Ferrari have admitted it is now not clear whether they or improving Red Bull are Mercedes’ closest challengers, heading into this week’s German Grand Prix.
Ferrari started the season appearing to be the team most likely to take the fight to all-conquering Mercedes, but while their campaign has yet to truly ignite, Red Bull have been making steady improvements and impressed in Austria, which they won, and Silverstone last time out.
“They have certainly improved in the last two races,” said Mattia Binotto, Ferrari’s team principal.
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“They won in Austria and they have been very competitive [at Silverstone] in the race. I think our packages are very close and the last two races have shown it.
“Are they the second? Are we the second? We are very close.
“This is giving us even more of a boost because we need to further improve and be capable of fighting for the first position every single race [no matter] where is the circuit.”
Second-placed Ferrari head to Hockenheim holding what stands as a comfortable 52-point advantage over Red Bull in the Constructors’ standings, but their rivals have outscored them in four of the last six events.
Red Bull took particular heart from their performance at the British GP, where they qualified within 0.3s of pole for the first time this season and then showed competitive race pace.
Max Verstappen would have finished on the podium had Sebastian Vettel not crashed into the back of him.
“Really encouraging,” said Red Bull chief Christian Horner of their Silverstone form.
“To be this close to Mercedes around this type of track, which we know is power-sensitive, and to be able to follow the Ferraris closely through Maggots and Becketts.
“Max was able to take some serious momentum behind the Ferraris there and that’s usually the sign of a pretty decent car.”
Horner added: “The last few races we’ve started to get some performance on the car and it’s been working well. We have got confidence going to Hockenheim.”