Red Bull: Mercedes still 'clear favourite'
17 March 2017 – Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says Mercedes is still the "clear, clear favourite" for the 2017 season, despite significant changes to the technical regulations.
Mercedes has dominated Formula 1 since the arrival of 1.6-litre V6 power units in 2014, winning 51 of the past 59 Grands Prix and storming to successive 'double' world titles.
For 2017, revised aerodynamics and wider Pirelli tyres have arrived, with Ferrari setting the overall pace during pre-season testing, ahead of Mercedes, Williams and Red Bull.
Assessing the pecking order in an interview with the official Formula 1 website, ahead of the season-opener in Australia, Horner stated: "Mercedes is the clear, clear favourite.
"They have won  races in the last three years, we've won five and Ferrari three."
He added of the 2017 overhaul: "The regulation changes aren't that big.
"There have been times with equally big changes: refuelling/no refuelling; blown diffusers and no blown diffusers; a change from Bridgestone to Pirelli (tyres).
"And one thing is crystal clear: good teams adapt."
Asked if Red Bull is on an upward trend, after beating Ferrari to second in the championship standings last year, Horner responded: "Again, Mercedes are total favourites.
"We've made a good car – a good basis of car that we will hopefully be able to develop effectively.
"Renault has had a busy winter as well, [so] hopefully the engine in our car will perform well this season. How well – and what the others will find – is pure speculation."
Red Bull's pre-season was low-key, characterised by Renault-related technical issues and few eye-catching lap times, but Horner feels "content" with the team's preparation.
"We do analysis, but what you don't know in modern Formula 1, with energy levels and of course fuel loads, is what specifications others are running with on their cars," he added.
"We are content with our pre-season, we are pleased with the way that the car is reacting, the drivers feel confident – they like the feel of the car, so we are ready."
Ex-Formula 1 driver Mark Webber says Red Bull should not be judged on its pre-season showing, stating that the outfit has never been one to "shadow box" with rivals.