Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Paul Ricard, 2021

Paul Ricard win would show Red Bull can beat Mercedes anywhere – Horner

2021 French Grand Prix

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Red Bull CEO Christian Horner says his team can beat Mercedes anywhere if they can beat them in tomorrow’s French Grand Prix.

Horner hailed a “great team performance” by Red Bull after Max Verstappen took pole position by over two tenths of a second from the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

“It’s fantastic,” he told Sky. “It’s our first ever pole in France. So a great performance by Max today.

“He’s been quick pretty much in most of the sessions throughout the weekend. And I think as a team, they’ve been improving the car with each session.”

Sergio Perez will line up fourth behind the two Mercedes drivers. “To have Checo up there as well, building on his form from Baku, is a great team performance,” Horner added.

Hamilton and Mercedes had taken pole position and victory in both races at the Paul Ricard circuit since its return to the calendar in 2018. Horner said outperforming their rivals at what is traditionally one of their strongest venues gives the team confidence

“It certainly gives us more confidence,” says Horner. “Let’s see how tomorrow goes, but this circuit, it’s been such a stronghold for Mercedes over the recent years. So, if we can beat them here, then really we can beat them anywhere.

“There’s a lot at stake, obviously, but the whole team is just working incredibly well, working long hours. It’s difficult this year because you’ve got the current car, you’ve got next year’s car, you’ve got the cost cap and everything else going on. But as a unit, to see the whole team coming together as it is and putting this pressure on Mercedes is phenomenal.”

Hamilton commented on Red Bull’s superior straight line speed after qualifying. Horner explained how the team had deliberately opted for a lower downforce setup for the weekend.

“We’ve taken a bit of downforce out of the car. You can probably see by the size of the rear wing between us and Mercedes. We’re using less energy in sector two. So we’re going faster down the stretch because we’ve got less resistance there.

“We’re still managing to do a very good time in sector three, so that’s helping us to generate a competitive lap time around here. And hopefully we’ll be good for the race tomorrow.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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27 comments on “Paul Ricard win would show Red Bull can beat Mercedes anywhere – Horner”

  1. Dear Horner, i like your optimism but let’s wait to see what will happen tomorrow.

    1. You are right. But first stroke is important.
      At least Mercedes have to fight for the win, something they are not really used to.

    2. @bluechris Isn’t that why he says ‘if’ they can beat Mercedes here?

      1. Indeed, and he used WOULD, not WILL!

  2. Red Bull have been stuck with a hugely inferior power unit to Mercedes for the last 8 years. 2021 is the first time in the hybrid era where they don’t have much of a power deficit, and they are immediately championship contenders again.

    Looks like Red Bull never really forgot how to build aerodynamics, it’s just that their wings have been clipped for most of the hybrid era.

    1. And Toto tried to clip their wings again but failed miserably.

      1. Quite literally ‘clip their wings’ as well

        1. Ahah, true, as they were bending!

          1. Can imagine wolff with a hammer and a nail trying to clip red bull’s wings!

  3. Red Bull is obviously faster than Mercedes.
    They were crying out loud that Mercedes has an “engine mode”, which got banned. (It’s so funny to read Verstappen’s comments “We now got our own party mode” after the switch to Honda, and then the FIA bans this mode because Honda doesn’t have it, and they need Red Bull to catch up.) Mercedes had the DAS, Red Bull cried again, so the FIA banned the DAS.

    I merely hope that Red Bull doesn’t win this year. They don’t deserve it.
    PS: I am not a fan of Mercedes or Hamilton.

    1. On the other hand, Mercedes cried out against the flexi-wings and got them banned.

      1. @randommallard After losing out disproportionately with the new regulations designed to curb overall speed (because of exploding tyres) which affected low rake cars far more heavily – and in my view unfairly. Mercedes took that pretty well, I thought. I read the protest on flexi-wings as basically ‘enough.’ Yes it’s great the racing is closer. But it’s essentially contrived at Mercedes’ cost. The only thing they’ve done is built a faster car over the years.

        1. @david-br
          “After losing out disproportionately with the new regulations designed to curb overall speed (because of exploding tyres) which affected low rake cars far more heavily”

          After losing out disproportionately with the new engine formula designed to please the manufacturers (because of money and such) which affected customer cars (and especially those paying 20 million a year for a Renault engine) far more heavily – and in basically every F1 loving fan unnecerrary.

          Had it not been for that rule change, RBR would be celebrating their 12th title in a row.

          1. “and in basically every F1 loving fan unnecerrary”

            and in basically every F1 loving fan’s point of view unnecessary

        2. @david-br I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I don’t really see what alternative they had to the new floor regs tbh. Pirelli did (at least try to) make harder compounds. They could have cut back elsewhere, but that would probably have effected high rake cars more heavily, and they make up the majority of the field. The FIA knew someone would be affected disproportionately and went with the side with fewer teams. Of course they were trying to get the teams to all sign a new Concorde Agreement at the same point last year as well, so I don’t know if that had any part in it either.

          (Another quick note, I don’t think there was ever a formal protest over flexi-wings, just a strong nudge in that direction. That may have been what you meant, I’m probably reading too literally.)

          The only thing they’ve done is built a faster car over the years.

          I can’t argue with this. I am in awe of the Mercedes team over recent years and cannot argue that they have had the fastest car for almost all of the hybrid era. But that ends up opening positive feedback loops (i.e. you win, get more money, can spend more, can higher better engineers/drivers, can win more, repeat). This video explains this very well. Eventually, something is going to have to be changed to stop one team/manufacturer winning everything, and this goes back many, many years. It was ground effect for Lotus, turbos for Honda, electronics for Williams, the entire 2005 rules changes for Ferrari, and hybrids for Red Bull.

          1. @randommallard Yes, protest as in making enough noises to cause an effect. As for the rest, I agree that at some point Mercedes’s domination has to be ended somehow, however unfair that is, because you end up with a virtual winning monopoly. Perfectly put. I just think (as shown by results and the overall title tables) that it’s now finally balanced n between Red Bull and Mercedes this season, so from an impartial spectator viewpoint (not that I’m claiming one) flexi-wings weren’t a necessary extra.

          2. @david-br It is a great storyline for people to hype up the rivalry though. Netflix will have a field day…

    2. They did not banned it because Honda did not have it.
      Honda and Renault did had something similar but by no means as effective.
      BTW read the story about the playing with the engine modes to avoid restrictions by Mercedes. Patty Lowe story.
      Lady year the front wing limitation hurt red bull the most. They solved the problem as good as it gets without whining.

  4. Mmm,, so Redbull are compensating for the loss flex in their rear wings and their previous ‘advantage’ on the straights. Interesting. trying to achieve the same effect by reducing down force for the straights. This should mean Mercedes has an advantage for the twisty turny aspects of the courses, it may even lead to Mercedes reducing their downforce too.

    1. Mmm, so after the bendy wing rule change and the new regulations regarding tyre pressure, Mercedes suddenly lose all the advantage they had…..sounds very suspicious.

      Last time they were here, Red Bull ran even lower downforce yet they were down 1.1 second on Mercedes.

      Really makes one wonder what illegal tricks Mercedes have been playing these last 7 years.

  5. Generally speaking less wing wing will mean Mercedes are closing quickly on verstappen at the end of the stints and makes undercut exposure bigger. If he can’t drop Hamilton at the start this will be a good scrap. I think they will have to deploy Perez to stop bottas from deploying an undercut threat on verstappen. Or to stop bottas from going for two stops with an early soft tire second stint to try play the “hare”. RBR need to get Perez between or ahead of the Mercedes even if it costs major race time.

  6. Anon A. Mouse
    19th June 2021, 17:37

    Red Bull should be applauded in the progress they’ve made, for one reason or another. However, Red Bull should be concerned that they’re only edging ahead against a Mercedes car that is seeing no development this year (unless Red Bull has frozen development on this year’s car as well).

    1. According to Toto, Mercedes still develops. The switch to 2022 is not started.
      Of course both teams already started for 2022.

  7. Wait a Team Principal that doesn’t think falsely claim the other team are the favourites and they the underdogs despite the perfomances?
    What world is this?
    On the Bright Side, it’s nice not to see headlines about Wolf crier

    1. Indeed, I see far more honesty from red bull or ferrari than mercedes. Mclaren also seem honest.

  8. I think we need to see if Red Bull can beat Mercedes at Silverstone and Monza as well Christian.

    1. There’s not a lot of tracks that are temples of speed in the calendar, don’t think it’s a big problem as long as you can beat them in the most typical tracks.

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