Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has likened Mercedes' previous dominance of Formula 1 to a prison sentence.
Following four years of Red Bull supremacy, the Silver Arrows swept every available title between 2014 and 2020, a streak that was finally arrested by Max Verstappen's 2021 Drivers' Championship win.
Since then, Red Bull have re-established themselves as the eminent force in F1, with Verstappen taking his second title at a canter in 2022, and Red Bull also securing the Constructors' Championship with several rounds to spare.
Speaking on told ESPN's Unlapped podcast, Horner noted that Red Bull's return to the front was a long time coming.
"Seven long years, that's a long time. You get less for crimes!" said Horner.
"We had to wait to get back into a competitive position. We had to do a lot of watching of a lot of Mercedes winning. But we never lost sight of our target, we were still winning races every single year at circuits we could excel at.
"We never lost that target, it was just about putting the missing pieces into place. Then when we got a competitive power unit, we were able to go toe to toe with Mercedes."
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Red Bull success beyond team's "wildest dreams"
Red Bull's RB19 package is proving to be one of the most dominant cars in F1 history, being equal parts quick and reliable.
This has allowed drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to take a clean sweep of all 12 Grands Prix and three Sprint races in the first half of the season, and Horner noted that even the most optimistic Red Bull employee would never have predicted such a flawless record.
"We could never have imagined in our wildest dreams that we're heading into summer break unbeaten in both Grand Prix and Sprint races," said Horner.
"[During pre-season testing] in February, we knew we had a good car, but we expected Ferrari to build on last year and we expected Mercedes to be there also.
"It completely took us by surprise how competitive we were compared to our opponents."
Lean years "galvanised the team"
After sweeping all available titles between 2010 and 2013, Red Bull suddenly found themselves on the backfoot in 2014, with Mercedes emerging as the dominant force in F1's then-new turbo-hybrid era.
Relegated to scrapping for occasional wins when circumstances allowed, Horner said Red Bull's comparatively lean years were crucial to laying the foundations for the team's current dominance.
"[Those years] were hugely important, because they galvanised the team. We came off a winning streak and suddenly we had no chance," said Horner.
"We were turning up at races and had no chance of success. I think that tested the team in many respects, it would have been very easy for a lot of people to have left the team at that point.
"The races we won we had to scrap hard for, we had to be super sharp because we were running with a handicap, effectively. If you look at the races we won in those years, many of them were opportunistic wins or wins at circuits where power didn't play a pivotal focus.
"I think 2021 was probably the most epic season in the history of the sport. But we were ready for that challenge, we were battle hardened from those intervening years."