Red Bull: Catching Mercedes, Ferrari down to Q3 engine modes
Red Bull boss Christian Horner thinks the impetus is now on Renault to unleash better qualifying engine modes if his team is going to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari regularly over the remainder of the year.
The Milton Keynes-based outfit has made good gains with its chassis since getting over early-season windtunnel correlation problems.
But although its race pace now appears to be as strong as F1's pace-setters, Horner is mindful that its hopes on Sunday afternoons are compromised by it starting too far back – as a consequence of Q3 engine modes that Mercedes and Ferrari drivers are able to employ.
"The car is getting stronger and stronger under race conditions, and again it was a very competitive grand prix for us in Hungary," said Horner, when asked about the role of Renault in his team's hopes for the rest of the year.
"So if we can just find that little bit more [engine] performance. You saw in qualifying that Max [Verstappen] was second-quickest in Q1 and Q2, but you get to the latter part of qualifying and you need that little bit extra to go with our major competitors."
Pushed on whether it was realistic to expect big engine changes this year, with Renault focused on getting its 2018 power unit spot on, Horner said: "I think you need to speak to our engine supplier to understand what their thoughts are regarding engine introduction."
The engine situation has left Horner sceptical about chances for races coming up next – although the post-summer break race in Belgium does at least allow overtaking.
"Hopefully we can be reasonable there," he said. "Austria, we were reasonably competitive there - I think particularly on Sunday.
"On Saturday we are going to struggle. I can imagine us being fifth and sixth on the grid on Saturday and quicker than that on Sunday. The thing I can say about Spa is that you have the ability to overtake there."
McLaren's Norris likely to join F2 or Super Formula in 2018
Tech analysis: How Red Bull and McLaren showed their aero prowess