Red Bull reportedly switched their developmental focus away from the 2022 car and towards the RB16B during the tail end of last season. This was reportedly done to provide Max Verstappen a better chance at winning the world championship.
The revelation comes courtesy of Alex Albon, who served as the team’s reserve and simulator driver for the 2021 season. Albon said that Milton Keynes intensely developed their car during the last two races of the season, trying to match Mercedes for outright pace.
Speaking in a post-season interview with Motorsport-Total, the 25-year-old said:
“As the championship got closer and closer, we stopped focusing on next year’s car and started focusing more on this year’s car. Especially in the last two races in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, we tried a little harder than usual, and yes, it worked well.”
While Red Bull arrived at the start of last season with a superior car compared to Mercedes, their performance advantage was relatively small. This meant the Austrian team had to maximize every opportunity throughout the season to stay in the title battle.
Meanwhile, Mercedes brought a significant upgrade to their rear suspension from mid-season onwards, which leveled the performance between the two teams. As the season progressed, however, the German team’s advantage over the Austrian team grew, courtesy of the last few races being much more suitable to the W13’s strengths.
Red Bull, suddenly facing the prospect of losing both championships, responded by putting more resources into their 2021 challenger, even if it meant sacrificing potential performance in 2022.
Despite the intense development, Red Bull failed to win the constructors' championship. The Milton Keynes-based outfit, however, narrowly clinched the driver’s title, albeit amid controversial circumstances, with Max Verstappen at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Alex Albon believes Red Bull’s 2022 performance unaffected by team's choices last season
With sweeping new aerodynamic regulations coming into force in 2022, most teams stopped developing their 2021 cars quite early in the season. Red Bull, however, was forced to switch back their resources towards the RB16B late in the season to aid their championship battle.
With a budget cap that severely restricts the team’s abilities to develop their car in a season, the Austrian team has to consider the importance of arriving at the start of the season with a good car. In light of this, the team's choices in the previous season might end up costing them in the upcoming season.
Nevetheless, Alex Albon believes the decision won’t have a serious impact on the team’s fortunes this year. In an interview with Motorsport-Total, Albon said:
“When you have the car at the start of a season to win the championship, to win, you have to put everything on one card but it’s not like we dropped everything to focus on the past year. We’ve been smart and Red Bull has always been good at adapting to the regulations in the past with Adrian (Newey) and the aerodynamicists. They’ve always been smart in that regard, so I don’t think they will be in a bad position (in 2022).”
Red Bull is hoping to defend Max Verstappen’s title in 2022 while providing stiffer competition to Mercedes for the constructors’ title. With Sergio Perez fully accustomed to the team, Milton Keynes might potentially start the season in a much stronger position than they have done in recent years.