New year, new rules, same goal: Red Bull wants to defend the drivers' title with Max Verstappen in 2022 and ideally also conquer the constructors' world championship. For this, they work tirelessly on the new car in Milton Keynes. Engine partner Honda is still looking for performance.
It was a season that demanded everything from those involved. Be it drivers, team bosses, sports directors and above all mechanics. 22 races went to the substance. The title rivals gave each other no room to breathe, either on or off the track. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton fought for the crown up to the last meter. As is well known, the 24-year-old Dutchman had the better end for himself.
Red Bull's head of sport Helmut Marko looks back and sums up with satisfaction: "It was an incredibly intense season. All in all, we are a worthy world champion. There were a few races in which we were very unlucky. Baku, Silverstone and Budapest in front Hamilton was gifted a lap at Imola due to the demolition."
In Abu Dhabi, his protégé had luck on his side. Without the late safety car, without the kick-off on the last lap of the race, Hamilton would have continued to sit on the Formula 1 throne. Then Red Bull's efforts would have been in vain. Losing the Drivers' World Championship would not have been a catastrophe, but it would have been a huge disappointment, as the doctor from Graz explains.
Mercedes better in the second half of the season
Red Bull provides the driver world champion. Mercedes is the design champion. Red Bull had the faster car in the first half of the season, Mercedes in the second. Sounds like a peaceful division. How did the reversal in the balance of power come about? The Silverstone upgrade made the Mercedes a high-flyer again. It brought more downforce and opened up new (old) options in vehicle setup.
The opponent developed the RB16B longer, but mostly lagged behind Mercedes. "We had to develop because Mercedes also took a step with the engine," says Marko. "On the electric side, they were able to mobilize more. For example, after restarts for one or two laps. They had more energy available there."
At the same time, Red Bull seemed to have lost accuracy in the vote due to the large number of new parts (compared to Mercedes). Marko admits: "We found it more difficult with the set-up work. We were no longer able to achieve results in a targeted manner. Mercedes got the setup done faster. And they had the car better in the tire window. In qualifying, Max was able to make the difference. In the In racing trim, the Mercedes was the faster car."
Russell has to prove himself
The past season is finally over. In the new Red Bull blows to defend the title. "The declared goal is the world title." Marko again believes in a duel against Hamilton and Mercedes.With one caveat: "You can never be sure with such a big rule change." However, the structure and size speaks for the top two teams. "Mercedes and we have the potential, the people and the continuity. That again speaks for a duel at the highest level. Especially since no other driver can keep up with Hamilton and Verstappen."
Marko sees the two exceptional talents on their own planet. "The Norris is the closest to keeping up. Leclerc was disenchanted by Sainz, so to speak. Russell will certainly be a bigger challenge for Hamilton. Just rhetorically and politically, because he's also English. He's an incredibly fast driver in qualifying. He was in the race The gap to Latifi isn't that big anymore though, so Russell has to prove himself first." The new Mercedes driver can learn from the best. Nobody understands Pirelli tires like Hamilton. Nobody has mastered tire management like the seven-time world champion.
Verstappen should be able to accommodate the fact that the new cars are likely to be difficult to drive. "Max doesn't need any warm-up time. He's always quick." So there is no need to worry on the driver's side. Especially since Sergio Perez continued to improve towards the end of the season. Red Bull is on schedule with the RB18. "At least I wasn't given any information to the contrary," Marko gives the all-clear. Whereby no one knows exactly whether the goals set are actually sufficient. Because everyone's new car was created on a blank sheet of paper.
Question marks about engines
Work is being done tirelessly in Milton Keynes. The rule revolution demands maximum commitment. The world championship and the mission of defending the title are the motivation for the workforce. Only drivers and management can rest. "They work around the clock. The English aren't all that holiday people. They only know Boxing Day." That's December 26th in England. Because 2021 fell on a Sunday, Monday was also a public holiday.
A question mark not only hovers over the completely redesigned cars, but also over the engines. With the change from E5 to E10 petrol comes a loss of performance. From 2022, ten percent of the fuel will come from biological waste. The talk is that as a result 20 horsepower was lost or even a little more. All manufacturers have to nibble on that. "Honda is working massively on the adjustment. What I hear is positive. But the performance is not yet the same as in 2021. But in general you will have to wait and see how it looks in race trim."
Although Honda has officially left Formula 1, it is building the engine for the upcoming season and is responsible for production, assembly and maintenance - a service against payment. And from what you're hearing from Formula 1 circles, the umbilical cord to Japan could continue beyond 2022.