Red Bull boss Christian Horner says Mercedes operational errors this season demonstrate why it is so important his team closes the gap and put the world champions under increased pressure at the front.
Lewis Hamilton was given a ten-second time penalty at the Russian Grand Prix which cost him the chance of victory, meaning he finished third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The penalty was given after the world champion conducted two practice starts from the wrong part of the pit-lane ahead of the race, having been given the go-ahead by Mercedes.
Hamilton also lost what looked like a routine victory at the Italian Grand Prix when Mercedes called him into the pits when it was closed. Horner, who presided over Red Bull’s period of dominance at the beginning of the 2010s, said sloppy errors can easily slip in when a team is unchallenged out in front.
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When asked if the latest Sochi mistake is proof Mercedes is getting complacent, Horner said: “I don’t know. That’s why we desperately would like to get a car to challenge them, because I think operationally we have a very strong team.
After Lewis Hamilton dropped out of contention, Valtteri Bottas beat Max Verstappen to victory in Sochi. Maxim Shemetov – Pool/Getty Images
“We demonstrated that again with the fastest pit stop — if we didn’t break the record [during the race] they were certainly very, very close to it.
“But look, we only focus on ourselves, they obviously have had some issues and when you’re constantly at the front, it’s easier sometimes to be the challenger team. Sometimes complacency can slip in when you’ve had such a period of dominance.”
Hamilton was initially handed two penalty points on his superlicence for the practice start error, but these were later rescinded by the FIA when Mercedes successfully argued it had told its driver to conduct them in the incorrect place. The penalty points were replaced by a 75,000 Euro fine for Mercedes.