Red Bull may have drawn first blood in Bahrain, but Christian Horner isn’t getting his hopes up, believing that Mercedes look “ominous”.
In the eyes of many, Red Bull were the favourites heading into the first race weekend of the season after looking stronger than the German team in pre-season testing.
They again got the better of their rivals in FP1 in Bahrain with Max Verstappen going fastest of anyone.
However, Mercedes did show signs of life as Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton took P2 and P4 respectively, and Horner very much sees them as a big threat.
“The temperatures are scorching hot compared to what we’ll see in qualy and the race,” the team principal told Sky Sports.
“It’s always great to see your car on top of the timesheet, but Mercedes are looking pretty ominous, so we don’t take anything for granted.
“But yeah, we’re happy with the performance of the car so far.”
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Few expected the pecking order to change much this season given that teams were limited in how much they could develop their cars.
Horner thinks that the largely stable regulation changes have actually helped Red Bull though as they could take lessons from data gathered last year.
“Last year we really understood where some of our weaknesses were,” he said.
“We managed to understand what some of our tools were telling us as well – the wind tunnel, the CFD – and some of the correlation issues that we had were in replicating what the tools were saying and what we were seeing on-track.
“Having understood that, the whole engineering team has worked incredibly hard over the winter and hopefully we’ve got a good starting base that we can then build on through the season.”
The biggest regulation change has come in the aerodynamics department, and many feel that this is how Red Bull have gained on Mercedes, with the new rules suiting their high-rake design.
Horner thinks it’s soon to say whether that is the case, but does find it interesting that competitors have adopted a similar approach.
“Well it’s difficult to say at the moment,” he added.
“It’s interesting to see some of our competitors going higher and higher on the rear rake when traditionally they’ve stayed very low.
“Hopefully it’s something that we can make good use of and I really hope that we can have a competitive field this year and put a sustained campaign together.”