Christian Horner believes that the gap between the ‘Big Three’ teams at the top of F1 and the rest of the midfield squads is closing fast, meaning Red Bull has to be wary of being caught by the likes of McLaren and Renault.

Racing Point is another team that has shown significant improvement over the off-season, as have AlphaTauri. Even Williams is a quantum step ahead of where it was in 2019, although they still seem destined to be near the back again this season.

“I think it is inevitable that the grid will concertina a little bit, which is healthy for Formula 1,” said the Red Bull team principal. “I think the gap has [narrowed].

“That happens with continuous regulations,” he explained. “When you have stability, the designs converge and some of those converge closer than others.”

That could be taken as a swipe against Racing Point, whose ‘Pink Merc’ contender for this season bears a striking resemblance to last year’s title-winning Mercedes W10.

But Horner insisted that his team was still firmly focussed forward, looking to those ahead of it in the constructors championship.

“The most important thing for us is to converge that gap with Mercedes,” he confirmed. “That is our target, as they are the absolute benchmark.”

Horner was feeling positive about Red Bull’s prospects following the two three-day pre-season test sessions held last month at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

“We’ve done a lot, considering each driver only got three days in the car going into the first Grand Prix,” Horner said.

“It is very little time, but we’ve managed to cram a lot into that time and been productive.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16.

Although Mercedes topped the overall timesheets, Red Bull was close behind while Ferrari was strangely off the pace – although many pundits expect a degree of ‘sandbagging’ by the Scuderia to disguise their true potential until the first race of the season this weekend in Australia.

Even more encouragingly, the Silver Arrows suffered a number of engine-related glitches. That leaves Horner hopeful that his team’s power units supplied by Honda could prove to be the class of the field this year.

“Compared to 12 months ago our mileage is up significantly,” Horner explained. “It feels we are better prepared going into the season ahead than we were 12 months ago.

“The relationship between ourselves and Honda is more mature,” he said, one year on from Red Bull’s changeover from Renault to Honda power units.

“There has been continuity over the winter with those regs, so I think we are in reasonable shape.”

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

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