Red Bull is being tipped to disrupt F1’s world order as it heads into 2021 determined to dethrone Mercedes as the sport’s top dog.
Ferrari’s horror 2020 paved the way for Red Bull to surge into second in the constructors’ standings, but the energy drink team still finished more than 250 points behind the Silver Arrows.
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Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will be looking to close that gap — with Verstappen in particular desperate to put more pressure on Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the race for the world title.
Pundits believe the time is ripe for Red Bull to make a serious challenge and bring an end to Mercedes’ incredible run of dominance that has seen it win the past seven constructors’ championships.
While Hamilton remains the man to beat, Verstappen’s hot form to end 2020 has some predicting the 23-year-old is ready to give the Brit and his teammate a serious scare — a mission that will be boosted by Red Bull’s developments during the off-season.
There was plenty of mystery at Red Bull’s launch of its new car last month when it kept the new RB16B in the garage during a filming day at Silverstone. The team released 76 photos of its day on the track — but none of them showed the newly-designed car it will use this season, preventing outsiders from getting a look inside the inner sanctum.
Former driver turned analyst Karun Chandhok said the secrecy suggests Red Bull has big plans.
“Are Red Bull going to pick up where they left off in Abu Dhabi? Max was frankly dominant, it was a brilliant win and Red Bull were coming on strong,” Chandhok told Sky Sports.
“They’ve got a new gearbox for 2021 which they’ve kept very secret. In fact, everything they’ve unveiled from their launch was of an old car — so they’ve been super secretive, more so than normal.
“There’s something there with the rear end and this new gearbox they’ve got so I’m waiting to see whether that pays dividends.”
Fellow Sky Sports analyst Ted Kravitz agreed Red Bull was keeping its cards close to its chest, and is interested to see what developments have been made to its power unit as well as the chassis.
After abandoning Renault to have its engines supplied by Honda in 2019, the Japanese company announced last year it will exit F1 at the end of 2021, so will be hoping to leave on a high note.
“What I’m more interested about with the Red Bull is how Honda are doing with this new engine. They’ve brought forward all the good stuff they were planning for 2022 to this year’s engine because Honda, of course, are not going to be around in 2022,” Kravitz said.
“This is their swan song season. They’ve got some good stuff on the engine, and let’s see what that does.
“That will really dictate the battle, I think. We know the Red Bull chassis is good, they won the last race in Abu Dhabi, and they’ll be there or thereabouts — it just depends on the engine.”
F1 commentator Martin Brundle believes “the pack is really going to be closed up in the next year or two” and has high expectations of Red Bull.
“I think Red Bull are actually going to be very strong,” he told Sky. “That performance they put in at Abu Dhabi and how they have developed the car over the winter, if they hit the ground running and deliver their potential straight away — which they haven’t often done, it must be said — I think Red Bull will be incredibly fast.”