Christian Horner believes Max Verstappen’s dominant victory in the most recent F1 race could have fired up Mercedes to produce an even better car this year.
Verstappen was quickest throughout the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend and won the race by over seven seconds from Valtteri Bottas and Sir Lewis Hamilton – although there were reports that Mercedes had turned their engine power down due to reliability concerns.
Red Bull boss Horner thinks that result may have caused a reaction at Mercedes, even though from the outside it looked as though the Yas Marina weekend might not have been a completely accurate representation of where each team stood.
Ultimately, Mercedes had still strolled to a seventh consecutive Constructors’ World Championship as Abu Dhabi was only Verstappen’s second win of 2020 – but Horner is eager to make the title contest much more of a fight this year.
“The Mercedes is quite a machine, but we’ve demonstrated that you can beat them – by working hard, by applying yourself to the task in hand,” the Red Bull team principal told Autosport.
“I think they will be tremendously motivated because of that last race in Abu Dhabi and I expect Toto [Wolff] has used that, and James Allison, to come up with an even more competitive car for this year. So we don’t in any way underestimate the might of Mercedes.
“Our objective is to take the lessons we learned in 2020 into 2021. And hopefully, the RB16B will be a good evolution.
“Mercedes are the clear favourites with seven consecutive titles, but we are excited about the challenge this season and won’t give up in our hunt for a fifth title.”
Horner says learning from 2020 will be key if Red Bull want to challenge Mercedes for the title.
“We’ve seen one team be totally dominant for the last seven years,” he added. “And with continuity going into this year of largely car and drivers [being the same], on the Mercedes side you would expect them to be in a very strong position again.
“But I hope by using the lessons we’ve learned from 2020, we can put a more sustained challenge to Mercedes, who will undoubtedly be incredibly strong and very much the favourites this year – particularly off the back of a car which was arguably their best car of the hybrid era.
“That will be quite a challenge for us, but one we are relishing.”