Red Bull insists its gap in performance to the top two teams in Formula One is not as big as it looked at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The team's highly-anticipated aerodynamic upgrade arrived in the paddock ahead of the race weekend and was being billed as a solution for the team's disappointing start to the year. It coincided with big visual changes to the Mercedes as well as improvements on the Ferrari, but in qualifying appeared to close the gap to the front as Max Verstappen achieved Red Bull's smallest margin to pole position this season.
However, Verstappen's race lasted less than a lap after he was taken out in a first corner collision with Kimi Raikkonen, leaving teammate Daniel Ricciardo to take third place after Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas retired with a mechanical issue midway through the race. It was Ricciardo's first podium of the season, but the celebrations were bitter-sweet as the Red Bull driver finished the race with a massive 72 second gap to race winner Lewis Hamilton.
The size of the gap suggests Red Bull may have taken a backwards step relative to the top two teams in race pace, but team boss Christian Horner insists the 72 second figure does not tell the whole story.
"We feel we have added about 0.4s to the car here this weekend," he said. "It has given us a good direction in which to further delve into and it has given us a pretty interesting data and information.
"If you look at the weekend as a whole we have definitely addressed some of the issues, definitely made some progress with the car. Max was unlucky at the start, he picked the outside, Valtteri started off a chain reaction, Kimi then bounced into Max. There was a small chance that you were going to come out of that corner third, but three into one don't go. It was a shame to lose Max on the first lap.
"Thereafter Daniel had a pretty lonely race, benefiting from Bottas' retirement. Halfway through the race we turned the engine down to try and save engine life, it has to do quite a few events. The pace of the front running cars was pretty significant so we still have plenty to do. We feel that we have made some progress here this weekend, it has given us a very clear development direction. Hopefully we will capitalize on that in the coming races."
Horner is hoping the team's new development direction will continue to offer performance boosts with each future upgrade.
"We've got plenty going on because the rules are so immature in many respects, there's still lots of gains that are being found. Mercedes have brought a massive update here, and while the status quo in track position has remained the same, we do feel we have got a bit closer this weekend and got a better understanding of a clear development direction."