Aston Martin Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has said that Red Bull are hopeful that they can close the gap to Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport and Scuderia Ferrari in 2018.
Previously, Horner has said that winning the championship was not a realistic target for Red Bull in their current state, but he did say that he wants the team to continue to disrupt the potential duopoly, as they did at the end of the 2017 season.
Horner showed no movement from his original thoughts and sees reigning world champions Mercedes as the team to beat once again.
“Mercedes for sure go in as the favourites,” said Horner, speaking to CNN Sport.
“They’ve had a strong pre-season, they had such a dominant season last year – the regulations have stayed pretty stable.”
However, he noted that Red Bull will be very competitive at certain tracks, where the power deficit is not such a burden.
But we’re hopeful that we’ve closed the gap,” he added.
“There are some tracks that we’ll be very competitive at. Our challenge is to try and take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari ahead of us.”
“You have got to assume that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are the absolute favourites, but we have two great drivers in Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, so it would be great to see them really up there and in amongst it this year. And of course, Ferrari will be strong as well.”
Pre-season results difficult to read
Red Bull showed promise in Formula 1‘s winter testing period at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Ricciardo recording one of the fastest times ever seen at the circuit’s current configuration.
With Mercedes and Ferrari proving competitive on long runs, pundits have suggested that Red Bull are still playing catch-up, but Horner said that it’s “difficult” to see the order from testing times due to the huge variables in testing programmes. The 44-year-old stressed that the speed and quality of car development makes the difference over the course of a long season.
“It’s so difficult to read from pre-season testing because people run different fuel loads and different energy levels in the their engines and so on, but there is a bit of a pattern.
“Mercedes look very strong on their long runs, it looks closer between ourselves and Ferrari.
“It’s all about who can develop their car the fastest over the next 21 races and nine months. Every car will be different over each race and it’s about getting those updates and those parts on the car as quickly as you can to make a difference to the performance.
“That’s our challenge. We have a great team, we have got two great drivers and our challenge is to out-develop our opponents. We know that we are weaker on the horsepower front, so that means that we have to have a better chassis and rely on our drivers.”