With Max Verstappen enjoying a growing championship lead over Lewis Hamilton, it's been a good start to 2021 for Red Bull Racing despite the catastrophic tyre failure that robbed Verstappen of the win in Azerbaijan.
With 15 races still to go in the World Championship, there's a long, arduous road ahead before the Dutch driver can dream of clinching his maiden title, but Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko believes the chance is there.
"Max now finally has a car where he can show his potential and compete for the title," Marko tells RacingNews365.com, when we meet him in Graz, Austria.
"I think our title chances are very, very good. We have one competitor and that is [Lewis] Hamilton. It also proves how important it is to have a top driver and now everything comes together and we are constant.
"We have shown that we are competitive on all types of tracks, but our competitors are also strong. Baku was very impressive, where Hamilton could not get closer despite the long straights."
The expectation is that Mercedes will fight back hard as the season progresses, and Marko said the goal is to grow the championship lead over the next couple of races to give themselves a buffer against the inevitable retaliation from Hamilton.
"I think there will be circuits again where Mercedes is strong," he said.
"Our plan is to build a lead to around 25 to 30 points. That's the target, but I'm afraid the final decision will only come in the last two races."
With Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez providing ever-improving support against the Mercedes duo, Marko praised the Mexican but said he still has work to do to improve his qualifying prowess.
"The role of Checo is very important, we have seen that in the past. If you don't have a strong second driver, you are strategically with your back against the wall. For example, if Checo had a better qualifying or first lap in Barcelona , then Mercedes would never have been able to make that second pit stop," Marko refers to the two-stop with which Hamilton beat Verstappen.
"Conversely, without him in France we would not have been able to execute our strategy if he had not been right behind both Mercedes.
"He plays a very important role and thank God the race pace was there from the first lap. That qualifying was a bit less, but it's getting better. Checo has always been better in the race than in qualifying. As a junior he also drove for us.
"He was 13 or 15 years old or something. Even then he was very good in the long run in Formula 3 and a bit less in qualifying. It's in his driver DNA."
But, with the duo the strongest driver pairing Red Bull have had together since Daniel Riccardio's departure at the end of 2018, Marko said that the two car attack is helping in the fight with Mercedes.
"It's good to be able to play the tactics in a way that Mercedes knows they are fighting two cars and not a Red Bull," he said.
"I think we have the strongest duo. Bottas has his strong races, like Monaco, but in Baku he was nowhere. Checo is more consistent in that."