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Christian Horner

Horner 'surprised' Mercedes stuck with doomed car concept

The Red Bull Team Principal admits he was shocked when Mercedes emerged from winter at the start of the season with a similar design for the W14.

Hamilton Bahrain
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Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was "surprised" that Mercedes stuck with their zero sidepod car concept with the W14.

Both teams were staunch rivals during the 2021 campaign, but at the start of the new ground-effect era the following year Mercedes struggled to produce a car that matched Red Bull's RB18.

The W14 was meant to turn things around for the Silver Arrows, but it produced worse results and left the team winless for the first time since the 2011 season.

Mercedes eventually changed tact midway through the year, adapting a downwash design similar to Red Bull and Ferrari. This managed to salvage more podiums, with Lewis Hamilton ending the year third in the Drivers' Championship.

When asked if he was shocked to see Mercedes stick with their ill-fated car design at the beginning of 2023, Horner told Motorsport.com: “I think what surprised us was that Ferrari had a very good car last year.

"The natural evolution of that we expected it to be a very tight contender this year. We were very surprised to see Mercedes sticking with the concepts that had clearly failed the previous year.

“If you looked around the cars in pre-season, the cars that were closest in concept to us were the Aston Martin and McLaren.”

Horner insisted that Red Bull themselves did not know they had produce a title-winning car capable of dominating the season out of the box, despite managing to achieve a significant weight advantage over their 2022 challenger.

“Certainly, coming out of Bahrain, we felt like, ‘we've got a really good package here’. But we didn't know whether it was circuit specific – temperature, conditions, asphalt," said Horner.

“So, it's only when you've had a sample of two or three and you've gone to a couple of circuits that have been more troublesome, certainly for us the previous year, like Melbourne for example, that suddenly you're thinking, 'ok, no, this is really together'."

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