Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has conceded that his team may make a slow start to the 2016 campaign, but that they remain a threat.
The Milton Keynes-based team have struggled over the past two seasons, with Renault failing to provide them with an engine that would allow them to challenge Ferrari and runaway leaders Mercedes.
Speaking at the launch of their 2016 livery on Wednesday, Horner said that while the team has made progress in the off-season, he does not expect this to translate into immediate gains.
“It is going to be a season of evolution for us,” he said. “I think it is probably going to be a season of two halves; the first half is going to be less competitive than the second but we are expecting to make significant progress during the year.
“The problem is everybody makes progress so we know what progress we’ve made and we know what progress Renault has made. What we don’t know is what everybody else has done and we’ll get an indication over the next couple of weeks but it won’t be until you get through the first three races that you get a clear indication of what the pecking order is.”
However, the Briton fired a warning to those who may have dismissed the team as challengers.
“Most people had written Red Bull off for this year, but we’re fighters and we’re focused on getting ourselves into a competitive position,” he said.
“It would be foolhardy to write off a team with the calibre of people Red Bull has.”
Horner has asserted that the team will be better off this year as they are prepared to take risks they may not have taken in the past. The first example of this is the delay in completing their crash tests, the last of which was performed on Wednesday, in order to get maximum development time.
“We hadn’t done any crash tests before Monday this week and completed them all in three days,” he said. “The last one about an hour ago!
“We take risks, which perhaps other teams would not dream of, like not having completed a crash test one week before the first test.
“But that is the way we roll. That is the way our DNA is, and the competitive drive there is in this team.”
The 2016 Formula 1 season gets underway in Australia on March 20.