Baku, June 24, AZERTAC
Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that Max Verstappen's strong Friday form in Baku proves that the team's development programme is paying dividends, according to motorsport.com.
Tracks with long straights like Baku are always a concern for the team, but a low-downforce set-up appeared to work well on Friday, as Verstappen led both sessions.
In addition, the team has chosen Baku to make its one permitted change of gear ratios for the season, in company with fellow Renault user Toro Rosso.
That has been done to get the best out of the updates that the manufacturer has introduced since the start of the year, at a track with the greatest pay-off.
Renault's latest software updates allow its teams to run the power unit more aggressively for longer.
"It's great, it's showing that we're making progress with the chassis," said Horner. "The chassis is working well round here. It's been a positive day, and we've got to try and build on it for tomorrow.
"It's part of constant development that we're pushing to introduce developments to the car. Every race try and be a little bit better.
"The whole team is doing a super job, the drivers are finding their confidence in the car, and particularly Max, you can see he looks very confident around here.
"We managed to get a podium in Montreal, which was against expectations. I think Max would have had a very competitive race, I think he could even have beaten Bottas with the pace that he was showing.
"I think genuinely in the last couple of races we've put some good performance onto the car. You've seen that a little bit in Barcelona, certainly in Monaco. Montreal was positive, and today's been a positive day."
Horner said one of the keys was the ability of the drivers to deal with the low downforce levels.
"We know on a Saturday that Ferrari and Mercedes have a little bit of performance in hand, they turn things up a bit, which will be tough to go with this circuit. But if we can get a car on the first couple of rows here, it will be a great result."
Last year Red Bull's race was ruined by tyre overheating issues that forced very early pit stops, but Horner is confident that there won't be a repeat.
"I think we cooked the tyres last year, the temperatures were pretty high, and if anything we put too much emphasis into qualifying that caught us out in the race on the supersoft – on the soft we were in the window OK.
"So hopefully we've learned our lessons from that. Different tyre, different construction, certainly both the guys are looking competitive."
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