Christian Horner says Ferrari “smashing” Red Bull next season would show his team focused too much on the 2021 title fight.
With widespread regulation changes coming into play for the next campaign, most teams focused the vast majority of their efforts on their 2022 challengers throughout last season in terms of development.
That was not the case for Red Bull though, with Max Verstappen’s team still doing a lot of work on their 2021 car also in their efforts to beat Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton to the titles.
While they lost the fight for the Constructors’ Championship to the German team, they did end up winning the Drivers’ title for the first time since 2013 courtesy of Verstappen.
Horner is relatively confident their efforts to do so will not end up costing them in 2022, but admits he and the team will be proved wrong if Ferrari end up beating them.
“When Ferrari turn up with the fastest car and smash us out of the park at the first race then you’ll have to say it probably did [compromise us],” he told reporters.
“But I think we’ve all known big regulation changes are coming for 2022 and we’ve applied our resource accordingly.
“I’m sure each team has done what they feel is right and it’s put pressure on the organisation, of course. But that’s where I think the team have been outstanding.
“To keep a development rate on a new set of regulations and keep a focus on the 2021 car has taken a monumental effort. The commitment shown by all of the team, throughout the team, has been phenomenal.
“But we will only see when we come back in a couple of months’ time with completely new cars. They look different, they will feel different, they will drive differently – and who’s got it right, who’s got it wrong? It all starts again.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 1, 2022
Focusing more on their 2022 cars than the title contenders did last year is not the only reason why midfield teams and backmarkers may close the gap at the top next season.
The budget cap benefits the smaller outfits, while they all get to spend more time doing wind-tunnel work than Red Bull and Mercedes thanks to the new aero handicap system.
Toto Wolff is fairly sure that will tighten up the pecking order.
“We are all operating under the same financial cap and the concepts are very new,” said Wolff.
“Then what was introduced is the aerodynamic regulations, where teams based on their standing in the championship had a little bit more allowance.
“So it’s pretty much possible that teams who hadn’t competed for the World Championship this year, whether it’s Ferrari, McLaren, Aston Martin or Alpine, are capable of coming up with the intelligent concepts based on much more runs than everyone else and just doing it very right.
“I think we need to expect much closer fighting for championships and races than we had before, and that’s exciting.”