Red Bull’s Christian Horner could not resist an opportunity to kick Renault while it was down after the French manufacturer suffered a cruel double retirement in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Red Bull dropped Renault engines for Honda this year and kicked off its new partnership with a podium in Australia. It nearly scored another in Bahrain as Max Verstappen reeled in Charles Leclerc as he struggled with a Ferrari engine down on power.
However, three laps from the end a Safety Car was deployed when former Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo and his new Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg suffered terminal car issues at almost the same moment while running in the top ten. The race would finish under the Safety Car while the two yellow cars could be safely removed from trackside, meaning Leclerc was able to hold on to third as Verstappen was not allowed to overtake.
Horner playfully pointed out the irony of the situation after the race, having cut short the Renault supply due to frustrations at being unable to challenge for a championship.
“Renault blowing up unfortunately didn’t help us see the podium,” he said, laughing. “It’s ironic, isn’t it? Whether they’re in the car or out of the car!”
Horner’s frosty relationship with Renault’s F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul is one of the main subjects of the newly-released ‘Drive to Survive’ documentary, which followed the 2018 season.
Having switched engines for this year, Red Bull appears to be comfortably between the top two and the midfield at this stage of the season. The team has been encouraged by the early signs of the new partnership but Horner knows more is needed to bridge the gap.
“I think we need to find more performance. Ferrari were very strong here this weekend. Mercedes have got lucky with a one-two. Ferrari were dominant here this weekend. So trying to understand where we are, the strengths and weaknesses to Ferrari here is quite important.”
Horner hinted that one of the biggest issues Red Bull faced all weekend was extracting the maximum from its tyres during a weekend and says the change in form Ferrari encountered between Australia and Bahrain shows how vital this is to competitiveness.
“You can see; once you get in the window, particularly with these tyres, [Ferrari] looked like a different team to two different weeks ago and vice versa with Mercedes so it’s just understanding what the magic is…
“We just don’t seem to have been able to extract the most out of the tyres in both qualifying and the race. How much is that effected by the wind? It’s difficult to say. But I think the drivers have done a good job to get the most out of the car. But when you listen to their comments they’re not in a happy window at the moment with where the car is capable of being.”