Overweight, reliability worries, a strong opponent in Ferrari, but: “We still have good development potential,” says Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
For Red Bull, the new Formula 1 season has not started as they would have liked. Max Verstappen is already 20 points behind world championship leader Charles Leclerc after two races, and the team is only third in the constructors’ standings behind Ferrari and Mercedes. Even if the feeling is: With the victory in Saudi Arabia, 2022 has only really begun for Red Bull after the double failure in Bahrain.
From Red Bull’s point of view, it is also positive that the potential of the RB18 is far from exhausted. Mercedes, for example, certainly has more room for improvement than Red Bull when it comes to “porpoising”, but Red Bull can still make significant gains in other areas – especially in terms of weight.
Helmut Marko was a guest on ‘Sport und Talk aus dem Hangar-7’, a talk show on the Red Bull channel ‘ServusTV’ on Monday evening. There he calculated that ten kilograms of “overweight” above the minimum weight of 798 kilograms prescribed by the FIA make up three to four tenths of a second per lap.
Marko confirms: Weight costs a good three tenths of a second
In the interview, editor-in-chief Christian Nimmervoll asks Marko quite directly: “Can we deduce from the statement on ‘ServusTV’ that it’s about ten kilos that Adrian Newey and his team have to shed on the RB18?” And Marko’s answer is clear: “Yes, we can assume that.”
The Mercedes F1 W13 E Performance is, rumour has it in the paddock, similarly “overweight” as the Red Bull RB18; the visually bulkier Ferrari F1-75, on the other hand, is said to weigh in a few kilograms less than its two main rivals. That means the potential to improve with the first updates could be greater for Red Bull and Mercedes.
“I assume we will lose some weight by Imola,” Marko announced on ‘ServusTV’. “That alone should bring a significant gain in time.” He therefore believes that Red Bull is “well prepared” for 2022; but it is also “very clear” that “with excess weight you will certainly not be able to drive at the front in the season.”
Marko analyses the Ferrari F1-75 as a car “that is always fast under all circumstances, regardless of temperature and tyres. Our car is certainly more difficult to set up.” This also suggests that Red Bull might have more potential for further development than Ferrari in a direct comparison.
In addition, as runner-up in the 2021 Constructors’ World Championship, Red Bull is allowed to use a maximum of 60 active operating hours of the wind tunnel in the first half of 2022, while Ferrari is allowed 64. If the World Championship standings remain as they are now, that would be reversed from 1 July. Ferrari would then only have 56 hours, but Red Bull 64. The same percentage key also applies to CFD resources.
“It’s all about development now,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner knows, “about unleashing the potential of these still very immature cars. We see that Ferrari is very, very fast. They are working hard to find performance and to understand how the tyres work, for example. All these things.”
“What I am particularly pleased about is that we have probably focused on the development of this car later than our rivals because the team in Milton Keynes has invested so much in the RB16B. The fact that the championship has dragged on for so long has compressed the schedule for this car. So when the season starts like this, of course it gives you a boost.”
Red Bull: Strongest on the long straights?
Interesting: Red Bull is traditionally seen as a team that has its strengths less in top speed and more where it needs downforce, namely in the fast corners. A trend that seems to have been completely reversed in 2022, at least so far, if one recalls how Verstappen overtook Leclerc at the end of each straight.
“They were really, really fast in the corners,” Verstappen reported after his victory in Saudi Arabia. “We were fast on the straights for that. The tyres also degraded quite quickly on this track. But in the end we just had a bit more pace. That’s how I was able to overtake him in the end.”
Horner explains: “We approached the first two races with a conscious decision to run less downforce. That certainly worked in Saudi Arabia.” And he says: “The rules are interpreted very differently. We found a very creative interpretation. I think we still have good development potential for the season with that.”
Having won a race so early is “fantastic” for morale, Horner stresses. But there are also worries: Red Bull suffered a double retirement in Bahrain, and AlphaTauri lost a car to defect in each of the first two races. “Of course that gives us a headache,” Horner admits.
But: “It is still so early in the season. Luck and bad luck usually balance each other out over the year. We take it one race at a time. At the moment we are behind, but we have written in, won our first race. Both drivers were very competitive. From there, we have to pick up momentum now.”