Red Bull boss questions Mercedes speed gains

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner has expressed “surprise” after Mercedes took a “significant” step forward with its power unit in recent races.

With this year’s world championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on a knife-edge, every advantage will be crucial in the remaining six races of the season.

Verstappen holds a six point lead after finishing second at the Turkish Grand Prix, but with first place at each race earning 25 points, compared to 18 for second, that margin could disappear at the United States Grand Prix in just over a week.

Mercedes introduced a new specification engine at the Belgian Grand Prix in August, and Horner believes that’s tipped the balance in favour of Mercedes.

“Their straightline speed has taken a significant step recently, and I think that, whereas we could match them with smaller wings previously, now we can’t get near,” Horner told Motorsport.com.

“We saw that particularly at this circuit (in Turkey), where Lewis in particular had a significant straightline advantage with a bigger rear wing of the car.

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“We’ve got to maximise 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.”

The Red Bull boss expects the advantage to see-saw in coming races, although with new tracks in Qatar and Saudi Arabia on the calendar in November and December, it’s still not clear who has the upper hand.

“We know the next race in Austin has been a Hamilton stronghold for quite a few years,” he said. “But then Mexico and Brazil, hopefully higher altitude races tended to be quite strong for us in the past. Then I’m really not sure what to expect from the last three.

“It’s going to be fascinating, but you know we are going to have to be at the very top of our game.

“We’ve managed to extract the maximum that we possibly could here [in Turkey], with great execution in the pit stops, and good strategy. So that was positive. But certainly this venue has been strong for Mercedes on outright pace.”

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