Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko believes his team has ‘never been more ready’ to challenge Mercedes in the title race and that Honda’s new engine is a ‘true work of art’.
In the last few seasons, Red Bull have always started the year with a big gap behind Mercedes, which they would gradually reduce during the season, just like last year, but they are aware that they will have to be competitive from the first race to fight for the title.
Optimism ahead of the new season is based on the final race of 2020, when Verstappen convincingly won in Abu Dhabi, but also the rules ahead of the new season that haven’t changed much as teams have to use last year’s chassis.
Honda has accelerated its development program to integrate all planned innovations into the 2021 powertrain as they retire from Formula One after this season which should give Red Bull the much-needed wind in the back in the fight against Mercedes.
“Mercedes is again a clear favorite,” Marko told Red Bull TV channel Servus TV.
“But we are entering the season more prepared than ever in the last seven years. Our goal is the world title.”
“The all-new Honda engine is a true work of art.”
“This applies to both its compactness and the installation itself. Honda found better performance for 2021 and eliminated weaknesses in certain areas that were our handicap.”
“We expect an improvement that should bring us to the level of Mercedes.”
“But we know Mercedes isn’t sleeping either. I just hope their jump isn’t going to be that big anymore because the engines are in their eighth season and at some point the development curve has to flatten.”
“We are very confident in the new Honda engine. There were minor problems in the preparation, but it was due to sloppiness. It is not something that should give us serious mechanical or electronic problems.”
Team boss Christian Horner has previously admitted that Verstappen has a clause in his contract that allows him an early termination if Red Bull does not meet performance expectations, and Marko believes they can deliver.
“We need to give Max a car capable of winning with and in which he can fight for the title,” said the 77-year-old Austrian, winner of the 1971 Le Mans 24h in a Porsche 917K.
“If we succeed in that, nothing will stand in the way of continued cooperation.”