Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull Racing, has responded to Mercedes driver George Russel’s claims that Red Bull is “sandbagging” and that they really hold almost a second per lap advantage over their next-fastest rivals.
Horner said that the Brit’s comments were “very generous” and says that they infact don’t hold a huge advantage over the rest of the field.
The reigning world champions have however enjoyed a very good start to the 2023 F1 campaign, taking two pole position at all three Grand Prix, three wins and two 1-2 finishes.
With newcomers to the front of the grid Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Mercedes battling it out for “best of the rest” positions, Russel said after the Australian Grand Prix that the bulls have “no reason to be pushing” given the advantage the flashy RB19 has over the rest of the grid.
“For sure, they’re holding back. I think they almost are embarrassed to show their full potential. I think realistically they probably have [a] seven-tenths advantage over the rest of the field,” the Mercedes driver told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.
“I don’t know what the pace difference looks like at the moment, but Max has got no reason to be pushing it, nor [have] Red Bull. They’ve done a really great job to be fair to them, we can’t take that away, and we clearly have to up our game to compete.”
When team boss Horner got news of Russell’s remarks he pointed his finger at Mercedes’s impressive run of seven consecutive drivers titles and eight constructors titles, their most recent title stolen from Red Bull as they took the driver’s championship. He also said this: “Okay, that’s very generous of him. His team of all people would know too well about those kind of advantages.”
After being pushed by reporters to verify if there is any truth to Russell’ comments, Horner said that both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez would have been managing their pace throughout the GP as they were racing with a one-stop strategy.
After being passed by both Mercedes drivers in a chaotic start, Verstappen recovered to take victory and reclaim the championship lead from his teammate who also had a great recovery run from 20th to 5th.
“There’s always an element of managing that goes on in any race. Because it was a one-stop race, and a very early one-stop race, of course there was an element of tyre management which was going on, which was what they were doing,” the Red Bull team boss continued.
“Checo wasn’t hanging about; he wasn’t cruising around, holding back seven-tenths per lap because he didn’t want to show it – the grid was certainly a little bit closer at this venue.”
Red bull currently hold a 58-point lead over the next-best constructor Aston Martin and Max Verstappen holds a 15-point lead over his teammate Sergio Perez.