to win. his talent is really huge.

  18. georgeboole (@)
    5th March 2019, 21:20

    So Ferrari is ahead, RBR is next and Mercedes somewhere around there? Or am I translating it the wrong way.
    Testing times mean nothing as we have seen all the previous years, so Horner jumping into such conclusions is odd.
    At least he asked for some time (2-3 races) until he knows for sure.
    For me the only thing that could make RBR a frontrunner would be Newey integrating the way only he knows that Honda PU on the chassis he designs. If Honda is finally reliable then they got the right decision.

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