Red Bull has changed 'philosophy' to avoid slow season start

Jonathan Noble

The Milton Keynes-based team has set its sights on challenging Mercedes and Ferrari for the world championship this year, after a promising first season with Honda engines in 2019.

But it knows that to do so, it must be in a position to challenge for wins from the first race of the season.

That is something it has struggled to do in the past when it has sometimes faced difficulties at the beginning of the year before a rapid development push got it back into contention for victories later in the campaign.

Well aware of the need to hit the ground running, Red Bull has elected to launch its car much earlier than it has in the past – giving itself a full week between its shakedown test and the official start of pre-season running to get on top of any initial issues.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that decision, allied to stability of rules, engines and drivers, means there is a higher level of confidence that the outfit can start the year on the front foot.

"I think there have been factors in recent years – like an engine transition or a front wing change [last year]," said Horner, speaking at a Red Bull media event in London. "This year, we've changed our philosophy as well going into this year, being really earlier.

"With the stability of regulations, it is obvious RB16 is very much an upgrade and evolution of RB15. It's focused on addressing some of its weak spots and building on its strengths.

"I think with that continuity, the team is is really eager to go toe to toe with particularly Mercedes and take that challenge to them, because it is on those days that teamwork really counts: whether it is world record pit stops, whether it's getting the strategy right, or of course reliability."

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Horner accepts that the progress that Honda has made on the power front puts even more emphasis on his team to do the job in creating the best chassis.

"I think the big factor for us, to enable us to mount a challenge, is the power unit as well," he said. "And Honda did such a great job in each introduction of an engine last year.

"They brought more performance, more power, and it feels we're getting very, very close now to Mercedes. And that therefore puts then the emphasis on the chassis side of the team to come up with the right chassis.

"We know we've got the drivers to get the job done. So going into this year we feel better prepared earlier than we certainly have for the last five years."

Horner is clear, however, that the ongoing strong form of Mercedes means that the German car manufacturer remains favourite for the title this year.

"We'll be looking to use all the lessons that we learned during the course of last year to take the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari," he said.

"But let's not forget they are the reigning world champions, so they will go into the season very much as the favourites.

"But I think with stability across all areas, across drivers and across technical staff, we built momentum in the second half of last year and I think that we're in a very good place to really take the fight to them this season."