Christian Horner says he believes Red Bull Racing's strength at adapting to changes in regulations will tell ahead of the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if he still regards Mercedes as the favourite for the F1 title.
F1 is undergoing an overhaul for 2017 season in an effort to better readdress the balance between engine and chassis superiority following criticism that 2014's switch V6 Hybrid power units made success too dependent on power over handling.
With Red Bull – who notched up four titles between 2009 and 2013 – suffering as a result of engine supplier Renault's struggles to develop a powerful and reliable power unit relative to Mercedes and Ferrari despite having a strong chassis package, the tweaks for 2017 are tipped to work in its favour.
Indeed, Horner says Red Bull's track record in finding innovative solutions to revised regulations stands it in good stead provided Renault continues its momentum on the engine side following major strides in 2016.
"It feels like we are building momentum,” he told Sky Sports F1
. “2016 has been all about building that momentum and there is a feeling of real optimism within the team that if we can nudge a bit closer on the engine…chassis we are hoping to come up with a good car to give our guys the tools to fight Mercedes next year," Horner told Sky Sports F1.
"2017 is a clean sheet of paper and no one knows where the opposition are. We've been quite good with regulation changes before, but nothing can be taken for granted," he added.
"We are hoping similar progress can be made with the engine and if that happens I think we have two very capable drivers of taking the fight to Mercedes.
Indeed, Horner feels drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo can put pressure on Mercedes – who feature a revised driver line-up of Valtteri Bottas alongside Lewis Hamilton – even if he regards the defending champions as still the team to beat.
"Mercedes will be the favourites heading into next year, but if we can narrow that gap down and put them under a bit of pressure it would be great for everyone."