Horner admits Mercedes have taken a ‘big step’ and expects them to start putting Red Bull under pressure
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has recognised the performance step delivered by Mercedes at the Spanish Grand Prix, saying he fully expects them to put the pressure on as the season develops.
After their disappointing 2022 campaign, Mercedes endured another tricky start in 2023 as they initially pursued their zero-sidepod concept, before abandoning that route and working on a much-revised package.
That set of updates arrived for Monaco, but the unique nature of the layout meant any learnings were limited and the first full test came in Barcelona, where the Silver Arrows emerged as Red Bull’s nearest challengers in race trim.
Indeed, Hamilton converted P4 on the grid into P2 behind Max Verstappen, having overcome Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari early on, while George Russell rose from 12th on the grid to round out the podium – beating the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez to the line.
Asked about Mercedes’ improvement and whether he is concerned, Horner initially smiled: “They were still  seconds behind at the end of the race...”
He then admitted: “They made a good step. I think that we’ve got some stuff in the pipeline… They’ve had a big upgrade, we’ve got some bits coming later into the season.
“But look, for sure, a big step, they’re a quality team, and for sure they’re going to be putting us under pressure in the second half of the year.”
As for the general F1 pecking order at this stage of the season, Horner added: “Well, the form’s moving around. You look at Lando [Norris’] lap [for third in qualifying], the Mercedes looked strong in the race, the Ferraris didn’t have the pace that we thought they might.
“The form behind us does seem to be moving around quite a lot at the moment, so it’s difficult to predict who’s going to be where at which event.”
Red Bull hold a commanding advantage in the constructors’ standings after seven races, sitting 135 points clear of Mercedes, while Verstappen leads team mate Perez by 53 points in the drivers’ battle.