Red Bull team chief Christian Horner believes that Mercedes will again be tough to beat in 2017. but hopes that next season’s new regulations which are more aero dependent will give them a chance to fight for the title once again.
Horner told ESPN, “I think it’s going to be tough to overcome Mercedes, they will go into next year as the clear favourites. They have won three consecutive world championships, they’ve won 50-odd grands prix in the last three years. We’re hopeful with the new regulations, it should balance out the emphasis between chassis and engine. We’re confident we should make a bit of progress over the winter with the engine.”
“The regulations are a clean sheet of paper for everybody. You don’t know where you sit at the moment compared to your opposition. It’s an opportunity or it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to. It’s only really when we get to Melbourne that we’ll get a glimpse of where the competitive ranking is. But for sure, Mercedes will be going in as the firm favourites. We’re just hopeful we can close that gap so we don’t have predictable results every grand prix weekend.”
Horner believes that Mercedes’ outright dominance could be a double edged sword for the German team, as he believes that they may not be equipped to handle the pressure if they are faced with a team that can consistently challenge them on race weekends.
Horner points out, “Mercedes has been in a fortunate position in that they have never really been challenged since 2014. They have been qualifying on the front row and with a very fast car, you can pick your strategy where any variable will work out for you. When the grid does concertina, it does put on more pressure.”
“We [Red Bull] have been through tight championship battles, in 2010 and 2012, that did go down to the wire. I think that gives you a strong experience to deal with those situations. It will be a new experience for Mercedes, when they do come under pressure, which inevitably will happen at some stage. I just hope it is Red Bull that is able to put them under pressure.”
The new regulations may have loopholes that can be exploited by smart engineers, as Brawn GP did in 2009 with the controversial double diffuser. Horner is wary that his team’s rivals may have found an advantage by reading between the lines of the new rule book.
Horner explained, “You hope that you haven’t missed something like the double diffuser where there is an interpretation of the regulations that someone has spotted that generates an advantage. The regulations aren’t quite as dramatic as they were from 08 to 09. But they still represent a great opportunity to make the cars significantly quicker.”
“With the tyre profile and size that they are moving to, it’s a different challenge. It’s going to be a development race next year for sure. There will be easy gains at the beginning of any development cycle. That relentless pursuit of chasing upgrades will be a key part of certainly next year,” concluded the Red Bull team principal.