MELBOURNE, March 19, 2012 (AFP) - Team chief Christian Horner insisted Red Bull were as quick as triumphant McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix -- and would prove it next weekend in Malaysia.
Horner said Red Bull had simply "underperformed" at the opening race after McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finished first and third, against second and fourth for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
"It was a good recovery and we had good pace in the race. We were right on same pace as the McLarens and could have been faster," he said.
"Mark drove a great race. Overall it was a good recovery. I think we underperformed rather than McLaren being overly strong and that is the story -- we can prove it next time we race."
McLaren had led qualifying with Hamilton spearheading a one-two on the grid, with Webber fifth and Vettel, the double defending world champion, sixth.
And Vettel benefited from a slice of luck when a safety car intervention allowed him to snatch second place from Hamilton late in the race.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said Button was always in control of the race and had plenty of speed left in reserve. "I think we were in reasonable control. The stop just before the Safety Car allowed Vettel to go past Lewis, but all in all it was a great weekend for the team," Whitmarsh said.
"We've proved we've got a quick car and now we can concentrate on making it quicker."
He added: "What does matter, and what is clear, is that all this points to a closely fought battle in the next few races.
"We believe we are truly competitive so let's see what happens in Malaysia in a few days' time."