Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing came to the Nürburgring last weekend with some updates to the RB16. According to the Limburger and his teammate Alexander Albon, this brought them closer to the dominant Mercedes. Still, there is still a lot of work to be done by both Red Bull and Honda if the chance of victories is to really come into view.
Looking at the time that Verstappen has to admit in qualifying this season on the fastest Mercedes, Red Bull is indeed catching up. According to a calculation by Formula 1, an average of 0.4 seconds on a lap has been made up on the formation of World Cup leader Lewis Hamilton since the start of the season.
The update that was introduced in Germany this weekend, according to Verstappen, mainly put an end to the fickle nature of the RB16, which certainly surprised the drivers negatively at the beginning of the season with a large portion of upset.
Many spider were due to this problem. Verstappen and teammate Albon were satisfied that this problem had been solved.
Gat Verstappen to fastest Mercedes in qualifying
- Austria I – 0.5 second
- Austria II – 1.2 seconds
- Hungary – 1.4 seconds
- Great Britain I – 1 second
- Great Britain II – 1 second
- Spain – 0.7 second
- Belgium – 0.5 second
- Italy (Monza) – 0.9 seconds
- Italy (Mugello) – 0.4 seconds
- Russia – 0.5 second
- Germany – 0.3 seconds
Verstappen could not keep up with Mercedes
Despite this good news, the reality on Sunday was that Verstappen couldn’t keep up with the Mercedes if they really accelerated.
That became clear at two moments: after Verstappen and Hamilton had stopped simultaneously after the virtual safety car on the sixteenth lap, the Limburger came closer to the Briton just as quickly. When the World Cup leader also had his tires at the right temperature, he easily drove away from his attacker of Red Bull.
The same happened after the safety car came into action and both drivers competed towards the finish flag on used soft tires. Hamilton again quite simply drove away from Verstappen, who still found the speed to clock the fastest lap time. There was no real threat to Mercedes. No wonder that Verstappen was very happy with his second place with a sense of reality.
The Nürburgring nicely exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the Red Bull. Verstappen was consistently fast in the technical first sector, but lost time when it came to engine power. The loss of time in the last chicane and the last corner was particularly noticeable.
Max Verstappen gets a champagne shower from winner Lewis Hamilton. (Photo: ANP)
Verstappen is still on his own
Another more strategic disadvantage is the lack of a competitive teammate. If one of the Mercedes fails, there is always a car left in the front of the field. Red Bull always fights on one leg. On Sunday Albon was again in no field or roads and was especially noticeable in a negative sense by complaining about other drivers “who race against him so hard”.
Red Bull always expresses confidence in British Thai, but according to the normal Formula 1 laws, he should have been on the kick seat for a long time.
In terms of speed, Verstappen can cling to the fact that the updates to the Red Bull have hardly been properly evaluated. The Dutchman still complained about understeer after qualifying, something that could normally have been remedied in three hours of free practice on Friday. That time on the asphalt was lost in the fog of the German Eifel.
The question is therefore whether the full potential has been used. There will be new opportunities for this in two weeks in the unknown Portimão. And the chance of fog is slightly smaller in the Portuguese Algarve.
Even then, it is unlikely that there will be enough speed in the RB16 in the short term to consistently threaten Mercedes, except for the second race at Silverstone. Red Bull is on the right track, but that road is still very long.