Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has played down his team’s 2018 Formula 1 title chances as it launched the RB14 on Monday, saying Mercedes’ advantage could be even greater this year.
Marko said he does not believe his four-time title-winning team will be in a position to challenge the reigning champions for the top spot this season.
In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, Marko said: “The [Renault] engine should be more reliable and more powerful this year, and we will have a competitive chassis from the beginning, but Mercedes is building a new engine. It might be that their advantage will then be even bigger.”
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But Marko did concede that if the Renault power unit produces the numbers that the French manufacturer has stated, then it could close the gap.
“If the engine lives up to the promises that have been made, we should definitely be closer to Mercedes,” he said. “We saw that we always came up to speed in the second half of the season, and the analysis showed that we always finished the car too late.
“It doesn't make any sense if you find a couple of hundredths of a second in the last 14 days. It is more important to be well-prepared for the season.”
When asked if it was an advantage for main rivals Mercedes and Ferrari to concentrate on team leaders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel respectively, Marko revealed that he doesn’t think Red Bull will be in position to challenge for the drivers’ title anyway.
“That is an advantage, but if you have two equally strong drivers they will push each other to the highest performance level,” he said. “And they will also push the technicians and the chassis to the highest performance level.
“If you only have one driver who is at the limit, then you never really know where you are. It is a disadvantage if your drivers take away points from each other, but I believe we are not in the situation to go for the title already this year.”