Christian Horner: Mercedes ‘absolutely favourites’ for 2017

Red Bull boss Christian Horner isn’t stepping out on a limb when it comes to offering a tentative prediction for the 2017 Formula 1 season.

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In his expert view, Mercedes will start the year once again as the clear favourites.

“Mercedes have a few things going on with drivers and technical staff but they have a very strong team,” Horner told the BBC’s Radio 5.

“It will be interesting to see who they opt for in their spare seat because their options look relatively limited.”

Mercedes have approached Williams with the hope of securing the services of Valtteri Bottas to race alongside Hamilton, but the Grove-based squad has declined the offer for now.

Horner believes Mercedes’ only viable option now is to promote test driver Pascal Wehrlein, a man whom he thinks has the potential to race at the front.

“You give these guys a chance, and let’s see what people can do in a front-running car.

“If they did take Wehrlein or Bottas, both are probably both capable of running right at the front, you just don’t know until you give them the chance, which is what we did with Sebastian Vettel, and Daniel Ricciardo.

Interestingly, Horner believes that Mercedes’ attitude towards Lewis Hamilton would perhaps have been quite different in Abu Dhabi had the team known beforehand of Nico Rosberg’s retirement.

“The problem is this call has come so late in the day and they obviously weren’t expecting it. They would probably have supported Lewis a bit more in the last race if they’d known this was going to happen.

“They will now have the contractual situations of the drivers they are involved with but their choices are pretty limited.”

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