Christian Horner discusses not taking Mercedes lightly in 2021 plus Sergio Perez, 2022 car, as Toto Wolff wants to see how their team can react to Bahrain test issues.
Red Bull come off the back of a successful three-day test in Bahrain, as their pace and reliability led some to suggest they could topple the dominant Mercedes in 2021, and claim their first championship since the 2013 season.
But Horner cautions against premature assumptions based on testing, and insists Red Bull are ‘a little more cautious’ when it comes to anticipating the outcome of the coming season. “There is no denying that after the smooth running of the three-day test in Bahrain, there seems to be an excitement out there that we can end Mercedes’ seven-year dominance of F1,” Horner began to write.
“But we had a debrief within the Team after the test and it is fair to say we are a little more cautious on the subject and we cannot underestimate the size of the challenge ahead of us on many fronts. We know that Mercedes have not won by mistake for the past seven years; they are a quality, class team that will be motivated to come back strong.
“We saw it a couple of years ago where there was a similar story during pre-season testing and then they smashed it out of the park at the first race in Melbourne. So, you cannot take anything for granted. And at this stage it is good that we have a solid basis from which to develop the car, rather than fixing an inherent problem.
“Of course, Mercedes are trying to move the spotlight away from themselves, which is all part of the game, but the reality is they are the reigning seven-time world champions and it is down to us to close that gap and put up a fight.
“They had one of their strongest seasons last year and this year’s car is an evolution of that, so let’s see what we all have in Bahrain and the rest will follow,” Horner added. In 2021, the team add Perez as a driver who brings experience to Red Bull’s second seat, and Horner says both Max Verstappen and the Mexican are on form.
“Of course, the big news over the winter was the arrival of Sergio [Perez] to the Team. He has settled in quickly and while he is experienced, he is also a laid-back character. He knows what he wants and has 10 seasons of F1 under his belt. As for Max, he is in good shape and looking really sharp.
“He hit all his fitness targets at the pre-season training camp in Red Bull’s facility in Austria and is readier than ever for the start of the season,” said Horner, whose team will spend much of 2021 targeting a smooth start to 2022, when new regulations kick in.
Next season, Horner explains, they’ll be debuting their RB18, after their RB16B this year and their traditionally-named RB16 in 2020. The team will also be using powertrains supplied by an in-house facility, after Honda’s departure at the end of 2021. Red Bull will continue to use their engines into the future, but under an engine development freeze.
Horner considers this a commitment to the sport from Red Bull, and calls it their biggest since they entered in 2004: “By becoming a power unit manufacturer, initially with Honda technology, Red Bull will be bringing that operation to our campus, so it will be fully integrated into the site and the building work starts in April.
“We are under no illusions about the enormity of this new venture, but we are ready for the challenge and will apply the same dedication that we have on the chassis side. We have enjoyed a great partnership with Honda but with them leaving the sport at the end of this season, we had a decision to make and now the work must begin,” Horner said.
While Horner is taking it cautiously, his counterpart Wolff is showing similar feelings, especially after a rough run for Mercedes. Some feel it to be a genuine issue for the German F1 outfit, while some are of the view that it is indeed all part of the game.
“It feels like we have spent quite some time in Bahrain recently, and with mixed fortunes,” said Wolff. “Overall, it was a tricky three days of testing for us. The W12 wasn’t as stable, predictable or planted as some of our rivals. Red Bull looked strong on both the long and the short runs, but as always with testing, it’s difficult to be certain of true performance.
“The only thing we know for sure is that we must prove our ability to react. From the moment the third day of testing finished, we got our heads down and started to figure out how we can return to Bahrain in stronger form in just a few days’ time.
“While these cars share some parts from their predecessors, there have also been significant rule changes to interpret and overcome. We have also had to change the way we work in response to the cost cap. But as we have found before, it’s from the difficult moments that we learn the most.
“This team’s biggest strengths are our people and our values, and after a tough test, I know that we can fight back stronger. I’m looking forward to getting this new and exciting season underway, seeing the progress we can make and how we fare in Bahrain,” summed up Wolff.
Here’s Sergio Perez on his debut with Red Bull
Here’s Max Verstappen and Helmut Marko on pre-season test
Here’s Valtteri Bottas on quit thoughts after 2018 Russian GP
Here’s Mercedes on rear end issues and more
Here’s Red Bull not wanting a favourites tag
Here’s James Allison crediting Mercedes HPP and addressing the ‘bulge’