Max Verstappen admitted the concentrated 2019 season will be tough for everyone at the team, especially those with family, but said he was excited for racing to get back underway this weekend.
Both he and team-mate Alex Albon insisted they were raring to go for the season ahead, with the Dutchman facing his longest non-racing spell since he was involved in karting.
Meanwhile Albon is gearing up for his first full season as a Red Bull driver, having made the switch to the top team from Toro Rosso at the Belgian Grand Prix last season.
He said: “I’ve missed just the feeling of the speed, being in the car, kind of that process of arriving to the track and perfecting on a lap, and pushing it to the limits.
“Doing the filming day was just a highlight of that where I was a bit like, ‘My God, this thing is so fast!’ It feels very strange to be at home and not having that sense of speed.”
Last season Verstappen was Mercedes closest challenger finishing third in a close group of both Ferraris – 14 and 38 points ahead of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel respectively.
However he was still nearly 50 points behind Valterri Bottas in second, so will have his work cut out closing that gap this season.
One advantage the team have is that racing resumes at the track where Mercedes first showed fallibility last season, the Austrian Grand Prix was the first race they didn’t win in 2019 as the Silver Arrows faltered in the heat and height of the Red Bull Ring.
Instead it was Max Verstappen who took the chequered flag, overtaking Charles Leclerc on lap 69 having dropped to eighth after a poor start. However, one feature of that race won’t be repeated – the ban on fans means there’ll be no Orange Army in the grandstands this year.
Verstappen said: “I have lots of good memories from that track, I remember looking up at the fans at the end of the race last year and they were all standing up and cheering, it was crazy. It gave me an even bigger smile after the win.”
He added: “You are away a lot of course and you can’t go home in between races, which is going to be difficult especially for the team members with families.
“I don’t really think about it as pressure though as it is what we love and what we are here for.”
Team boss Christian Horner, who is celebrating his 15th year in the post, also gave an insight to how the team have worked during lockdown to keep everyone engaged and involved.
He said: “Activities, whether it be online fitness classes, Friday night quizzes, town hall meetings where the staff would have the ability to ask me questions, passing on information and updates, keeping the drivers engaged with the team members as well, were all hugely important during what was a very uncertain time.
“There’s going to be a lot of races that come thick and fast and it’s going to be an intense period for everybody involved. They’re going from 0 to 100mph from having not raced since November last year.
“It’s an unusual year, but maybe that’s what we need to take the challenge to the all-dominant Mercedes who have won everything for the past six years.”