After ending a difficult 2022 campaign with victory at the penultimate round of the season in Brazil, Mercedes opted to stick with their controversial ‘zeropod’ concept for 2023. 

However, following a disappointing start to the new season, Toto Wolff declared Mercedes would abandon their unique solution in favour of a more conventional design, which was introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix. 

Asked if Red Bull had been buoyed by Mercedes’ announcement after the opening race of 2023, team principal Horner told Autosport: “Well, Toto tends to be a little dramatic anyway. 

“I think what surprised us was that Ferrari had a very good car last year. And the natural evolution of that we expected it to be a very tight contender this year.

“We were very surprised to see Mercedes sticking with the concepts that had clearly failed the previous year.

“If you looked around the cars in pre-season, the cars that were closest in concept to us were the Aston Martin and McLaren.”

Despite their strong start to the campaign, Horner insisted nobody within Red Bull got carried away. 

“Certainly, coming out of Bahrain, we felt like, ‘we’ve got a really good package here’,” he explained. “But we didn’t know whether it was circuit-specific – temperature, conditions, asphalt.

“So, it’s only when you’ve had a sample of two or three and you’ve gone to a couple of circuits that have been more troublesome, certainly for us the previous year, like Melbourne for example, that suddenly you’re thinking, ‘ok, no, this is really together’. 

“And so yeah, it takes a sample of a few races to get a clear overview. Nobody was coming out of Bahrain getting too carried away."