F1 2017 Pre-Season Report: Red Bull
With two of the most talented drivers on the grid, Red Bull will want to close the gap on Mercedes this season.
Ahead of the opening race of the 2017 Formula One season in Australia on March 26, we take a look at how each team is shaping up for the new campaign.
Here we assess whether Red Bull can pose a threat to the peerless Mercedes a this year.
HOW DID THEY PERFORM IN 2016?
Though controversial at the time, Red Bull's biggest success of last season was arguably recognising the talent of Max Verstappen and acting decisively to promote the teenager from sister team Toro Rosso.
Verstappen was a winner on his debut in Spain after replacing Daniil Kvyat and finished fifth in the drivers' standings thanks to six further podium finishes, the last of which came courtesy of a stunning drive in the wet at Interlagos.
Daniel Ricciardo's purple patch from Hungary to Mexico ensured plenty a 'shoey' was drunk in the second half of the season and ultimately made him the closest challenger to Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, earning his only win of the campaign in Malaysia.
Those performances were a vast improvement on 2015, with Red Bull's rebranded Renault power unit – now carrying the Tag Heuer logo – seemingly doing the trick for a team desperate to regain their place at the top of the sport.
THE 2017 LINE-UP
One of the most likeable drivers on the grid, Ricciardo enters his sixth full season as an F1 driver hoping his team can build on the progress of 2016. One win in two seasons is not enough for a man of Ricciardo's talent driving for a team of Red Bull's means. The Australian will be keen to avoid a repeat of the Monaco pit-stop mix-up that "screwed" his chances and temporarily wiped away Ricciardo's customary smile.
Verstappen fully justified Red Bull's decision to snap him up after four races of last season and his Barcelona victory – thanks in no small part to a collision between the two Mercedes – made him the youngest grand prix winner in the sport's history. His bold driving style drew the ire of some drivers – not least Sebastian Vettel – but his Brazilian masterclass, when he climbed from 16th to third in the space of 16 laps, was a joy to behold. Here's hoping we see more breathtaking performances from Verstappen in 2017.
THE TO-DO LIST
- Close the gap on Mercedes. Plain and simple. Advisor Helmut Marko reckons it will be midway through the season before Red Bull can challenge the defending champions, but changes to aerodynamics regulations have seen some tip the team as realistic challengers to F1's dominant force this season.
- Keep Verstappen firing. Verstappen requires minimal fine-tuning for a 19-year-old and his confidence behind the wheel is a huge part of his appeal. Few will question that he is a world champion in the making and he will be keen to outperform Ricciardo this season.
HOW WILL THEY FARE?
Ferrari's strong performances in testing have given Mercedes and Red Bull food for thought, with both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen impressive in Barcelona.
Red Bull will, at the very least, be looking to remain in the top two, as anything less would represent a backwards step against their rivals at the top of the constructors' standings.