Red Bull has presented the first images of its racing car for the new Formula 1 era. Thanks to defending champion Max Verstappen, the car with starting number 1 is sent into the race. The question is whether Red Bull will have to pay for the long championship fight last year in the new season.
At Red Bull in 2021 the knot finally burst. After seven driver's titles for Mercedes in a row, a pilot from the Milton Keynes racing team was once again allowed to have his name engraved on the world champion's trophy. Max Verstappen prevailed against Lewis Hamilton in a memorable final. Thanks to safety car luck in the final meters in Abu Dhabi, the Dutchman saved an eight-point lead over the finish line.
But the world title could have been bought dearly. No other team took as long to develop the old car in 2021 as Red Bull. Those responsible did not want to miss the opportunity to win the first world championship since 2013. In the end, the risky strategy was finally crowned with success. The question now is how many resources were withdrawn from the 2022 project and how much the development was delayed as a result.
At least as far as the unveiling of the new car is concerned, Red Bull is at the forefront again. The digital cloth was pulled from RB18 on Wednesday (February 9) both via its own social media channels and via the accounts of fans and partners. In order to also let the growing fan base in the USA participate, the launch event only started in the late afternoon European time.
Not the real Red Bull RB18?
You couldn't really expect Red Bull to present their new car as the second team in the field right after Haas. In the past, the development team around star designer Adrian Newey always worked on the technology down to the last second. Some official pictures of the new car were only sent out a few minutes before the first round of testing.
Now the team from Milton Keynes has already dared to come out of cover two weeks before the start of the winter tests in Barcelona. However, the pictures should not help the competition much. Technically, the model shown appears to be a far cry from the real Red Bull RB18, which will roll out of the garage on February 23rd. The unveiled car is more reminiscent of the 2022 F1 show car unveiled at the Silverstone race last summer.
The front wing, which consists of only three - and not the allowed four - elements looks very simple. The nose is a bit slimmer than that of the show car originally shown. The wide rear looks almost clumsy. It can be assumed that the real car will probably look very different. In previous years, the Newey squad had liked to have important aerodynamic details retouched from the official photos in order to fool the competition and not reveal the cards too early.
Honda is only half way
At least there was a first look at the paintwork, which didn't hold any big surprises either. Red Bull continues the old color scheme, which has remained virtually unchanged since 2016. Only the large Honda logos on the fairing and wings have disappeared. The drive partner withdrew from the premier class as an engine supplier during the winter break. But as you know, you never really go that far. The new power unit also comes from the sacred Honda halls in Sakura.
Last year, the Japanese engineers managed with a real feat to close the power gap to Mercedes, which made Verstappen's title win possible in the first place. For 2022, however, the V6 turbo had to be fundamentally rebuilt again in order to adapt combustion to the prescribed admixture of ten percent biofuel.
Although Red Bull has set up its own engine development on the technology campus in Milton Keynes and has already hired a lot of staff for it, maintenance will remain in Japanese hands until the planned switch to the new engine generation in 2026. With the freezing of engine technology in the coming season, however, Honda's commitment will continue to decrease.
Verstappen is number 1
A new feature on the outer skin – in addition to the logos of team sponsor Oracle – is the starting number that Max Verstappen will be wearing in the race. The Dutchman is the first driver since Sebastian Vettel in 2014 to have the "1" glued to his car. Lewis Hamilton has always voluntarily renounced this honor and stayed with the 44. As is well known, Nico Rosberg, who would have had a choice after his title in 2016, passed up the chance to defend his title.
This is of course not the case with record hunter Verstappen. Of course, the 24-year-old would like to follow the first title directly with number two. "How many times do you get the chance to swap numbers? And number 1 is the best number out there, so it was easy for me to choose. Hopefully number 33 doesn't come right back next year," the Dutchman commented on the number game.
His teammate has completely different concerns. Sergio Perez's market value fell significantly after the crushing defeat in the internal duel. The courageous defensive battle in the Abu Dhabi final against Hamilton didn't help much either. The Mexican has to improve, especially in qualifying. Otherwise he'll soon be rid of his cockpit again. After strong performances with the junior team Alpha Tauri, Pierre Gasly is ready to win back the coveted place in the Red Bull A-Team.