Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes that the Aston Martin Formula 1 team has made a “big step” with its 2023 car.
Aston Martin has enjoyed a strong pre-season test in Bahrain, with many backing it to take a leap forward compared to its form in 2022.
Last year, it ended the season seventh in the Constructors’ Championship but it is now being tipped to begin the 2023 campaign competing towards the front of the midfield.
“I think they’ve made a big step,” Horner told F1TV. “It looks like their concept of car has moved them forward and it looks like they’re not too far away.
“Fernando [Alonso] in particular looks very competitive.”
Alonso has joined the team for the upcoming season alongside Lance Stroll, replacing Sebastian Vettel who opted to retire from F1 at the end of 2022.
Aston Martin’s mooted improvements aren’t likely to trouble Red Bull, who enter the campaign aiming to enjoy a third successive title-winning year on the back of its 2022 dominance.
However, Horner remained coy over its prospects, as rivals Ferrari and Mercedes look to dethrone it.
“It’s very difficult to say [what the pecking order is],” Horner said.
“Ferrari look like they’re quick, Mercedes form is difficult to read at the moment, are they holding something back? We’ll see this time next week.”
Red Bull took 17 grand prix wins last year, 15 of which went the way of Max Verstappen who secured his second F1 title.
Verstappen’s test programme ended on Friday as he had his one and a half days of running in the car, with Horner highlighting that he’s in strong shape ahead of the new campaign.
“I think he’s been in a great place for the last few years now,” he said. “He’s at a stage in his career now, his confidence is very high.
“He’s got that experience, he just gets in and turns it on. You saw that from the very first lap from the first day of testing.
“He’s worked through the programme, he’s felt he’s got to know that car as he wanted to. So he’s in good shape, physically he’s in great shape and excited to start the season.”