Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner feels Mercedes might have made significant gains with their new power unit. The Silver Arrows had introduced the upgrade at the Russian Grand Prix on Valtteri Bottas’ car. It was then installed in Lewis Hamilton's car for the Turkish Grand Prix.
Speaking after the race in Istanbul, Horner suggested that Mercedes have taken a "significant step" forward with their new power unit. According to the Milton Keynes team boss, his title rivals could have an edge when it comes to straight-line speed post the upgrade.
Evaluating Mercedes’ form in Turkey with the new power unit, Horner said:
“Their straightline speed has taken a significant step recently, and I think that (while) we could match them with smaller wings previously, now we can't get near.”
Christian Horner impressed with Mercedes' straightline speed
While Hamilton started the race from 11th place due to a grid penalty, he still set the pace on Friday and Saturday. Bottas' dominant victory validated the horsepower progress made by the Silver Arrows outfit. Although the Turkish circuit favors the Mercedes, their straight-line speed has taken their rivals by surprise.
Commenting on Hamilton’s performance in Turkey, Horner said:
“Lewis in particular had a significant straightline advantage with a bigger rear wing on the car. We've got to maximize our package as best we can and, as I say, it's surprising that they've made the step that they have with the power unit. I mean, if you look at the straightline speed of particularly Lewis [in the race], it was like 15 to 20 [km/h] up after the kink on the straight. It’s phenomenal.”
On how they plan to match their rivals, the Red Bull Racing boss said:
“We’ve got to find a bit of straightline speed – maybe they were running a different downforce configuration, but some speed to find. And we’ve got some tracks coming up that hopefully suit us, but we know Austin is Hamilton territory, so we’re going to have to be on our A-game.”
On being asked if Mercedes' speed was suspicious or even protest-worthy, Horner replied:
"Just for clarity, we didn’t protest it. We raised some questions, as all teams do. [And] it wasn’t just Red Bull, by the way, there were other manufacturers raising questions as well that continue to be raised. It’s something that’s down to the FIA to look at, for them to police."
The Red Bull Racing team principal shrugged off any notion of being suspicious of Mercedes and admired the progress, saying:
“When you’ve got great straightline speed that’s greater than with the DRS opened, that’s pretty impressive.”
While Red Bull Racing started their Turkish GP weekend on the backfoot, struggling with balance issues, they managed a double-podium finish and reclaimed the drivers' championship lead. Despite Mercedes’ prowess over the last two races, one can never discount the ability of Horner's squad to eke out more pace at the US Grand Prix in Austin.