Dr Helmut Marko believes Red Bull will be much closer to Mercedes over the course of 2021 – but is not getting carried away with their Abu Dhabi victory.
Red Bull were a distant second in the 2020 constructors’ World Championship, an enormous 254 points behind Mercedes but a still massive 117 ahead of third-placed McLaren.
But Marko, a Red Bull advisor and head of their driver development programme, has reasons for optimism heading into the forthcoming season, due to the work the team are putting into the car and the arrival of Sergio Perez as Verstappen’s new team-mate.
Yet the 77-year-old Austrian is not being lulled into a false sense of security by the result of the latest F1 race to have taken place, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which Verstappen won comfortably.
Reports suggested that, with both Championships long since in the bag, Mercedes did not have their engines at full power, while Sir Lewis Hamilton was still feeling the effects of missing the preceding Sakhir Grand Prix when suffering from COVID-19.
Also, Red Bull had continued to develop their car until late in the season, whereas it is believed Mercedes had switched attention to their 2021 challenger following the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.
“[But] we want to be a serious challenger to Mercedes and the first signs are good.
“We are getting positive data from Honda showing improved performance. Our chassis has also been further developed this winter.”
In addition, having Perez link up with Verstappen is another plus, for it means the Dutchman should not have to take on Mercedes single-handedly, as was the case for the vast majority of 2020.
“We now have a driver who will be close to Max, so we are no longer a one-man team,” added Marko. “Everything has been done to eliminate our weak spots.”
Marko revealed he also expects improvement from Ferrari, who ended up sixth of the 10 constructors last term, saying: “There is certainly a chance they will compete for third place in the constructors’ Championship.”