Christian Horner believes F1 2024 will see Red Bull come under greater threat, due to “diminishing returns” with the stable regulations.
Red Bull enjoyed the most dominant year of any team in the history of the sport in 2023, with Max Verstappen romping his way to 19 victories out of the 22 races held – two more races were won by Sergio Perez to leave just one race win for a non-Red Bull driver as Carlos Sainz won in Singapore for Ferrari.
Given Red Bull’s performance advantage over the rest actually increased in 2023 in the second year of the ground-effect regulations as other teams either committed to their original, less competitive concepts or simply failed to find the same level of performance, might 2024 be more of the same with an unchanged ruleset?
Christian Horner: Stable regulations means diminishing returns in 2024
But while the rulebook remains the same for 2024, there are far fewer opportunities to make big leaps in performance as teams approach the performance ceiling of what’s possible under the regulations – a point that Red Bull will, in theory, hit earlier than the other teams.
It’s for this reason that Christian Horner isn’t optimistic that Red Bull can dominate to the same extent in 2024, as he opened up on next season’s prospects in an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com.
“We’ve got stable regulations,” he said, when asked about the rumours that Red Bull have found another huge step with the RB20.
“And so, of course, you start to hit the top of the curve where the gains that you’re making become smaller and smaller. I think that it’s evolution, not revolution.
“We’re into diminishing returns now. But there are two more years of these regulations.
“It’s inevitable that the grid will concertina.”
While Horner reckons the point has been reached at which development gains will become infinitesimal for his squad, it’s worth remembering the fact Red Bull operated in 2023 with a wind tunnel time deficit as a result of being at the top of the championship in 2022 and through ’23.
Added to this was their punishment for a Minor Overspend Breach of the 2021 Financial Regulations, a further reduction in wind tunnel time, meaning it’s therefore possible Red Bull could have hit the ceiling before this point had they been without restriction.
But does Horner feel the wind tunnel punishment prevented them from reaching the full potential of the RB19?
“It’s always difficult to say but I mean, the wind tunnel hasn’t helped for next year,” he said.
“Thankfully, we had a competitive car this year so we could actually transfer quite a lot of focus reasonably early, for us, on to next year’s car.”
With Red Bull taking over from Mercedes as the leading squad in Formula 1 as they wrapped up their second consecutive Constructors’ Championship, the big question mark is whether or not complacency might set in.
While Mercedes and Toto Wolff successfully kept the ball rolling in an incredible run of form between 2014 and ’21, that run came to an end with the 2022 W13 proving far less potent a machine. How does Horner manage to keep his troops digging deep?
“I think it’s a fear of failure,” he said.
“Once you’ve experienced winning, it becomes addictive. When you’ve been through a period, like we did for seven years, where, for reasons beyond our control we weren’t able to consistently win – although we did win in every year bar one at least two Grands Prix – you have to celebrate all the good days in this business, because you never know how long they’re going to last.
“I think you have to embrace and celebrate every success because you don’t know what the future holds.”