Red Bull principal Christian Horner has said that Red Bull will take the fight to Mercedes and are “ready to win” the Australian GP.
The Austrian outfit are considered the closest challengers to Mercedes heading into the new season, and already tensions are high with Red Bull threatening to protest if the Silver Arrows use DAS around Albert Park.
And while Red Bull could look to hurt their rivals that way, they are also set on hurting them with pure performance too.
Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Horner said: “Mercedes have put all the knowledge of a team who are six-time World Champions into this car.
“This is the last year with these rules, but we had a very strong winter, the best since 2013 and we are prepared and ready to win in Melbourne.”
Honda will be key to any title challenge for Red Bull, and Horner talked up the progress made by their engine supplier over the winter.
“They made some giant steps forward. The car is easy to drive, the power has improved and the reliability is great,” he said.
“Our car is a piece of art – the integration between chassis and engine has grown.”
Max Verstappen will likely be the other key part of the puzzle – he is now tied down at Red Bull until 2023, and Horner described him as an “incredible asset”.
“I think Max is at the moment the most spectacular driver, the one that can get fans excited,” said Horner.
“For us he is an incredible asset so I believe it was really important for us to renew his contract.
“Max and [Charles] Leclerc are the future of F1. With [Lewis] Hamilton still here I expect to see incredible fights this season between the three of them.”
Former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel will be looking to put a poor 2019 behind him and also challenge for the World Championship with Ferrari, and Horner said only a “mad person” would rule him out.
“It seemed to me that Seb was struggling against Charles sometimes last year and he felt in discomfort,” he explained.
“But he is a great driver, with a lot of personality, I believe this winter he recharged himself. If the car will respond like he wants he will be competitive again.
“Only a mad person wouldn’t consider a four-time champion in the fight for the title.”
Vettel’s contract with Ferrari expires after 2020, and Horner, like Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz did previously, ruled out a reunion.
“Like already Dietrich Mateschitz said we look forward not backwards. We had great moments with Seb but that was the past,” he said.
It would appear the same statement rings true for Daniel Ricciardo who could also be on the move after 2020.
“Daniel decide to leave the family – he chose another path,” Horner stated.
“We invest a lot of money in our junior programme, so it wouldn’t make sense to hire drivers from outside.”