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Red Bull chief Horner: Mercedes ‘total favorite’ for new F1 season

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Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner says that Mercedes remains the “total favorite” for both championships in 2017 despite an overhaul of the technical regulations.

Mercedes has won both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for the past three years, racking up over 50 race wins in that period and enjoying a spell of domination rarely seen in F1.

The German marque was given a scare in pre-season testing as Ferrari emerged as the fastest team, while Red Bull is also tipped to impress under the new rules that favor aerodynamic performance, an area it is traditionally strong in.

Despite these factors, Horner remains adamant that Mercedes is still going to be the team to beat in 2017 given its track record in recent years.

“Let’s be serious: Mercedes is the clear, clear favorite,” Horner told the official F1 website.

“They have won 50 races in the last three years, we’ve won five and Ferrari three. Do I have to say more?

“The regulation changes aren’t that big. There have been times with equally big changes: refuelling/no refuelling; blown diffusers and no blown diffusers; a change from Bridgestone to Pirelli [tires].

“And one thing is crystal clear: good teams adapt.”

Despite claiming two race wins and jumping back up to second in the F1 constructors’ championship standings last year, Horner is doubtful that Red Bull can make another gain and overhaul Mercedes at the front of the pack.

“Mercedes are total favorites,” Horner reiterated. “Yes, we’ve made a good car – a good basis of a car that we will hopefully be able to develop effectively through the year.

“Renault has had a busy winter as well and hopefully the TAG Heuer-branded engine in our car will perform well this season.

“How well – and what the others will find – is pure speculation.”

The new F1 season kicks off in Melbourne, Australia on March 26.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”