Red Bull rivals 'will fight back' says Christian Horner

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull believe rivals McLaren and Ferrari will bounce back after Sebastian Vettel's dominant win in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sportsweek the advantage would ebb and flow between the teams this year.

Asked if the season was going to be a Red Bull walkover, Horner said: "I totally doubt that will be the case.

"We know Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso will be hugely competitive at forthcoming races."

Vettel, the reigning world champion, was on pole postition from Hamilton's McLaren by a massive 0.8 seconds in Melbourne last weekend, and he romped to a comfortable win over the Englishman.

Alonso finished fourth in his Ferrari, which did not show the pace it appeared to have in pre-season testing.

The pace advantage of the Red Bull at Albert Park caught rivals by surprise but Horner said he did not expect his team to run away with the season.

"We'd love to think that but history dictates these things are never that easy," he said. "We can't underestimate our rivals.

"Ferrari with the heritage, quality of personnel and resources they have, they will come back strongly with Fernando maybe at the next race.

"And we saw the steps McLaren made from being woefully uncompetitive (pre-season) to being right there with some modifications.

"It will effectively be an arms race this year in terms of development and getting performance from the car.

"We demonstrated we could do it last year, the challenge is to do it again.

"We take nothing for granted, there's no sense of throttling back because we think we're competitive - we're very keen to build on the performance we saw in Melbourne at the weekend."

Red Bull achieved their victory in Australia without the use of the Kers power-boost system that is worth in the region of 0.3-0.4secs a lap.

They took it off the car after Friday because of reliability concerns, which are believed to centre around managing the heat the system creates.

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel

Not running it in Malaysia would make Red Bull very vulnerable to their rivals off the start line and down the Sepang track's long straights.

The high temperatures and humidity of Malaysia make reliability difficult for all teams, and Horner said a definitive decision about whether they use Kers in the race there will only be made once the cars have run.

He said: "It was a very close call at the Australia weekend if we leave it on or take off, it was a collective decision.

"There was a risk so we decided not to run the system because the benefits at a circuit like Melbourne other than at the start were fairly limited.

"At other circuits the benefits will be more apparent - we ran the system on Friday (in Australia) without any issue, it was purely based on a lack of mileage on the system that our confidence was relatively low.

"Now we're armed with that mileage and having inspected all the components our confidence has grown; if it runs well on Friday in Malaysia it will make its race debut during Malaysia weekend.

"It's effectively a free 80bhp so over the lap it's 0.3-0.4secs. Obviously the motivation is to have it on the car as quickly as possible, but we won't compromise performance or potential reliablity if we feel it isn't race-sturdy yet."

Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber struggled to match Vettel's pace in qualifying and the race in Melborune and the Australian finished his home race fifth.

But Horner said he expected the 34-year-old to be back to his best in Malaysia.

"Mark was very disappointed with his result in the first race," Horner said.

"He and the team have been looking to understand that in the last week. We think we've found a few pointers and I'm confident we'll see him back up at the front in Malaysia next weekend."

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