Christian Horner has said Red Bull have been scratching their heads with surprise at the gap between themselves and their pursuing rivals.
Red Bull claimed another 1-2 finish in the Miami Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen leading home Sergio Perez to open up a 14-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
In the Constructors’ standings, Red Bull are completely uncontested at the top of the table with more than double the points of Aston Martin – their lead is 122 points.
With the regulations for 2023 being a straightforward evolution of the 2022 season’s revolutionary rules, Red Bull’s lead appears to have grown over the rest of the field, rather than seeing the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes close in.
It’s a situation that Christian Horner is a little nonplussed by, saying that he and Red Bull didn’t predict any unusual changes in their competitiveness over the winter.
“Five races, five wins plus the Sprint, four 1-2 finishes – we’ve never ever had a start like this and we’re kind of wondering: ‘Where are the others?'” Horner told Sky F1.
“We’ve made a normal step, or what we thought, over the winter, and I think it’s more where did Ferrari and Mercedes go?
“So I’m sure they are working hard on big upgrades for Europe and, with the penalty we have to develop the car later in the year, it’s important for us to get as much fresh air as we can between ourselves in the opposition at this stage.”
The penalty Horner referred to is the season-long punishment of a lack of wind tunnel time compared to the rest of the field. F1’s Aerodynamic Testing Regulations sliding scale already gave Red Bull the least amount of time for aero testing, but a further 10% deduction was meted out after Red Bull were found to have breached the 2021 Financial Regulations with a Minor Overspend Breach.
Horner said that the effects of the punishment could be felt as soon as the next race, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“I think you’ll see from the next race, there’s big upgrades coming and we’re just having to be super selective in terms of what we test and how we develop the car,” he said.
“Thankfully, the car has got off to a great start and, therefore, we’re not having to solve big issues and big problems so we’re able to focus on those incremental gains but I do expect it still to converge later in the year.”
As for where Red Bull are still pushing to find further improvements, given their current imperious form, Horner said the team are still learning race-by-race about their RB19.
“Every area – there’s always something that we can improve on and I think that you learn a lot at every Grand Prix and out of every situation,” he said.
“The teams operating at such a high level and it’s not just what you see here, it is what’s going on behind the scenes. This is all from back in the factory, the way that the whole team is operating is phenomenal.”