Red Bull Racing has victory in its sights in Formula 1 in 2009 – that is the conviction of Christian Horner, as the energy drinks-backed squad eyes its 'most competitive season' in its five-year history in the top flight to-date.
Over that 71-race period RBR has notched up 103 points and a trio of rostrum finishes, but – Mark Webber's starring performance in the rain-lashed 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji aside – never has it truly threatened to win a race. In the Adrian Newey-penned RB5, Horner believes, that unflattering statistic could soon be set to change.
The new machine has looked both sharp and reliable from birth, setting consistently strong lap times during testing and seeming to prove that Newey remains one of the sport's very finest design gurus and innovators, particularly in an era of such aerodynamic and technical upheaval.
Amongst a grid of by-and-large ugly ducklings, if the RB5 goes even half as well as it looks when all 20 cars hit the track together Down Under in Melbourne this coming weekend, then Red Bull will be in strong shape indeed.
“I think things are looking quite encouraging,” team principal Horner told Crash.net Radio
. “It's been a massive regulations change, so it's quite difficult to gauge where one sits at the moment compared with your rivals, but we're pretty confident. We've had a good winter, the car has run competitively and reliably and we believe we're in good shape for Australia.
“It's effectively been a clean sheet of paper, with the hugely different aerodynamic regulations, the re-introduction of slick tyres plus the re-introduction of the KERS system. Adrian and his team have done an excellent job; it's been a big challenge for them, but I think they've quite relished that.
“Probably the most significant change has been KERS. We've worked very much in conjunction with (engine partner) Renault, and the system is pretty much race-ready. They've done a great job and we will make a decision I would think at the beginning of the week as to whether we will race it in Melbourne, but we're very happy with the job that Renault have done and the joint project that we've been involved in there.
“We opted for a later launch than the others to maximise the time in the [wind] tunnel. I think that certainly Red Bull have produced the prettiest car on the grid, and I think in the RB5 we've got a very promising car with an awful lot of development potential. It has been a huge challenge overall, but the whole team has knuckled down to it and done an excellent job, so hopefully we can look forward to our most competitive season.”
To do that, there can be no repetition of the kind of drop-off in form that afflicted the Milton Keynes-based concern's 2008 campaign, with engine-supplier Renault bearing the brunt of the blame for the team's gradual but progressive slide down the grid – and the championship table, ultimately winding up just seventh in the constructors' title standings, behind even 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso.