Red Bull wary of rivals ‘stealing a march’

Jamie Woodhouse
A side view of the Formula 1 Red Bull RB18. February 2022.

The Red Bull RB18 is unveiled to the world. February 2022.

Christian Horner says Red Bull are waiting to see whether their 2021 title focus has hindered their 2022 efforts.

The 2021 campaign was perhaps the most difficult so far for Red Bull in Formula 1 as, like all teams, they had to adjust to the new budget cap, but at the same time develop their 2022 challenger to the all-new regulations while also battling with Mercedes for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles.

Mercedes had secured the past seven Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships before 2021 but with Red Bull proving this time they had the machinery to fight across the season, naturally they could not shift all focus to 2022 and risk that opportunity slipping away.

Ultimately, Red Bull came out on top in the Drivers’ Championship with Max Verstappen clinching his first title with a last-lap overtake on Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, snatching the World Championship from his rival.

Now the focus is completely on 2022 with Red Bull having unveiled their new challenger, the RB18, on February 9.

Continuing title-winning ways is very much the goal, but with these 2022 cars being all change from a regulatory standpoint Red Bull are at this stage aware of the threat that their 2021 title focus will have allowed a rival to gain ground.

Their 2021 test and reserve driver Alex Albon said recently Red Bull briefly curbed their 2022 focus to push for both 2021 titles – a statement Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko claimed was “misinterpreted“.

Speaking at the launch of the RB18, Red Bull team principal Horner said: “We are aiming very much to build on what we achieved last year, so the target is obviously to retain the title.

“The big unknown is ‘have we missed something with these regulations?’ Has another team stolen a march because of the focus and effort that went into 2021?

“We believe we’ve a good car. RB18 is coming to life. It’s a combination of a huge effort from the team and I’m looking forward to seeing it out on the track in anger.”

Horner has already stated the RB18 shown at launch will be modified quite heavily by the time the season starts in Bahrain, while Haas, who were first to complete their 2022 launch on February 4, made a similar statement.

So with these 2022 regulations presenting one of, if not the biggest, rule shift between seasons in F1 history, Horner is expecting a development war all the way from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20 to the final race in Abu Dhabi on November 20.

 

Asked what is new on the RB18 compared to the RB16B, Horner replied: “Basically everything because with a new regulation change, the whole philosophy of the regulations has altered from last year so that means every single component is brand new this year.

“With it being a ground-effect [car], with it being designed to making overtaking hopefully easy, the cars easier to follow each other, that’s changed the whole philosophy of how we design these cars.

“It’s a steep learning curve for everyone and it’s a race of development between the first race and the last.”

 

PlanetF1 Verdict

 

Red Bull wary of rivals’ early speed

Christian Horner says Red Bull are waiting to see if they focused too much on 2021.