Horner optimistic for new season

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Published: Tuesday 27th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is aiming to push Mercedes to the wire this Formula One season following what he has hailed as the most positive winter in their history.

A year ago Red Bull were in dire straits as the Milton Keynes-based marque suffered a catalogue of woes in the first pre-season test in Jerez, with their car completing a miserable 21 laps over the four days.

The fact Red Bull finished best of the rest at the end of the season to the all-conquering Mercedes – with Daniel Ricciardo winning three races – was testimony to the effort put in by all within the team.

The gap between the two marques come the conclusion was still vast, but following months of wrangling over the engine regulations at the end of last year, Red Bull head into the new campaign with a shot at giving Mercedes a far better run for their money.

Whereas development of the engine had been outlawed this year, rival manufacturers Renault – who supply Red Bull – Ferrari, and newcomers Honda, can now fine tune various parts of the system via the use of ‘tokens’.

“Mercedes are the benchmark, as the reigning champions, as favourites for this year after having a significant advantage at the end of last year,” said Horner, days ahead of this season’s first test in Jerez from February 1.

“Hopefully we will have made significant inroads into that advantage, but the question is ‘What have they done over the winter? What have the other teams done?’.

“But we have an opportunity this year. You can strategically upgrade over the year on your different power units.

“Renault are taking an aggressive development approach to this year, and strategically we just need to decide when we use the tokens in the four engines we have available to us.”

Certainly Horner’s confidence is high going into this season, adding: “After the first test last year, hopefully this one cannot be any worse than that.

“We managed very few laps over the four days, with the car either stopping on track or setting on fire, so hopefully we’ve made progress from that point.

“It’s at least been the most impressive winter we’ve had as a team in terms of everything coming together, with the car being produced in the shortest time ever, the design staff hitting all their headlines and targets.”

Horner feels if Mercedes can be harried, as they were at times last year, then opportunities for drivers Ricciardo and newcomer Daniil Kvyat, who has replaced Sebastian Vettel, will come.

“The three race wins we had last year capitalised on hiccups by Mercedes,” said Horner.

“What is important is we put them under pressure to create those scenarios, but a lot will depend on the progress we have made.

“Our objective is to give them as hard a time as we can, but it’s not just about Mercedes as Williams were strong last year, who knows what is going on at Ferrari, and McLaren have made changes.”

Ricciardo, forced to step up to the plate with four-times champion Vettel switching to Ferrari over the winter, like Horner feels Mercedes can be challenged on a more consistent basis.

“The target this year is to win more races and have better results for the title fight, a proper one because last year I was hanging on by a thread,” said Ricciardo.

“The engine development changes are going to definitely help us.

“Everyone is going to improve, that’s a fact, but you’d like to think Mercedes’ room for improvement is small because they made so much of it last year.

“I hope I’m right and they don’t have a 50 per cent step on top of what they already have, but there is certainly more room for us and Ferrari to make that gap.”

Published: Tuesday 27th January 2015 by The News Editor

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