[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] RED BULL RACING: CHANGING TACT

There’s no more excuses for Red Bull Racing in 2018. The former four-time Formula One World Constructors’ Champion has so far failed to put up a proper title challenge to dominant squad Mercedes in the turbo-hybrid era.

Its biggest obstacle: slow season starts, which the squad has endured for the past three years, 2017 set back by a windtunnel correlation issue that meant parts didn’t show the expected performance upgrade on track. 

… a problem only solved in June, costing valuable momentum.

Regardless, Red Bull Racing is the current King of Development, and last year was no different… the squad gaining strength from mid-season, with Max Verstappen winning in Malaysia, then Mexico on pure pace.

Daniel Ricciardo was on the podium nine times, including an opportunistic victory in Azerbaijan, set up with the overtaking manoeuvre of the season – which the Australian spoke about exclusively to The Inside Line.

AUDIO QUOTE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“The racecraft and the kind of conviction with my racing and the moves and everything I was doing was at the level I want it. I think it’s the level I’ve had for the last few years and I’ve been certainly able to keep that, if not improve it, so yeah, it’s nice that that gets recognised.”

It’s a strength that bodes well with stable technical regulations into 2018, and a new title partner in Aston Martin for more development.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
You just get the feeling with, at least the last few races, that change is coming. And our car has been working extremely well, the Ferrari has been competitive and it's really exciting to think that maybe there are six or seven drivers that might be going into a Grand Prix with the chance of winning."

… and for the best chance of winning in Australia, Red Bull Racing launched and shook down its special-liveried RB14 at Silverstone this week, five days earlier than the RB13 to ensure reliability.

Last year’s car enduring nine retirements from mechanical gremlins – seven related to its Renault power unit, but reliability wasn’t the only issue.

SOUNDBITE (English) JENSON BUTTON,
2009 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“They seem to have a power disadvantage compared to Mercedes and Ferrari but the car seems to be working well and they have two great drivers, Max and Daniel.”

No doubt the pairing is one of F1’s most formidable – but the results from last year show the Australian must step up his game.

Ricciardo finished ahead of Verstappen in the drivers standings, 32 points clear – but was outqualified 13-7 and outraced 5-2 in the races where they could be compared.

And while Ricciardo must even the score to shore up his future options, the 28-year-old a free agent for the first time in his F1 career at the end of the year, he relishes the challenge of his teammate.

SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I’m not that competitive, I guess, with my friends anymore when we do things, I’m kind of past that point. My job is competitive enough. Yeah, having Max around keeps me fired-up.”

For Verstappen, who last year signed a new contract with Red Bull, said to be worth in excess of $30 million US dollars a year, until 2020, it’s another chance to stretch his legs as one of F1’s most exciting driver talents - and do what he does best – fight, pass and win.

SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I don’t need particular goals to motivate myself because every race for me is a chance to win. Some, of course, are better for us than other tracks but that’s what we have to find out with the new car.”

And the new car, the RB14, needs to be a contender from the outset, with reliability to match. Just don’t ask Verstappen about the Halo.

SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“Yeah, so the Halo - that will be very ugly, not looking forward to that. But, in general I hope the car will look great, hopefully it’s fast.” 

The pressure is on at Red Bull Racing ahead of pre-season testing.