Christian Horner floats idea to neutralise qualifying engine modes after Mercedes dominance

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After Lewis Hamilton took pole position by more than 0.6s at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Red Bull boss Christian Horner has suggested a rule tweak to peg back the world champion.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo described Hamilton's lap as a "pie in the face" for the rest of the grid after the Mercedes driver revealed the true extent of his car's advantage to take pole position. Although Hamilton played down the impact of Mercedes' qualifying engine mode on his lap, his team has not denied having an extra power setting reserved for the final stages of qualifying.

Red Bull's Renault engine does not have an extra power setting like the Mercedes, meaning it is an estimated 0.4s per lap slower than the Mercedes on power unit performance alone. Horner hopes Renault can step up its game later this year, but also suggested bringing engine modes in line with parc ferme regulations, which prevent teams making setup changes between qualifying and the race.

"There are bits in the pipeline, but that's more of a question for Renault than for me because they're obviously not divulging everything they're up to. It's certainly something we're pushing for.

"Alternatively you could say perhaps you should have the same engine mode [for qualifying and the race]. Like in parc ferme when the cars leave for qualifying, maybe engine modes should be the same from the moment you leave the garage until the end of the grand prix."

Red Bull is confident its car is not far off the pace of Mercedes in race trim, but is concerned it will struggle to turn that into results if it is consistently qualifying off the front row. Horner hopes F1's arrival at tracks that promote overtaking will allow his drivers to play to the car's strengths.

"It's extenuated here [in Australia]," he added. "Bahrain you can overtake, China you can overtake. But it exposes you.

"You've only got to look at the speed trap [in qualifying] where all the Renault engines were grouped together with varying amounts of downforce on the car, so that's where we need to make progress.

"We know we have a good race car, the negative for us is still the deficit in qualifying. The 'party mode'... we'd like to go to Lewis' party!"