Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan has insisted this year’s Formula 1 title is within the team's grasp despite revealing the disappointment was “palpable” after it lost out to Mercedes in Bahrain.
The team started the season favourites and delivered on that promise until things fell apart in the race when Max Verstappen failed to get past Lewis Hamilton in the final laps, notably having to hand the lead back to the Briton due to an illegal overtake.
Monaghan said: “I wouldn’t say we were caught by surprise. I don’t know if it slipped away, we more played our cards differently and in the end the running past the kerb we had to hand the place back and that’s it.
“The car was capable of being quicker over the race, the disappointment within the garage is palpable, yet we are disappointed at being second. Many people would give up an awful lot to have a trophy and 18 points from one driver.
“When one overcomes the initial disappointment, we’ve got a good car, a motivated pair of drivers, a motivated team and if we win [in Imola] this will be forgotten and we’ll just review it as history and we have to move on.
“The prize at the end of the year is very much within the grasp, at the moment, for ourselves and Mercedes. Others will challenge, [but] it gives the realisation that we can challenge.”
Verstappen, who led the way in pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit, topped the times in all three practice and qualifying sessions on F1's return to the track as he claimed the first pole of the season.
The Dutch driver also showed strong race pace, and was clearly faster than the Mercedes in the closing stages but could not pass Hamilton a second time as his tyres fell away.
Focus now turns to the next race at Imola in three weeks’ time. Monaghan added: “We have to pick ourselves up from this one. We got second place and were fighting for victory. It’s not as if we’ve been left behind.
“What we take away from here is that we have a quick car and 22 races left. So, it’s not won and lost here. Some developments are already in the pipeline for Imola, more for subsequent races.
“It’s now a two-pronged fight. Our destiny is in our control. We can’t influence what Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari want to do. We’ve got to remain focused.
“We’ve identified some areas where the car can be improved and we’ve got to develop it, we’ve got to make it bulletproof and Max and Checo have got to drive it as quick as they can wherever else we go.”
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