SOCHI, RUSSIA - APRIL 28: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer returns to the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia on April 28, 2017 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20170428-00765 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Horner: Hopefully in Barcelona we can start making progress

SOCHI, RUSSIA - APRIL 28: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer returns to the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia on April 28, 2017 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20170428-00765 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Where were Red Bull at the Russian Grand Prix? Nowhere, relative to the pace setting Ferrari and Mercedes teams, as they endured one of their most insignificant performances in a long time.

Second in the 2016 F1 World Championship for constructors’, this year they are a distant third in the pecking order and hinging all their hopes on Barcelona when they expect a hefty Renault upgrade and some magic from Adrian Newey’s drawing board.

Reflecting on the weekend in Russia, where Max Verstappen finished fifth and Daniel Ricciardo had a DNF, team chief Christian Horner said, “It was a real disappointment to lose Daniel early in the race with a right rear brake issue, straight after the safety car restart.”

“We need to understand exactly what the cause of failure was; the outcome was similar to that which happened with Max in Bahrain but it looks like a different issue, so that needs thorough exploration.”

“Max drove a strong race, he had a good start but then he was in only racing himself in no man’s land; putting a significant gap to the cars behind but not being able to keep up with the cars ahead.”

“So, at a circuit that we know doesn’t play to our strengths at least we got to our optimum with Max and hopefully in Barcelona we can start making progress,” added Horner.

Verstappen, who is always good for a fight on race day, simply had no ammo to take it to the pace setters.

Indeed a day earlier, after qualifying there was a hint of frustration from Verstappen amid all the politically correct team speak, “A frustrating day all things considered, we knew this would be one of our toughest tracks of the season but I had hoped qualifying would go better than that.”

Asked why he had good pace at the previous round in Bahrain, but it went AWOL in Russia, the teenager explained, “In Bahrain our car had a good setup and worked with the tyres but here the long straights make it very hard to go quick and compete at the front.”

Simply put: the chassis is not too good at getting the tyres to work in all conditions and the Renault (TAG Heuer) power unit does not have the legs.

Ricciardo’s race only lasted five laps at Sochi, he explained, “After the safety car I looked in my mirror to see where the Force India was and I noticed that the right rear brake was on fire, I reported it to the team and they told me to bring the car back to the pits slowly. Unfortunately the issue could not be fixed and I had to retire from the race.”

“It’s frustrating, on a Sunday you just build up for the race and try to store up your adrenaline to use at 3pm but it was over very quickly and unfortunately I didn’t get as much of a fight as I would have liked.”

As for what he is expecting to come from the team in Barcelona, Rcciardo said, “We don’t know how much the new package will give us until we get it on track in a few weeks but we are hoping Barcelona is the first step to getting closer to the leaders.”

Problem is that Mercedes and Ferrari have also not been standing still and they too will have substantial upgrades in the pipeline.

For Red Bull the remainder of their season depends largely on how good the upgraded Renault engines will be, and more importantly how Newey will turn the RB13 from a decidedly ordinary piece of kit into a race winner.