Hughes confident Red Bull has matched Mercedes’ pace – “Look competitive on long runs and short”

Mark Hughes is confident that Red Bull has matched Mercedes’ pace in the US, saying that there is very little to separate them at COTA.

The last few races have seen Mercedes claim the title of the fastest on the grid. Many races saw other teams chasing shadows as Mercedes demonstrated their superior pace. Among those teams was Red Bull, who are their direct rivals this season.

With the exception of the Dutch GP, Red Bull have been second-best to Mercedes for a while now. The US GP has been shoehorned as a Mercedes win given their record at COTA, but perhaps it is too soon to dismiss the Milton-Keynes outfit.

In fact, Hughes is confident that Red Bull has matched Mercedes’ pace, saying that it will be a closely-contested race on Sunday.

In his column for the Race, Hughes wrote, “Amid the fuss about Mercedes’ lowering rear (captured from Istanbul footage), it was easy to miss the fact that around the Circuit of Americas on Friday, there seemed very little performance difference between Mercedes and Red Bull.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship United States Grand Prix Practice Day Austin, Usa
The Mercedes seems to be the fastest car, but Hughes thinks the gap is very small. Source:

“Even on the straights the two cars were quite evenly matched here (unlike at Istanbul).

“Identifying who actually was the fastest wasn’t straightforward. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest single lap of FP2 but it was disallowed for a track limits infringement at Turn 9.”

Closer than expected

Hughes then explained how he came to his conclusion, and why Red Bull and Max Verstappen need not press the panic button just yet

“But even Hamilton’s disallowed time was only 0.104s faster than (Sergio) Perez (who topped FP2), indicating a) that the scary 0.9s Mercedes advantage seen in the first session was just a matter of a more aggressive engine mode than Red Bull and b) Perez is properly on the pace at the start of a weekend for the first time all season,” he said.

“But looking at the bigger picture, Verstappen has reason for optimism. Despite his fears in Turkey, the Red Bull looks at least competitive with the Mercedes here on both long runs and short.”

Read more: Hughes slams Verstappen for taking advantage of rules – “Yield or crash approach is dangerous”

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