Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says he hopes Red Bull Racing can push Mercedes towards the 'new experience' of pressure in 2017 as the team seeks to mount a Formula 1 world championship title next year.
Mercedes has dominated F1 since the switch to the V6 Hybrid regulations at the start of the 2014 season, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg notching up 51 wins between them in 59 races over the course of the three seasons.
Nevertheless, F1 heads into a new era next year with significant revisions to the technical regulations. Set to give the cars a more attractive appearance and improve lap times, the changes represent a desire to shift the emphasis back towards the chassis and the driver following complaints that competitiveness is too heavily weighted towards the engine.
It is a move that is widely tipped to play into the hands of Red Bull in its quest to fight for a first F1 world title in four years. Indeed, while Red Bull is perceived as having the finest chassis in F1, its results have been largely hampered by the relatively unreliable and underpowered Renault engine, a factor that F1 hopes won't be so notable in 2017
With this in mind, though Horner himself still regards Mercedes as favourites for the 2017 F1 title – despite the exit of its world champion Nico Rosberg -, he is confident Red Bull can mount greater threat to their title bid and potentially force mistakes from a team that hasn't faced significant on-track pressure in several years.
“Mercedes has been in a fortunate position in that they have never really been challenged since 2014. They have been qualifying on the front row and with a very fast car, you can pick your strategy where any variable will work out for you.
“When the grid does concertina, it does put on more pressure. We have been through tight championship battles, in 2010 and 2012, that did go down to the wire.
“I think that gives you a strong experience to deal with those situations. It will be a new experience for Mercedes, when they do come under pressure, which inevitably will happen at some stage. I just hope it is Red Bull that is able to put them under pressure.”
Indeed, Horner describes the new regulations as a 'great opportunity' for Red Bull to recover ground on Mercedes.
“Changing the rules shakes things up a bit. I'm sure Toto will like to freeze the cars for the next five years. I think that a change in regulations presents a great opportunity or us. We have a strong team, a strong driver pairing and we have all the ingredients to put a strong campaign together for next year. Hopefully we'll close that gap down to the dominance we have seen with Mercedes.”