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Red Bull unveiled a new look for a new era on Wednesday (17 February), but lead driver Daniel Ricciardo wasn't entirely optimistic about his team's chances in the upcoming season as the Australian gears up for the start of the Formula One season in Melbourne in March. Red Bull finished fourth overall in the constructors' championship last year, with no race victories.
The launch of the team's 2016 livery and Puma-designed apparel in London on Wednesday was designed to fuel a new era of optimism in the organization but Ricciardo said he was being realistic and knows that the team has a long way to go before catching Mercedes, who have won the last two championships, led by Lewis Hamilton.
"I wouldn't say I am worried but I am not going to come out of here with heaps of optimism saying we are going to be fighting with Mercedes straight away. I am still realistic about it and I am sure we are still not going to be the quickest power unit in the first race but I think there is more optimism this year that we can find more from it, find more progress. I think after four, five races we should be able to get some more legs behind it and hopefully that gives us a real chance later on," said the Australian, who remained in typically amiable form.
Ricciardo, who won three races in 2014, suffered last year but is hopeful that this time he can get a race victory, even if it means relying on his rivals slipping up in wet conditions. "I think my target is to get back in the winner's column. I am aware it might not happen very often but if it can happen once then I will make it happen and a wet race or a street circuit can be the place. So that is what I have got my sights set on," said the 26-year-old.
These sentiments were shared by Ricciardo's teammate Daniil Kyvat. "We can't be confident that things will be better until we are out there the first or second race. That will be more representative obviously. In Barcelona it was hard to get some bits of the puzzle, but the full picture will be clear only in the races. So, I hope that there have been some steps forward and we are working hard as a team to improve those things and that the power unit also will be improved," said the Russian.
Winners of four drivers' and constructors' titles between 2010 and 2013, Red Bull's relations with Renault frayed badly last year as their engine proved underpowered compared to champions Mercedes and Ferrari. Renault now have their own team, after buying Lotus, but are still providing Red Bull with engines that now carry Tag Heuer branding.
The car wheeled out on Wednesday in an old brewery in London's East End replaced Nissan's luxury car brand Infiniti – the former title sponsors who have followed Renault – with Red Bull branding. Team Principal Christian Horner said the mood at the Milton Keynes factory was one of determination to get back on top, and felt Renault commitment to buying its own team would also help in terms of engine development.
"We are moving forward. I think there has been some very helpful and honest discussions over the winter. Renault, obviously, are very focused on Formula One at the moment – they have introduced their own team and they wouldn't have committed to buying their own team if they were not committed to having a competitive power unit, so things are moving and we are hopeful of seeing progress, certainly as the season progresses," said Horner.
If the car shown off on Wednesday was old, Red Bull's new challenger will make its debut on the track on Monday when the first pre-season test starts at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. The season starts in Australia on 20 March.