There were shades of 2013 in Mexico when Red Bull locked out the front row for the first time in the hybrid era. And while you shouldn’t count on that happening twice in a row, after the team conceded that pole position at Interlagos will likely by contested between the Mercedes and Ferrari runners, team boss Christian Horner nonetheless believes that his drivers could yet pose a threat in race trim.
Red Bull enjoyed a mixed Friday at Interlagos, Max Verstappen narrowly coming out on top in Free Practice 1, while in the FP2 qualifying simulations, Daniel Ricciardo was the team’s highest runner in fourth, behind the two Mercedes and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel – although fifth-placed Verstappen was compromised by an oil leak that kept him constrained in the garage for half the session, before encountering traffic on his supersoft-shod fast laps when he finally made it out on track.
Qualifying in Brazil has not been the team’s strong suit in the post-2014 hybrid era, with Red Bull having never had better than the third fastest car at Interlagos in that time. That’s largely down to a hilly Sector 3, which tends to highlight their car’s horsepower deficit to the Ferrari and Mercedes runners. But while in real terms that means, as Ricciardo put it, that ‘pole’s probably a bit of a stretch’, race pace analysis suggests that the team could still come away from Brazil with a result on Sunday.
“You can see the car is great in the middle sector,” said Horner. “We’re okay in the first sector. It’s the last sector that is a bit painful. If we can get a car on the second row here, we’ve got good race pace – you could see the others were blistering their tyres quicker than we were. I think come Sunday, especially if the temperature increases, we’re in good shape.”