Red Bull boss Christian Horner predicts that his drivers will be right in the thick of the 2018 world championship battle.

This year’s campaign was derailed almost before it began. Reliability issues led to a frustrating first half of the season for both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

But the team kept working and has been much stronger since the summer. Ricciardo has finished in the top four in five of the last seven races.

Verstappen’s gone even better. he clinched emphatic wins in Malaysia and Mexico, and a runner-up spot in Japan. Horner believes that if Red Bull can maintain that momentum over the winter, it will match Mercedes and Ferrari next year.

“If we can take the lessons learned out of the RB13 into the RB14,” said Horner, “And with better reliability, then I don’t see any reason why both of our drivers shouldn’t be able to give Lewis and Sebastian a hard time.

Horner insisted that he wasn’t underestimating just what tremendous form Hamilton was in at the moment.

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“He is obviously right at the top of his game,” Horner told Sky Sports News. “Hopefully he will be around for a few more years.

“Sebastian achieved four in a row with us, he’s only just 30,” Horner pointed out. “Lewis has just achieved four, he’s in his early 30s and one would assume that he’s going to achieve more.

“I think in Max, in Daniel, in Seb, you have got some fantastic drivers there that are able to go wheel to wheel.

“Max is only 20. I think if we can give him a competitive car, he absolutely is a champion in waiting. You can see in the great drivers that they stand out at big moments. Max is doing exactly that.”

“I feel very confident in our drivers having the ability,” he said. “If we can give them the tools to go shoulder to shoulder with [Hamilton] and hopefully have a great fight, [it] will be great for the sport.”

It’s current TAG Heuer-badged engines from Renault are still down on straight line speed. Even though that’s a handicap in qualifying, Red Bull have found a way to neutralise the deficit in race trim.

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