Red Bull played second fiddle behind Mercedes in most races of the 2020 Formula 1 season. But Max Verstappen’s win at the season finale in Abu Dhabi gave the Bulls hope that they would finally have a car that could compete for the title in 2021.
With the Formula 1 chassis regulations virtually frozen for this year and the RB16’s worst weaknesses ironed out, there is good reason to be optimistic. But in the back of the team’s mind lurks the historical experience that has characterized Red Bull’s form over many years.
Because Red Bull regularly ended every season strong, got a boost after an encouraging winter, but then didn’t really pick up speed at the beginning of the following season. A brilliant recovery and development phase followed to close the gap to the top of the field – and again to end the year strong.
Continuity as the key to success
This recurring cycle is something that the Red Bull team management is well aware of. But Christian Horner believes that the many parallels between the cars of 2020 and 2021 can help turn the tide.
“I hope so, of course, because it is not a new beginning,” says the Red Bull team boss. “It’s the first time that has happened in Formula 1 history and that’s why we named the new car 16B, as opposed to 17 because there is so much of what is broadcast. It’s probably about 60 percent of the car a ‘carry over’. “
But while it is true that the stable chassis rules give Red Bull a certain amount of confidence in the base it has for this year, there also remains a great deal of uncertainty about the aerodynamics for 2021. Mainly due to the changes in the rules for the underbody still room for some fluctuations in performance.
Aerodynamics remains a question mark
Since aero performance has been a cornerstone of Red Bull’s qualities in the past few years, that means nothing can be taken for granted. This is especially true when you consider that the team likes to be aggressive with development – and will introduce new components as quickly as possible.
This very quality could be the best guide to why Red Bull’s seasons are going the way they are. Because the aggressiveness with which the development is driven and the pursuit of ever more powerful parts may lead to better lap times, but it also has a downside.
Constantly trying out new parts means that Red Bull often chases after a new understanding of the basis on a racing weekend. And if the components on the track don’t work right away, then it can be a headache whether there is an inherent problem or just an adjustment of the set-up is necessary.
Verstappen: Track time is essential
Max Verstappen confirms the perception that Red Bull only needs a while at the beginning of a season to get going: “It definitely looks like this.” However, he also blames the special circumstances for this in the previous year.
“We know that we have to improve a bit at the beginning of the year. But I think the situation with Corona and the lack of time on the track, on which we depend heavily, did not help us,” he knows. “We had to correct a few things. Of course, you lose a lot of points in so many races in a row.”
The fact that the Red Bull driver emphasized that the lack of track time had a negative impact would explain to a certain extent why the performance increases with increasing knowledge of the car. So Verstappen’s answer to the question of how to break through the bad season starts is not surprising.
Better correlation wind tunnel route
“Like I said, I think we’re just a little bit more dependent on the track time. So we have to find a way to make sure what comes out of the wind tunnel works on the car right away and gets us in the right direction “So that’s what we’re going to work on,” says Verstappen.
The message seems clear: If the new parts work right away, Red Bull will not lose any ground to those competitors who are better sorted from the start. It will not be necessary to do something fundamentally different for this.
It’s about improving the methodology and ensuring that the correlation between the wind tunnel and the racetrack is right, instead of trying to make small improvements too early with new parts. As a result, Verstappen should know that a new front wing works – and not have to find out if it does.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel
Red Bull has shown before that you are not afraid to change the way you do things in order to move forward. A few years ago, people consciously moved away from the desire to keep the development window for new cars open for as long as possible – because everything was so short-term during the first tests.
If Verstappen is right that the key to better performance is making sure new parts that come on the line work the first time, then a similarly subtle change in processes could be all it takes to make an entirely different one Achieve result on the track.
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