It’s been a long and winding road for Red Bull and engine partner Renault to retrieve the partnership’s historic level of performance.
At this time last year, neither partner could imagine continuing its association with the other following an acrimonious relationship and several very public spats.
But one year on, following a TAHG-Heuer rebrand and massive efforts from the French manufacturer over the winter to restore the former luster, performance and reliability of its power unit, Renault’s engine is, at the very least, now a match for Ferrari according to Daniel Ricciardo.
“At the start of the year we went into Melbourne not really expecting much compared to the end of last year,” said Ricciardo.
“But we came in with more horsepower, and then the updates helped, and we’ve found a little bit more and a little bit more since then.
“It’s been a nice refreshing improvement on both sides – the chassis is working well with the power unit.
“We’re now pretty much on par with the ’16 Ferrari [engine], and that’s positive. They made a really big step last year.
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Red Bull’s expectations at the start of 2016 were understandably low, but progress was delivered by Renault and elevated the Milton-Keynes-based outfit to the ranks of Mercedes’ closest challenger.
“We’ve overtaken the ’15 Ferrari that Toro Rosso have, so it’s good, it’s going in the right direction and that’s all we can ask for now. As long as we keep seeing improvements then we are going to take what we can.”
Ricciardo believes however that Ferrari will be a mighty force to be reckoned with next weekend on its home ground.
“They should be the favourite to beat us at Monza. But if we can beat them at Monza then that would be quite a good one for us ahead of going to Singapore and Suzuka which, on paper, should favour us more.
“But I’m not going to count them out. Seb [Vettel] can turn it on pretty well, as can Kimi [Raikkonen] on his day.
“We’re prepared to be in a fight with Mercedes, but we’re also prepared that Ferrari might join in on the action as well.”
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