Red Bull was left to settle for fifth and sixth in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix as drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo struggled with a straight-line speed deficit, forcing them to overwork their tires and fade in the closing stages of the race.
Verstappen qualified fourth at Interlagos and was able to stick with the leading trio of Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen through the opening stint, only to drop back after switching to the soft compound tire.
Red Bull’s performance deficit with its Renault engine compared to its Mercedes and Ferrari-powered rivals forced Verstappen to push hard through the middle sector in a bid to make up time, punishing his tires in the process.
The Dutchman was unable to fend off the recovering Lewis Hamilton as he rose up the order, leaving him P5 at the checkered flag.
“To manage the tires was really hard. It was the hardest race for us in terms of tire management this year, it didn’t click,” Verstappen told NBCSN after the race.
“We were OK the first few laps, but slower straight line speed. You saw how easy Lewis got us. We’ll see what we can do there.”
Teammate Ricciardo had a more eventful race, starting 14th after a grid penalty before getting caught up in a clash with Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne at Turn 2.
Ricciardo was able to escape the shunt without any major damage, eventually recovering to P6 at the checkered flag, albeit without putting pressure on the leading quintet as he too struggled with his tires.
“In Turn 2, I knew it’d be tight, but I figured start was a good chance to do something,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“I tried to do something then felt a bit of a hit. I was worried I had damage. But seemed OK, Iame into the pits to change it.
“We didn’t have as much fun as Lewis. But relatively a good race. I made the move pretty quick.
“At first we pushed then it looked like the tires were getting hot. The team was worried. We were able to push. I’d done all the pushing I could.”