Formula 1's director of motorsport Ross Brawn admits he's disappointed that there isn't a three-way battle for this year's title.
Currently the fight is between Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. But Brawn says that Red Bull should have been right in the mix as well.
“For the whole team I’m sure there’s something a little bittersweet in the team’s recent form," he said this week.
Red Bull had a disappointing start to its 2017 campaign. Max Verstappen was particularly badly hit by a high number of early retirements. As a consequence, he was ruled out of the title battle almost before it started.
But ever since the summer break, the team has appeared transformed. Daniel Ricciardo has finished on the podium in four out of the five races, while Max Verstappen was victorious in Malaysia and runner-up at Suzuka.
“This year has once again confirmed the Milton Keynes squad’s recent tendency to get the best from its package in the second part of the season,” Brawn said in a Formula 1 media release.
"If this was the early phase of the championship, then Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo might be considered serious title contenders.
“But that's out of the question because of the early-season performance gap the team suffered," he pointed out.
“The team has done an excellent job in building performance across the season," he added,. "For everyone involved I’m sure there’s a hint of ‘what if’ about this season.”
Even now, engine reliability and power are holding Red Bull back. The team uses a Renault engine which simply isn't a match for the power units developed by Mercedes and Ferrari.
“There are undoubtedly a number of reasons for this," Brawn commented. "The time needed to mitigate that through other development opportunities, and obviously the efforts made to address that power deficit by the team’s supplier."
Red Bull has already announced that they are to split from Renault at the end of the 2018 season. Amid rumours that the team is working to bring Aston Martin into the sport, it's believed that they will move to the Honda stable for 2019.