Christian Horner has revealed his Red Bull Racing team came into the 2016 Formula 1 season anticipating a struggle just to reach the top five in the constructors' standings, only to then win two races and finish a comfortable second overall.
With the shift to the V6 Hybrid era in 2014 ending Red Bull's relative four-year dominance in F1, Red Bull went on to suffer its first win-less season since 2008 last year and squared much of the blame on the underpowered and unreliable Renault-supplied power unit.
Prompting squabbles off the track as Red Bull shopped around for a new supplier, it eventually agreed new terms with Renault and proceeded to enjoy a vastly improved campaign well beyond even its own expectations.
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Indeed, Horner says he didn't initially believe the RB12 would have the pace to challenging for the top five in the constructors' standings.
“We came into it with very low expectations and being in the top five of the constructors' looked like it would be a challenge so to come away to finish second in the constructors' championship, third in the drivers' championship, having won two GPs and a pole position in Monte Carlo, 16 podiums.
With Daniel Ricciardo finishing all 21 races, Horner credits Renault - which supplied engines under the TAG Heuer moniker – for its substantial step forward.
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“Ricciardo complete every racing lap of the season with 100% reliability has been an enormous progression from 12 months ago. Despite new regulations coming in for next year which obviously are an unknown to everyone we take an awful lot of benefits and positives from this year going into the close season.
Indeed, Horner believes Renault can get on terms with Mercedes in 2017 if it can continue to make the significant performance gains it did between 2015 and 2016.
“Renault are working very hard. If they can make the kind of gain they made over the last winter over this coming winter, then with the stability of the rules hopefully that convergence will start to happen. With the chassis hopefully playing a bigger role in next year's overall package it may balance things up slightly.”
The 2017 F1 season will see a radical shake-up of the technical regulations in an effort to shift on-track emphasis to the chassis following criticism from some teams that the current era is too engine dependent.
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