Christian Horner says Red Bull is pleased with the progress made on its power unit over the winter and sees it as 'encouraging' for the rest of the 2016 season.
After its nightmare start to last season with an unreliable and underperforming power unit from Renault, Red Bull publically blasted the French manufacturer and attempted to secure engines for 2016 elsewhere.
However, having failed to strike a deal with Mercedes or Ferrari, Red Bull has reverted to Renault power albeit by taking development in-house and rebranding the power unit under TAG Heuer sponsorship.
Assessing the latest specification of engine Horner is confident it is a positive progression on 12 months ago and is keen to continue this trend throughout the season in order to close the gap on the top two.
“I think the power unit's definitely made progress over the winter,” Horner said. “There's still a long way to go but it's great that, particularly in race conditions which is what we saw in testing, there has been progress in performance, there's still some way to go but hopefully the guys will take back a lot of encouragement that they're going in the right direction.”
Despite Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat suffering an electrical problem on the formation lap which prevented him from starting the Australian Grand Prix, the team was rewarded with Daniel Ricciardo taking fourth place. Horner agrees with the consensus his squad was the third-fastest in Melbourne, behind Ferrari and Mercedes, and is encouraged by it.
“I think here at this track we certainly had the third fastest car,” he said. “Particularly in the race. I think it's encouraging. It's not where we want to be, we want to obviously focus on moving forward but I think it's encouraging that the characteristics of the car have continued from last year and evolved, and we've got a very good product to work with.”
Horner also adds despite its sister team Toro Rosso threatening to beat Red Bull he is confident once the in-season engine developments begin his team will maintain its progress.
Toro Rosso has completed split from Renault as a power unit supplier and has taken up year-old Ferrari engines which will not be developed heavily during the year.
“The Toro Rosso car you can see is fast, particularly over a single lap,” he explained. “Lewis couldn't pass a Toro Rosso on the straight, he passed us a little easier than he did those guys. You can see they've got a competitive car and for sure we expect them to be, as predicted pre-season, they will quick, certainly in the first half of the year before upgrades start to kick in.”