Christian Horner expects Mercedes to be quick at the French GP as he admits to being purely focused on his Red Bull team and not on their closest rivals.

Red Bull appear to hold a comfortable advantage in the driver’s and constructor’s championship at this stage of the season, but Ferrari’s victory and Mercedes’ pace in Austria inevitably lays down an ever-shifting marker.

Mercedes look to be on the up after seemingly putting their porpoising bane into the 2022 season’s history books, but the team do still have to make efforts to stabilise the car’s mechanical bouncing through set-up compromises at each Grand Prix. This means there is clearly potential performance yet left in the W13, but the recent resurgence means Mercedes have climbed closer to the top two teams, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton secured his fourth podium of the season – his third consecutive podium finish – at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, although the final result was aided by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz retiring at Turn 4 amidst a dramatic power unit failure.

Ferrari have suffered from reliability woes in recent events, with the most high profile of those being the double DNF in Azerbaijan – Charles Leclerc retiring from a comfortable lead with a power unit failure and Sainz having already retired earlier on in the race from a hydraulics problem.

It marked a major turnaround in reliability fortunes since the opening rounds of the season, in which Red Bull suffered their own double retirement, that time at the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix. Bahrain and Azerbaijan were both major blows for the respective teams, but it’s Ferrari who possess the concerns of all reliability concerns right now. Nonetheless, Red Bull team principal Horner takes little comfort from Ferrari’s difficulties.

“Not really,” Horner replied when asked whether Ferrari’s failings give him comfort. “We are not too focused on them. We can’t control or contribute to that in any way. I think that we’ve got to focus on ourselves and just getting the best out of our own package.

“They had a very strong car [in Austria], they could have well finished first and second. But up until about lap 12, the weekend had gone pretty well, in terms of the pole position and the sprint victory. But unfortunately, that tyre deg just hit us pretty hard.”

Mercedes is not in with any realistic chance of defending their constructor’s championship run, or reclaiming the driver’s title trophy, having lost too many points in the early races battling porpoising, mechanical bouncing and tyre temperature struggles. Horner reckons Mercedes can continue its strong run of form into the French Grand Prix at the fast, open and smooth Circuit Paul Ricard.

“We’ll expect them to be quick in [Paul] Ricard,” he says. “They’re showing flashes of being there or thereabouts. The last two races have been pretty decent for them and there’s been no sign I think of any porpoising at all, so they seem to be slowly bringing themselves back into the game.”

Horner, who has been at the helm of Red Bull since its very first race in 2005 and presided over its rise from midfield contender to championship winning force, believes Mercedes are now becoming a contender long-term.

“I think they’ll be a contender,” he thinks. “They keep consistently scoring points. I’m not sure how far off they are in the constructors’ or drivers’ at the moment, but, you know, sometimes having more cars in play is a good thing, sometimes it might be a bad thing. But I think for the fans it is great to have six cars, competing for victories.”

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