We’re a week away from the launch of the RB13 and the start of 2017’s winter testing programme. In the first of our series of video interviews, Christian Horner presents his views on the challenges of the new season, the strength of our driver pairing, and the effects of a regulation change on the balance of power within the Formula One paddock.
"We're like a swan, paddling furiously underneath – but that's the same as any pre-season. We're pretty much on target," says Christian Horner in his pre-launch interview.
One week before the launch of the RB13, that's the situation at the Red Bull Racing factory in Milton Keynes. Expectations for the new car are high, particularly given the regulation changes for 2017 which offer, if not a full reset, then certainly a chance to see the recent order of things disrupted.
"The rules are a bit different for this year," says Christian. "The cars are going to look different - they're more aggressive-looking. They're wider and have bigger tyres, more downforce and more aerodynamics. They're going to be four or five seconds a lap quicker. It's a clean sheet of paper, and that, for any designer - for any engineer - is a really exciting challenge.
"What excites us most about 2017 is the opportunities that arise from these new regulations. It's going to be fascinating to see who's got it right and who's got it wrong. And then, of course, it's going to be a development race, all the way from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi. You'll see big increments early on because the regulations are pretty immature. I think there is going to be low-hanging fruit early on, to make sizeable steps. That's going to be fascinating. That's going to push every department in the whole team to try and outwit, out-smart, out develop and out-produce our rivals. That's going to be a stellar challenge in F1 this year."
I think the RB13 is one of the prettiest cars that we've designed.
The twist for 2017, however, is that the new regulations present not only an opportunity for constructors, but also for drivers. "There's going to be a bigger physical challenge for the drivers for sure," continues Christian. "How that impacts the racing is going to be interesting to see. I think that we're set for some fascinating grands prix this year. We're definitely going to see a difference in the pecking order of the drivers because these cars are really going to stretch their abilities."
Red Bull are in the unusual position of being the only team to feature two 2016 race winners in its 2017 line-up. Moving on to the subject of the drivers, Christian restates the widely-held view that, in Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, our team has the box office driving duo for the new season.
"We've probably got the most exciting driver pairing on the grid," he says. "It's exciting to see the development and evolution of Max Verstappen as he's growing in experience and confidence. And Daniel Ricciardo, for me, was the driver of the year last year. He put in some phenomenal performances, right at the top of his game.
Their main strengths? Hopefully it's their neck – because there's going to be a lot more g-force this year! They're both ferocious racers who are tremendously dedicated and enjoy what they do. I think the dynamic between the two drivers is great. They're going to push each other incredibly hard, which is great from a team perspective. I couldn't wish for two better, more motivated drivers in our cars."
"It's an exciting moment, to see the car break cover," he says. "People get sucked into who's doing what times, which fuel loads, who's doing race runs etcetera., It's all irrelevant in reality! You have to focus on your own programme, put the blinkers on, get through your programme of work and the developments you want to look at – because it's all going to change by the time you get to Melbourne anyway."
Christian has most of the world at a disadvantage, having seen the RB13 in something close to its launch-spec guise already. Without giving anything away ahead of the official unveiling, he cheerfully describes the new car as "pretty".
"I think the RB13 is one of the prettiest cars that we've designed and made because the geometry of the car under these new regulations means the proportions look right. It looks mean, it looks fast. The old adage is that, if it looks right, it tends to go alright – and this car sure looks right."