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 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.

Horner insists that he is confident of a much more consistent 2009 - and he also sought to rubbish recent reports attributed to drivers Webber and Sebastian Vettel suggesting the pace of the RB5 has fallen behind that of its rivals as pre-season testing has worn on.

"I think the FIA clearly identified with the data they had that the Renault was a bit down on power," the Englishman explained. "They've allowed them a small re-tune that gives us hopefully reasonable parity in the engine stakes.

"Testing has been vitally important. We had a good test in Barcelona, particularly with Sebastian Vettel, and I think we're in good shape. We've managed to cover the majority of our plan and the car has run reliably and competitively.

"There are no pace concerns at all. I think it's impossible to see what others are doing, because you don't know what fuel levels or car weights they're running. We know obviously what we've been doing, and I think we have made significant steps and did look very competitive throughout the final two days of the Barcelona test."

Looking ahead to the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park this weekend - a race in which RBR has in the past totalled eight points - Horner makes it clear that he has high hopes indeed. And beyond that, he affirms, the goal has to be the top step of the podium.

"I think Saturday afternoon in Melbourne will be the first clear indication," the 35-year-old reflected of the likely pecking order in 2009, "but even then it will only be a snapshot, because I'm sure it's going to evolve over the first three or four races.

"Our target is very much to go there, qualify within the first three rows and get a top five or six start to the year, but it's very, very difficult to say. You look at the times and you've got Ferrari, Toyota, [Fernando] Alonso and ourselves all very, very tight. Williams were also doing good times in Jerez last week. The only team that hasn't looked strong in pre-season testing has been McLaren. Obviously the Brawn has been very, very rapid, so overall it's going to be fascinating to see how things pan out in Australia.

"Obviously we go to every grand prix with the objective of trying to compete as close to the front as possible, with the aim of winning grands prix. In Sebastian we've got a proven winner, in a car designed by Red Bull last year. With the regulation changes it's obviously a much bigger challenge and much more of an unknown, but that has to be our target - to be amongst the bigger teams as often as possible. We'll find out in Melbourne.

"I think there's always a chance of winning; Sebastian proved that last year. That's why we do it and why we're competing. We've got a great team here - it's a young team, but it's gaining in experience all the time and I think why not? If the circumstances fall right to us, the car has been competitive in pre-season testing. Our target has to be to try and win grands prix."



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