Christian Horner says he will be taking all of Red Bull's rivals seriously in 2022 as F1 embarks on a new era with overhauled technical regulations.
Spearheaded by a 'ground effect' aerodynamic concept, updated bodywork and bigger, 18-inch tyres, the new set of regulations will produce markedly different cars from those seen during the 2021 season.
As such, there is potential for the form book to be ripped up, with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine all aiming to fight at the front, while several other teams also switched their focus to the new rules early on.
Red Bull not underestimating any of their rivals
Although he expects the usual contenders to be in the mix during the 2022 campaign, Horner admitted that the pecking order is difficult to predict, and is not ruling out the prospect of a team leaping forward from the back of the grid.
"I think it's probable that the big teams will be at the front. Which order they'll be in is difficult to predict," Horner told RacingNews365.com in an exclusive interview, when asked if he thinks the momentum will continue from 2021, with Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren in the lead pack.
"It's the same group of people that were designing last year's car that designed this year's car, so it's how you deal with a problem, how you interpret regulations, and the creativity of the group that differentiates them.
"It will be interesting to see what our competitors [do], but I think it'd be foolish to underestimate any of the teams with such a big regulation change."
How big a role will the budget cap play?
Alongside the regulation changes, another factor at play is F1's cost cap, which was introduced for the 2021 season. All 10 teams were initially limited to a budget of $145 million, but this drops to $140m in 2022, with another $5m cut planned in 2023.
Asked how demanding it was for Red Bull to balance development of their 2021 and 2022 cars, amid the pressure of a title fight, Horner said: "For sure, it was a difficult challenge. But we have to remember that [we] carried over probably 60% of the car.
"The big challenge for 2022 is that one, the budget is reduced by five million, and two, every component is different, is brand-new. [We've got] a new chassis, new steering wheel, new pedals, new suspension – new everything! That obviously carries a considerable cost with it.
"It's not a cheap car, from what we've seen so far, in terms of construction, so that, inevitably, will be putting all teams under [pressure]. I believe every single team in the paddock is at the budget cap limit for this year."
Horner added that all teams will be feeling pressure "to a bigger or lesser degree", though quipped: "It's always easier to go up than to come down!"
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