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Red Bull “very close” to Mercedes says Horner

Simon Chapman

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Saturday 8th February, 2020 - 8:14am

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Max Verstappen was third in the 2019 season for Red Bull Racing

Christian Horner believes Red Bull Racing will be able to challenge Mercedes in this year’s Formula 1 World Championship.

The first season of the new decade marks the final year of the current rules and regulations set before an overhaul in 2021.

Drastic changes on and off the track in 2021 will see a budget cap introduced as well as a complete makeover to the aerodynamic styling of cars.

With significant changes afoot, Red Bull Racing is keen to challenge the top contenders with an ‘evolved’ RB16.

Last season the team brought Honda on-board as engine suppliers to replace Renault. The team immediately found success with a podium on debut at the Australian Grand Prix.

The team comes into 2020 with leading youngsters Max Verstappen and Anglo-Thai driver Alexander Albon.

Speaking at a recent media event, team principal Christian Horner said “stability of regulations” will make life easier for the Milton Keyes outfit.

“It’s obvious the RB16 is very much an upgrade and evolution of RB15,” he said. “It’s focused on addressing some of its weak spots and building on its strengths.”

Three wins and six additional podiums put Verstappen in third overall behind six-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas at the end of last year.

Both Ferrari entries Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth respectively in a year it was expected the Scuderia would beat Mercedes.

While Verstappen found success, the second seat at Red Bull was disrupted by driver changes with Pierre Gasly replaced mid-season with Albon.

Going into 2020 there are no changes on the driver front or any major technical changes as Honda stays on-board. As such, Horner has high hopes for the season.

“I think with that continuity, the team is really eager to go toe to toe with particularly Mercedes and take that challenge to them,” he said.

“Because it’s on those days that teamwork really counts; whether it is world record pit stops, whether it’s getting the strategy right, or of course reliability.

“I think the big factor for us, to enable us to mount a challenge, is the power unit as well. Honda did such a great job in each introduction of an engine last year.

“They brought more performance, more power, and it feels we’re getting very, very close now to Mercedes.

“That, therefore, puts then the emphasis on the chassis side of the team to come up with the right chassis.

“We know we’ve got the drivers to get the job done. So going into this year we feel better prepared earlier than we certainly have for the last five years.”

Horner is well aware of the challenges the team will face coming into the new season. Though expectations are high with a new home Grand Prix for Verstappen at Zandvoort.

“We’ll be looking to use all the lessons that we learned during the course of last year to take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari,” he added.

“But let’s not forget they are the reigning world champions, so they will go into the season very much as the favourites.

“But I think with stability across all areas, across drivers, and across technical staff, we built momentum in the second half of last year.

“I think that we’re in a very good place to really take the fight to them this season.”

Red Bull Racing will launch its new RB16 on February 12.

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