While Hamilton did get some extra power from his new engine, that means he will receive a five-place drop penalty in Sunday’s race.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the difference between Hamilton and third-placed teammate Valtteri Bottas can be explained by the new power unit, and that shows the gains that have been made.
Speaking to Sky, Horner said: “Obviously the new engine gives him more horses. So I think second place was the best we could get. So we are satisfied with being in front row.”
When asked what the new engine offers, Horner said: “It’s hard for us to assess, but if we look at the speed compared to the Valtteri, maybe a few tenths of a second. That’s why they chose to get the engine here.”
Although he felt Hamilton had a power advantage, Horner said Red Bull was happy with its car, and felt his team had a good chance given Hamilton’s penalty in the main race.
“I think we have a good race car,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot hotter the rest of the weekend. The tires are going to play an important role here. It was cold today (Friday), but we’ll see what it will be like tomorrow.”
Helmut Marko, the team’s motorsport advisor, believes the 0.4-second difference between Hamilton and Verstappen does not reflect the true pace.
“Max didn’t have a perfect lap, so the real difference is two-tenths of a second. However, that’s still a big difference on this short circuit,” he said.
He added: “Usually our speed in the race is better than qualifying. We hope that it will happen tomorrow. The race will be all about the tyres. Will the Medium formula hold when you press fully? Being on the front row is really satisfactory, but we’re not happy with the difference. But we didn’t lose anything. Nothing yet. If we are in the same position, we will start from pole one on Sunday. We can’t expect more at the moment.”
Although Verstappen struggled to maintain his front tires in the cold Friday conditions, Horner believes the hot conditions for the rest of the weekend will shift the focus to the rear.
“I think the race will be in different conditions,” he said. “We talked about the front axle, but it will be about the rear axle in the short race tomorrow and also on Sunday because of the hot weather. So I think we have a good race car. We’ll see.”
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