Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2019

Red Bull’s Brazil performance wasn’t “all engine”, say rivals

2019 F1 season

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Red Bull’s strong Brazilian Grand Prix performance wasn’t just down to gains made with their Honda power unit, their rivals believe.

The team scored its first win from pole position of the 2019 season last weekend, demonstrating the progress they have made in their first season with power unit supplier Honda.

Prior to the race Max Verstappen claimed the team’s potential had been disguised since the summer break. Afterwards Mercedes technical director James Allison admitted they had seen the growing threat from Red Bull.

“They were strong here,” he said. “Like they were strong in Mexico, but didn’t have a chance to show it.”

“[But] no way can you say that strength was all engine,” he added. Red Bull had strong straight-line speed throughout the weekend. At the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes was unable to out-drag Pierre Gasly’s Honda-powered Toro Rosso before the finishing line.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said Red Bull’s gains did not come from its engines alone. “It’s the same engines they had in the last races,” he said. “They could not have done progress here in Brazil. So I’m not sure that’s the right conclusion.”

Binotto believes Red Bull have found a set-up which allows them to achieve greater straight-line speed without sacrificing much performance in the corners. Meanwhile Ferrari has been going in the opposite direction, trading off its superior top speed to find time in the corners.

“They were fast around the lap, that were fast on the straight as well, that we need to analyse. But if I look our qualifying compared to them I think we’re almost matching their grip-limited and very close as well on the straight lines, they’re more power-limited. So I think it’s a balance again between aero configuration, what you’re choosing.

“It’s the very first time maybe where [we] are so close to them in grip-limited, showing that as car Ferrari are moving a different set-up direction, giving advantage in the cornering. So maybe it’s all relative.

“If we have gained relative to them in the cornering they certainly have gained to us in the straights now.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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26 comments on “Red Bull’s Brazil performance wasn’t “all engine”, say rivals”

  1. I would love to read some RaceFans technical analysis on this, if you plan to make it available. The possibility that they will be able to fight consistently for wins next season is very exciting.

    1. yeah, indeed, where is Craig? is he still around? I always loved his technical analysis even though I couldn’t always comprehend the entirety of it.

    2. At the end of 2018 i was hoping the same thing. 2019 was going to be the year when we will finally have Max fight for the championship. After all the hype, new front wings, and a supposedly very fast Ferrari, we come to the first 5 races and its a Mercedes 1-2 every single time. The championship was basically decided well before the summer break. This allows Mercedes to focus on 2020 much earlier than the other teams. They will sandbag and let Ferrari shine during testing, and praise their rivals cars the entire season to make it look like they are the underdogs. Brilliant PR tactic.

      I hope 2020 is different. But i’ve been hoping since 2014.

      1. @vjanik except they scored all those 1-2’s through greater trackside operations, strategy and reliability. You can’t sandbag those things nor begrudge them nailing those aspects when others didnt.

        By all counts the winning streak should have been nipped in the bud performance wise by race 2. RACE TWO! Hardly the sign of a dominant machine. And lets not even get into how they’ve been pummeled in qualifying constantly.

        Better drivers, reliability and cooler heads have won them these championships, not exceptional performance.

        1. “they scored all those 1-2’s through greater trackside operations, strategy and reliability”

          Is that how they crushed the competition in qualifying in Melbourne??

          That session was especially meaningful given it was the first real session of the season, the only session where Merc don’t have a solid understanding of their own advantage.

          Since then they’ve been in efficiency mode.

        2. Better drivers

          RIC and VER were the best driver pairing in recent times. Mercedes have had the most dominant cars in history. the 2014 car was out qualified only once.
          Mercedes could save some money and give the drives to at least 5 other drivers and get the same results. The car is the best on its tires and they seem to have the best race engineers. Even disagreeing with HAM, but still getting him the results he needed.

        3. It also helps that their cars don’t collide with each other.

      2. Red Bull was not going for the WC in 2019 as they wanted to learn in 2019 to joining Honda into their chassis. 2020 is looking good for Red Bull and let we hope Honda can bring several new specs during the test fase.

  2. I would love to see some GPS traces, or any real hard data teams say they base their oppinion on.

    STR Honda was faster than Mercedes. And Mercedes is pretty fast!

    RedBull pride themself to have a great chassis, on a track like this – at altitude, where Mercedes engine struggles to be at peak performance, they might aswell take it from Mercedes.

    Next year could be extremely competitive, considering rules are stable and both Ferrari and Honda are raising their game.

    If we had now 20 more races championship would be close and contested.

    1. All teams planned for a 21 race season not a 41 race season. Had they planned for a 41 race season the outcome would be very similar. RB always turn it on when the season is finished. Let’s not knock that…wins are wins after all but…RB have used 5 Pus to Mercs 3 this year. I’m not entirely sure about TRs PU usage but I’m certain it’s more than 3. Combine that fresher PU with some altitude and you have the Brazil GP 2019.Also in Mexico they were very fast. I hope we have a close season next year. Mercs and Lewis’ winning run has to end at some point but let’s be realistic… its unlikely to happen in 2020. The last 6 seasons should have taught us something after all. Every year between Nov and March we get the same optimistic analysis and every year we get the same result. Merc and Lewis are an awesome combination and it’s going to take an amazing effort to dethrone them. An effort I don’t think anyone on the grid is capable of yet.

  3. Well they have to come up with something.
    Since the FIA issued a string of technical directives the Honda engined cars seem to have an advantage. Ferrari and Mercedes need to point out other reasons for that shift than the directives or it would not look good on them.

    1. You mean like the one where Mercedes scored a 1-2 after one of them? That technical directive?

  4. Now that reliability doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore, RedBull needs to push harder and start the season a lot better. They have a great aero team, but in recent times they were only able to improve significantly after the summer break, which was already too late.

    Also, regarding STR and the development of the 2020 cars, why don’t they just take this year’s RedBull design and go from there? Would it be illegal to do that or is RedBull afraid they would not have enough of a margin on the new car?

    1. @gechichan

      Also, regarding STR and the development of the 2020 cars, why don’t they just take this year’s RedBull design and go from there?

      Because that is not allowed. Teams can only go two directions: either they design their car themselves, or they let a third party do the design – in this last case this design is solely reserved and accessible for one team only.

      Most teams design the car themselves. Haas outsources the basic design to Dallara.

      One thing should be mentioned: there’s a specific list of parts that can be bought from other teams and used as is. Haas are going this route with Ferrari – they basically buy all allowed parts from Ferrari. But these parts aren’t really that instructive for performance. Important car design, principles and aero cannot be bought over.

      IIRC Toro Rosso will follow the Haas model next year, buying everything they can from RBR. Or it could be they’re already doing that this year. But they’re still designing the critical parts themselves.

  5. Well Red Bull claim that it wasn’t their engine that improved, but that first Ferrari and then Mercedes had to stop their “cheating” after the technical directives closed some potential loop holes.

    Of course the thing is that Mercedes engines have done 6 races. While Honda kept on taking new engines. Gasly was on his 7th engine vs Hamilton’s 3rd. Obviously that allows Gasly much more use of higher power modes.

    Plus Hamilton would probably have used up (some of) his battery in his attempt to overtake Albon. While Gasly still had a full battery.

  6. People are putting way to much emphasis on Honda for Gasly out dragging Hamilton… Gasly simply drove really really well in that last corner and got a much better exit than Hamilton, masterclass from him. Also, the Honda power advantage comes at the end of a straight not when accelerating out of corners

    1. This.

      Plus we need to remember Hamilton’s front wing was pretty heavily damaged which would have reduced his stability into the last corner and probably added drag as well.

  7. Just what I thought red bulls chassis is so good they can sacrifice corners for more straight line speed thats why they are quick on tracks like brazil but slow at most others

    1. Slow at most others? Not lately.

    2. @carlosmedrano

      Allison said Merc has the best turbo design over the season.

  8. HAM gets beaten and the British emphasis is always on how come the other cars were so fast.
    Yet we were led to believe his wins were all down to him.

    Keith quoted on Monday a Mercedes engineer and Bottas both saying their turbo design suited HAM at other tracks because their design is a compromise. Bottas said it was mostly power up the hill which cost them this time.
    Yet not a single article or poster has mentioned the Merc advantage at the tracks their turbo works better .
    Also why wasn’t HAM making up for it elsewhere? Like he did in all of his wins. Like Senna and Alonso did when their cars were down on power.

    In ALO’s case it was 70HP down at the end of 2008 and he outscored HAM in 5 races. In the last 8 races ALO didn’t finish outside the top 4 (with 1 retire) . Let that sink in. HAM got 2 x 5ths a 7th and a 12th.

    1. what a boring bloke.

      1. Edvaldo

        Yawn.

        I’ve been learning German and noted the contrast on German Motorsport sites.
        They are all bigging up Max Verstappen. Strangely you’d have thought the British would have appreciated MV more. German fans want him at Mercedes. HAM will veto it.
        2021 is going to madness on these message boards.

    2. @bigjoe Are you having a laugh?

      You are seriously going to pretend that Alonso cheating to a win in Singapore somehow means he’s “better” than Hamilton?

      Also, does it smell really bad where you took that HP difference from?

      Mercedes already tried to hire Verstappen twice. Where does the nonsense come from that Hamilton would veto that? How daft do you have to be to assume he even has a veto over who is team mate would be. Do you think Rosberg would have been there still in 2015 if he had actually that veto?

  9. Apparently the opposition doesn’t seem to think the drivers have anything to do with the performance of the team.

    1. It may be down to state of battery, but I watched a replay of the Gasly-Hamilton drag race and the STR was going 301 at the line and the Mercedes was at 300 even with the slipstream of being to the side and behind the other car. That Honda has some grunt now.

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