Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes his Formula 1 team had a "target on our backs" with "knives" sharpened following a controversial 2022 campaign.
Horner's squad enjoyed unprecedented success on-track, claiming 17 wins from 22 races and wrapped up a first title 'double' since the 2013 season as the RB18 proved to be the class of the field.
However, the on-track dominance was threatened to be overshadowed by the team breaching the cost cap limit of $145 million USD for the 2021 season.
A deal was subsequently reached in which the team received a fine and deduction from their development allowance for 2023.
During the time of negotiations between Red Bull and the FIA there were calls by some to strip Max Verstappen of his 2021 title due to the overspend, but this was not echoed by the likes of Toto Wolff at Mercedes or Mattia Binotto of Ferrari - Red Bull's main competitors.
Despite Red Bull's most successful season in their F1 history, Horner believes the team must accept the barrage of criticism that has been directed towards Milton Keynes.
"You're always learning [that] somebody else will have an issue at some point," Horner explained to media, including RacingNews365.com, when asked if Red Bull needed to rebuild trust with fans following the cost cap saga.
"The higher you rise, the sharper the knives, and we've experienced a bit of that this year.
"The quickest way to become unpopular in this paddock is to win and win consistently.
"We are a subsidiary of an energy drink, racing against OEMs and historic brands.
"That does not sit comfortably with some of our competitors.
"Off track, we've firmly had a target on our back this year.
"At times, it has been tough this year but, unfortunately, that's Formula 1."
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Despite dominating the season, Red Bull did not start with the fastest car as Ferrari were quickest out of the blocks - winning two of the first three races.
Only operational, strategic and reliability problems halted the Scuderia's challenge whilst Mercedes struggled throughout the campaign with a fundamental floor issue on its W13 machine.
Horner believes both will be striking back with a vengeance in 2023 - meaning Red Bull must not let up with the RB19 design.
"When you win 17 Grands Prix and do what we've done, you can understand that it hurts our opponents," he explained.
"I'm sure they'll be even more motivated to challenge next year - and they are both such high quality teams.
"Nothing can be taken granted for 2023."
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