Red Bull pace and dominance a surprise even for Horner

Spread the love
Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

While reigning world champions’ Red Bull coming out of the blocks with the fastest car on the grid for the 2023 F1 season has come as a surprise to perhaps nobody, be it within the paddock, in the media or amongst the fans of Formula One – just how much of a competitive edge over their competition (if indeed on the strength of what we have seen so far they have any true competition at this time) is the real surprise. The only other team to have led a race this season is Aston Martin. On the face of the first two races it doesn’t appear that any team currently has a car capable of challenging them and their talented duo of drivers.

So far ahead is the Milton Keynes-based team that even Team Principal Christian Horner is surprised at their early dominance. Red Bull have managed to achieve a one-two finish in both of the races so far this season, more impressive for the fact that Max Verstappen started 15th at last weekend’s outing in Jeddah. In the team’s 18-year history, it’s only the second time this has happened. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber secured consecutive 1-2s in 2009 at the British and German Grands Prix.

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

When questioned on if he was surprised by the strength of the early results, Horner replied simply: “Yes”.

While it could be easy to dismiss this comment off-hand, what you have to remember is in the pre-season period the only benchmark a team has is the previous year and engineers have no idea what to truly expect from their competitors until the first race. Asked to comment on the job the team had done over the winter and why their counterparts in the paddock were trailing, Horner said: “Not really but you can only focus on yourself.”

He took the opportunity to give the people back at the factory another pat on the back: “All testimony to the team in Milton Keynes who have done a wonderful job over the winter.”

Pointing out that this early pace and results is more critical than ever due to their reduction in wind tunnel time as a penalty for breaching the cost cap last year, the Red Bull team boss continued:

“The wind tunnel reduction has applied since last October, so for us, we couldn’t afford to miss the target with that limited run because you’d never be able to engineer your way out of that with that handicap.”

What this also means is that the other teams on the grid have much more opportunity to develop and upgrade their machinery to bring the fight to Red Bull, while the current world champions may hit a ceiling of sorts.

Now more than ever, they cannot let their position of strength and early championship lead be eroded by unforeseen mechanical gremlins such as the driveshaft failure which befell Verstappen during qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last weekend, with both drivers also reporting problems and “vibrations” from the rear end during the race itself. A double DNF for the team at the weekend (which struck them in Bahrain last year) and we could be having a very different discussion right now.

Fortunately for the team, they have four cars to look at as part of their investigation, as sister team AlphaTauri are using the same component.

“It’s something we need to understand……“If there’s a design tweak or not, I don’t know, but obviously, we’ve got four samples of it running in both our cars and in the AlphaTauris” – Christian Horner on the Red Bull driveshaft issues in Saudi Arabia.