Make no mistake, the era of Red Bull’s utter dominance is over. After McLaren ruled over last weekend’s Malaysian grand prix, Friday in Malaysia indicated the British team will stay on top in the Sepang heat.
Over a single lap, world champion Sebastian Vettel admitted to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport: “McLaren is too strong for us.”
On long runs, Adrian Newey’s RB8 is closer.
“This is the positive aspect of the day,” said Dr Helmut Marko on Friday. “We have not managed to balance the car for one lap only. This applies to both tyre compounds – both drivers are having trouble setting up the car.
“Any setup change raises more questions, causing reactions that we do not expect. We are still answering the question of ‘what causes what?'”
Marko admitted plainly: “We have lost our supremacy in qualifying. McLaren is better for one lap, and even Mercedes thanks to its F-duct is very strong.
“The Mercedes is quick as a flash on the straight and also Alonso is eerily consistent and in the race could be a problem,” said the Austrian.
Red Bull also remains unhappy with Mercedes’ F-duct, but there should be no post-race protest in Malaysia – the FIA had instructed unhappy teams to file their protests before Friday practice, in the interests of the ‘show’.
Additionally, in Charlie Whiting’s words at Sepang: “There is nothing to complain about.”