Horner: RBR in good shape for F1's new future.

Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner believes that there are several factors that could play into his team's hands this season, not least the fact that all ten F1 operations are starting from scratch in terms of their cars.

Speaking as the Milton Keynes-based squad unveiled its new RB5 at a low-key launch in southern Spain, Horner pointed out that other happenings in the Formula One world since the dramatic end to the 2008 season in Brazil would also favour Red Bull.

"Going into 2009, the team is now well placed to take advantage of the rule changes, not just the technical ones that we have known about for some time, but also those established through the efforts of FIA and FOTA last December," he said, referring to the various cost-cutting measures hammered out by the sport's two guiding forces.

"Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Technology carried no excess weight in terms of manpower, so adjusting to the new rules has, for us, been relatively straight-forward and we are in good shape for the future.

"The changes caused few interruptions to our workflow and they will also assist the larger manufacturer teams in cutting costs, in terms of manpower. Over the past year, we had invested strategically and, therefore, with the rules as they now stand, we are in a good position to capitalise on them, as they present an opportunity for teams to compete on a more level playing field."

RBR's challenger on that playing field comes from the tried and trusted pen of Adrian Newey, with the equally-experienced Geoff Willis pulling all elements of the design and production process together as the team attempts to take the step to bridge the gap between being a regular point-scorer, as it was in 2008, and race winner.

"2009 will also see us benefit from greater stability in terms of how we run the operation, with all our key players in the technical group having been with us for at least two years," Horner noted, "We should not forget that they designed a car that won a grand prix in 2008, in the hands of Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Toro Rosso, and there is no reason to believe we cannot do that again with these new rules.

"The regulation changes almost constitute a new formula for the sport and it will be interesting to see how the teams interpret them. Certainly, in the early part of this season, we expect to see a much bigger spread in terms of performance between the teams than we have over the past two years."

Horner, of course, now has Vettel onside rather than in opposition, with the young German having 'stepped up' from Toro Rosso to join Rd Bull's 'works' team alongside luckless veteran Mark Webber.

The 32-year old Australian has not driven an F1 car since being knocked from his road bike during a section of the Pure Tasmania adventure race in November, and was still clearly in some discomfort as he helped to unveil the RB5 in the pit-lane at Jerez, but insists that he will be fit for round one in Melbourne and hopes to be back behind the wheel at one of the remaining pre-season tests.

He will have to be quick, however, for only a handful of days remain open for track time between now and the first race, at which point testing is banned, with the odd exception, for the remainder of the year.

That curve ball has had an effect on the design and year-long development plan for RB5 but, as technical director Willis explained, might back up Horner's claim that RBR may be better tuned to the new way of life in F1.

"The most significant changes that came out of December's FIA-FOTA agreement were the ban on in-season testing and the doubling of engine life," he revealed, "This changes the nature of a grand prix Friday, which now becomes our only in-season testing opportunity.

"We will no longer have the luxury of running 1500km over three days to evaluate components. The racing operation and performance development now has to be closely integrated, delivering the right components on time to the car because, now, if we've targeted one particular race venue as the right place to test certain components, missing that date by a couple of days is not an option as the next circuit on the calendar might not be a suitable one to test those parts.

"This plays to the strengths of changes we made in 2008, to improve the structure of our engineering processes: planning, manufacturing and co-ordination of design, more structured testing, thinking more about the issues on the car, its performance and prioritising the work."

Willis is also confident that the way in which information fed back by the drivers during those practice sessions is used to make improvements as the weekend goes on.

"We have to be slick in terms of how we process data from the track," he confirmed, "On a Friday, we have a two-hour gap in between practice sessions, but we have to know as soon as possible our conclusions from the first session to be able to prepare the car for the second. By the end of Friday, we like to have the car in the same configuration that we will use on Saturday morning, as continuity helps the drivers.

"Unlike a test, where we have three days on track, followed by several days to think about it, we now have 90 minutes of testing after which we have to analyse the data, make changes, test for a second 90 minutes and then make decisions for the rest of the weekend. Telescoping that timescale will involve making better use of the people in the factory, as a back-up to the race team."