Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has admitted that he was shocked to see just how fast Mercedes recuperated after their dismal start to the 2022 season.
With the new budget cap in place, teams are afforded very little margin for error when it comes to the basic design of their cars.
Mercedes, however, almost completely messed up at the start of the season.
Their car was regularly plagued with problems of porpoising and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton even walked out of his Mercedes W13 clutching his back following the completion of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
While the start was slow and Hamilton eventually experienced going through an entire season without a single race win, Horner was surprised to see just how big a gap the Silver Arrows breached over the course of the season.
Mercedes was efficient if not spectacular during the second half of the season and almost even wrestled the second spot off Ferrari in the constructors’ standings.
The highlight of the season for them was undoubtedly at the Brazilian Grand Prix, when George Russell and Hamilton combined for a 1-2 finish, marking youngster Russell’s first ever race win.
“Under the budget cap, it has been surprising just the amount of development,” said Horner.
“We have had the least crashes and a moderate amount of development.
“But it has certainly been surprising the rate they have developed, particularly in the second half of the year.
“But that is F1. When you consider where they were in Bahrain to where they were at the end of the year, it was a big step.”
Horner was completely mindful of the fact that Mercedes will come far better prepared in 2023.
“I would expect them to be very strong. They are not going to have the experience of this year,” he said.
“Look, they are a very capable team with very capable drivers and we are set for another really competitive season of Formula 1 in 2023.”
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