Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner is predicting an all-Mercedes duel for the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship title, adding that the Silver Arrows “could win the in Melbourne by two laps”.
“Nico and Lewis — those two are favourites. Last season they were an equal pairing, so one assumes early on the competition will just be between them,” predicted Horner. “They will have the other Mercedes-powered teams giving them a battle so they won’t be able to let up.”
“Looking at Mercedes’ race simulation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they finished two laps ahead of everyone in Melbourne. They have a massive advantage,” warned the Red Bull team boss.
“What we know about Lewis is that he is extremely talented and naturally fast. And he’s in a good team, so he’s probably got to be the favourite going into the season.”
“It seems the Mercedes-powered teams are in good shape and we are, er…not,” he smiled. “You could see a higher level of domination than we had last year.”
Horner may not sound confident about Red Bull’s chances with its struggling Renault-powered RB10, but he is not writing off the Milton Keynes based team.
“If people write us off, that’s their choice,” he said.
Horner insisted Red Bull is “up for the challenge” of “climbing a pretty steep mountain” in 2014, acknowledging that the team’s position right now is not good.
Renault is taking much of the blame for the crisis, but car designer Adrian Newey admits that Red Bull might also have been wiser.
“Looking back,” he told the April issue of the Red Bulletin magazine, “it would have been smarter to concentrate full power on the new car earlier on. In August, no one could have guessed that we would be so far ahead by the end of the  season.”
Outside Red Bull, there are cries of relief that their run of dominance appears over.
“One team destroying it for four years, having ass-whipped so badly, is not good for the sport,” Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is quoted by the Express.
“I’ve been flying through all these airports and keep bumping into someone from a different country who says they used to watch Formula 1 but not anymore,” he added.
McLaren’s Jenson Button fully agrees that Red Bull’s problems are good for Formula 1, “It’s sad to say that we think like that but it’s the case. They’ve been too dominant.”
Horner, however, suggested that Mercedes’ advantage could prove just as boring in 2014.
“If they were to finish two laps ahead of the opposition in Melbourne, that wouldn’t be a surprise, based on what we’ve seen in pre-season testing,” he is quoted by the Mirror.
“They invested more, they invested earlier. They have got themselves into a good position.”
Horner claims that with the ‘Power Unit’ so important in 2014, Red Bull is at a slight disadvantage compared to its main rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
“The split between chassis and engine is obviously different in our team than it is at Mercedes and Ferrari,” he is quoted by the Guardian. “We’re not totally integrated.”
But even Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull’s billionaire team owner, thinks a change of colour at the top of the order in 2014 could be welcomed by Formula 1.
“Two hearts beat inside me,” he told German news agency DPA. “As a fan, I am glad it is more exciting again – maybe our dominance is at an end.”
With reports of a recent ‘hissy fit’ already denied, Mateschitz tipped Sebastian Vettel to cope with his new position on the grid.
“I don’t think he will have a problem coping with the current situation,” he said. “Just like the entire team, he accepts the challenge.”
Vettel, speaking to Austrian Servus TV, agrees: “We were very successful in recent years, achieving many things, but we always knew it would not always be so.” (GMM)
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