Horner: ‘If Ferrari crush us in the first race, you can say we suffered’ from 2021 title battle

Red Bull are optimistic that they will remain competitive in 2022 after the major changes to the technical regulations.

Red Bull are unsure what to expect from their car from a competitive standpoint in 2022, but are confident they have done all they can to remain at the front of the grid.

The team were interlocked in an intense battle with serial constructors’ champions Mercedes last year in what became an extraordinarily tense affair, as Max Verstappen defeated Sir Lewis Hamilton to the Drivers’ Championship.

Having been on the back foot at the beginning of 2021, Mercedes managed to recover and would eventually come back to claim their record eighth-straight Constructors’ Championship.

Alex Albon, who acted as Red Bull’s test and reserve driver last year, recently said that the team he drove for in 2019 and 2020 had to reduce the attention being paid to next year’s car.

READ: Mercedes eager to prove they didn’t stumble onto ‘God-given right to be dominant’

“In such a situation you also have to think about the short term. Once you have the car to win the championship, you have to bet on one horse,” he told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.

“Last year I spent fifty percent of the time on the 2021 car and fifty percent on the car for the upcoming season. 

“But as the title race got more exciting and exciting, we’ve focused less on the upcoming season’s car and more on the 2021 car. For the races in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, we did a lot more simulator work than we would normally do.”

Formula 1 is undergoing significant change ahead of the upcoming season, with a ground-effect based aerodynamic concept being adopted in an attempt to help drivers follow more closely and improve the racing spectacle.

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The power units will also have 20 less horsepower – something that would have pertained particularly to Red Bull this year before they opted to continue their relationship with Honda.

Team principal Christian Horner is not sure where the regulation changes will leave Red Bull in the standings next season, and jovially suggested that being beaten by Ferrari would display their frailties after 2021’s titanic championship fight.

READ: F1 CEO looking forward to Mick Schumacher racing with Ferrari

“If Ferrari will come out with the fastest car and crush us all in the first race, you can certainly say that we have suffered from the intense title battle,” he joked.

“Or maybe Haas suddenly comes out with a rocket… But no joke: we have a phenomenal team at Red Bull and our people have worked very hard, but of course we have no guarantee that we will be competitive again under the new regulations.”

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has also been quizzed in recent weeks as to his thoughts on whether it will once again be Mercedes and Red Bull ruling the roost in 2022, and the Austrian appears optimistic.

“Well, with such a big change you can never be completely sure, but Mercedes and we still have the most potential, the best people and continuity too. That all speaks for a new two-way battle at the highest level, also because no driver can keep up with Hamilton and Verstappen,” he explained.

Helmut Marko and Christian Horner in Barcelona, 2021.v1

Dr Marko disagrees with Albon in the argument that the Milton Keynes-based team largely dropped development for 2022 in a bid to remain in the hunt last season.

“It is not the case that we have abandoned everything for the coming season in recent months,” he maintained. 

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“I think Red Bull has handled it smartly and historically, Red Bull has always been strong when it comes to rule changes. 

“With Adrian Newey [chief designer at Red Bull] and all the men from the aerodynamic department they have a very good team to adapt to the new rules. Red Bull has always been smart about things like this, so I think they’ll be there again next year.”

The teams will have two pre-season tests in Barcelona and Bahrain to acquaint themselves with their new machines, before the 2022 season starts on 20 March at the Sakhir International Circuit.

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