Red Bull Racing believes its lack of pace in the Chinese Grand Prix was a one-off rather than an indication that it has fallen behind its rivals.
Sebastian Vettel's run of consecutive pole positions this year came to an end at Shanghai when the team felt its best hope of victory was to use the slower medium tire compound in qualifying.
With Red Bull openly admitting that it feels the outright pace of its RB9 is being held back by the current high-degrading tires, there were suggestions the team had had to ease off more than its rivals to help preserve its rubber. But Red Bull boss Christian Horner thinks it was more the nature of the Shanghai track, rather than any general trend, that explained its failure to get on the podium.
"Over the last couple of years this track has not been our strongest," said Horner. "It has a heavy emphasis on front [tire] wear and degradation, so you tend to be front limited here rather than rear. We will see next weekend whether things move around in Bahrain."
The long, sweeping corners at Shanghai make it a front-limited track, which has traditionally not been best for a Red Bull car that has usually had better rear end performance. Furthermore, the track's long straights meant that Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were also further hampered, because Red Bull has rarely been fastest through the speed traps.
Horner did concede that Red Bull had, however, had to compromise its car performance slightly to ensure it could look after its tires.
"We are seeing that qualifying is less of a premium than trying to preserve the tires," he said. "Our car performs very, very well. It is a quick car, but a quick car abuses its tires and the tires cannot cope with that. So then we have to adapt our approach and set-up and the way we operate the car to ensure that we get more out of the tires.
"It is the same for everybody, though – it is just a different way of going around things."