Mercedes PU performance step ‘surprising’ – Horner

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says the straight-line speed performance of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes power unit was “surprising” at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton took a new internal combustion engine (ICE) in Istanbul as Mercedes was worried about the reliability of its power unit heading into the final part of the season, and started from 11th on the grid. While carrying a higher downforce setup — made clear by a large rear wing on Hamilton’s car — that was suited to the wet conditions, Hamilton was particularly quick in a straight line despite that level of drag, and Horner says it marks a clear advantage for Mercedes.

“I think you know, their straight-line 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 said. “We saw that particularly at this circuit where Lewis in particular had a significant straight-line advantage with a bigger rear wing of 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.”

Horner says the Mercedes advantage with Hamilton was bigger than teams gain when opening the DRS in a race situation, although that couldn’t be seen in Turkey as the overtaking aid was never activated in the race because of the weather conditions.

“I think you can see across all of their teams, they’ve obviously got some reliability issues that they’re managing, which is unusual for Mercedes, but the performance is still incredibly impressive,” he noted. “Where one comes at the expense of the other, I don’t know but certainly (on Sunday) it’s been highlighted I think if you look at some of the speed deltas on the back straight — at some points it was 15 to 20 km/h (9-12mph), which is more than if they had been DRS.”

Horner says Red Bull will be analyzing the Mercedes performance to see where gains were made in Turkey and the reasons why his team struggled in comparison.

“Formula 1 being the business that it is, we have a whole bunch of analysis looking at all elements whether it’s a power unit, whether it’s grip levels, whether it’s whatever — specifics to our car, our competitors, that’s the nature of the game.

“I’m sure that the serious teams will be looking as well. You’re always learning in this business and on a day like (Sunday) you’re going by the seat of the pants because what the simulation data tells you, you’ve got to react to what you can see and what the drivers are feeling.”