Red Bull on Wednesday launched a fresh matte livery but warned that even the junior team Toro Rosso might be ahead early in 2016.
“The first half (of the season) is going to be less competitive than the second,” said team boss Christian Horner at the Puma sponsor event in London.
Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo said he doesn’t mind that Red Bull is keeping its expectations low, after a difficult 2015 and the fact the team is staying with Renault power.
“If you come out in Melbourne and Christian and everyone is saying ‘It’s awesome’ and then it doesn’t work, it’s demoralising,” he said.
Ricciardo said his personal goal is therefore to perform at the highest level possible, in order to keep the momentum in his career that in 2014 had looked set to skyrocket.
“If you can’t win, as long as you look good that’s the second thing you want to do,” he said.
At the same time, boss Horner is bullish about Red Bull’s hopes for later this season, as even though more distance has been added to the relationship with Renault, the French carmaker is ramping up its efforts in F1.
“It doesn’t surprise me most people have written Red Bull off but with the calibre of people we have, it would be foolhardy,” he said.
A lot of those hopes are being pinned on Renault.
“I think we are going to start the year with some progress from the end of last season, but I think with our engine partner’s commitment to buying a (works) team we will see staged progress during the course of the year,” said Horner.
“There’s a confidence from them we haven’t seen for some time. They appear to have made the right moves within their technical structure. They’ve brought in expertise through contractors and they appear to be moving in the right direction.
“The biggest problem for them is time,” said Horner.
For 2016, after the spats of last year, Red Bull and Renault have moved apart for the new season but Horner insists the team can win as a mere ‘customer’.
“Let’s not forget, we won a world championship when they had a works team in 2010 so I’m not worried about there being a differentiation in treatment,” he said.
And he explained that Red Bull’s old title-winning approach to making the chassis, including taking ‘risks’ other teams are not prepared to take, remains.
“We’re probably the latest team to do any of the crash tests, which have all been done this week,” revealed Horner.
As for the new livery, he added: “It looks right, and things that look good tend to go well. So hopefully we’ll see that on track.”