Adrian Newey reckons the past experience of close F1 title fight for Red Bull will help them in 2021 against Mercedes, adds on evolution of RB16B.
A close championship battle is not unknown territory for Red Bull. 2009 saw Red Bull-Renault battle it out with Brawn-Mercedes in an extremely close battle, where Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button were the main contenders, respectively, with the latter just taking the F1 championship title with an 11 point lead.
The 2010 season saw even closer battle, where Red Bull’s Vettel and Mark Webber, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, fought it out. Known as one of the sport’s best title fights, the year saw the standings change after each race, where the German did not lead at all, until he took all the glory in Abu Dhabi with a four point lead over the Spaniard for his first ever F1 world title.
After a dominant 2011, the 2012 season saw another intense title fight between Red Bull and Ferrari, where Vettel once again had Alonso chasing him. While Hamilton also got into the mix, it was clear the main event was between the former two. The races like Singapore, Japan, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, United States, and Brazil saw fans on the edge of their seats.
Ultimately, Vettel took home the championship for himself and Red Bull, making it his third consecutive title. All those years and seasons of racing close and hard on track and among the standings gave them solid experience on both sides of the coins, in defending P1 and also seeking it.
“One of the great things about Red Bull Racing is that we’ve always had a good atmosphere in the Team and that’s meant we’ve also had very good stability in the workforce, going back to a time even before we were first able to mount a title challenge,” said Newey on Talking Bull episode.
“We lost-out in 2009 but that, and I think the experiences of winning two very tight battles in 2010 and 2012 have moulded us, and given us a level of resilience that comes in very useful now. We know how to be the hunter and the hunted which is a definite strength,” summed up Newey, who reckons the above close fights is keeping them on toes and in the game, with regards to their close fight against Mercedes.
Certainly, the 2021 season for Red Bull is seeing an incredible battle, where both them and Mercedes are giving their all. Newey feels the experience will come in handy as they head towards the closing stages of the year, with the German outfit in lead. But at the start of the season, it wasn’t a clear cut if the RB16B will be able to challenge the W12, especially after their troubles with RB16.
Even with the experience, it was still new for Max Verstappen, while Sergio Perez got his first taste of the latest Red Bull machine only in Bahrain. It was an unknown territory at the beginning of the year for all of them after they were presented with the unique situation due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“It tends to be very much unknown until you do get out on track,” said Newey. “We had a mid-sized regulation change over the winter in terms of some aerodynamic restrictions around the floor and the back of the car. It wasn’t a major change, but it did require some optimisation of the car to go with it.
“On top of that, we had the unique situation of homologating last year’s car to help F1 cope with the issues arising from COVID. It limited what we could do to the tokens we were allowed to spend. We chose to spend ours on the gearbox casing, which also allowed us to change the arrangement of the rear suspension. That was the one thing I didn’t feel had worked very well on the RB16.”
The RB16B had been a step up from its sister car last year, with the gearbox, suspension, and aerodynamic aspects spotlighted more this season, ultimately aiding it in being a more competitive car according to both Newey and Verstappen at winter testing. The confidence boost in competitiveness given after comparing it to the 2020 Red Bull in winter testing was reaffirmed after the Bahrain GP for Red Bull.
“I think those changes bought us a reasonable step forward,” said Newey. “When we got to Bahrain it looked like we’d read the regulations on the aerodynamic restrictions reasonably well. Checo, of course, hadn’t driven the RB16 but Max instantly felt the new car was a decent step from the previous one and was very complimentary.
“Coming out of the test we felt we had a competitive package – but you never really know where that’s going to be. You don’t know what engine modes people were running, what fuel loads they had in and so on – trying pre-season to understand where you really are is a minefield. It took the Bahrain Grand Prix to confirm that yes, we’re competitive. We didn’t win that one – but it’s been nip and tuck since then,” summed up Newey
In fact, Newey admitted that the work on RB16B was helped by the learning through RB16, as they couldn’t get it all correct when they moved it from the RB15 of 2019. That’s why they had to be very particular with their limited tokens ahead of the 2021 season. “To go back a little way, when we moved from the RB15 of 2019 to the RB16 last year, there were some things on the car that we didn’t fully understand,” he said.
“Even with the wind tunnel programme and all of our simulation tools there are still things that can trip you up, and that’s exactly what happened at the start of 2020. It took a bit of time to understand and get on top of those issues. The benefit of that – as is often the case – is that you learn things that you wouldn’t otherwise have learned.
“You get more out of the mistakes than you do the good things. I think that stood us in good stead for what we did over the winter, and those developments have got us to where we are now,” summed up Newey. Going back in time, the 2009 – 2013 title fights for Red Bull were its best ever, and 2021 is proving to be a season worthy of being added to that line-up, against a team like Mercedes, who are gunning for a record title.
Verstappen led the Driver’s championship standings from the fifth round in Monaco, all the way to the 10th in Silverstone. The unfortunate incident there left the Dutchman with no points, but still ahead of Hamilton in the championship fight. The Hungarian GP and its Turn 1 carnage, however, saw the lead slip out of both the team and the driver’s hands and back to Mercedes, as they now look at the second half to see who gets the last laugh.
The article was written by Selena Aburas
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