Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2017

Power unit problems weren’t Red Bull’s only weakness in 2017

2017 F1 season review

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Red Bull won more races in 2017 than last year yet slipped to third place in the constructors’ championship. And it wasn’t a close call either way: they were 150 points behind second-placed Ferrari and around 200 points ahead of Force India.

There were two chief reasons for this slump, one of which Christian Horner readily described. “If you look at the number of points we have given away through unreliability, it’s close to 160,” he said. “Engine reliability has hit us really hard”

This is certainly true. Most of Red Bull’s stoppages were engine-related and they posted far more retirements than Mercedes and Ferrari combined. But the team was also compromised by simply being off the pace at the beginning of the season.

Red Bull team stats 2017

Best race result (number)1 (3)
Best grid position (number) 2 (2)
Non-classifications (technical/other) 13 (9/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,723 (71.67%)
Laps led (% of total) 156 (12.98%)
Championship position (2016)3 (2)
Championship points (2016)368 (468)
Pit stop performance ranking3

This was unexpected as, on paper, the 2017 regulations change played into Red Bull’s hands. They have always been one of the strongest teams when it comes to aerodynamic development, yet they arguably missed a tricky which Ferrari picked up on when it came to sidepod design. Meanwhile pre-season regulations changes regarding suspension systems probably cost them more than they admitted.

Once Renault had addressed the reliability problems they encountered early in the year, Red Bull began to make headway. In-season development continued to be a major strength and few teams seemed to make as great strides with their cars as Red Bull did with the RB13.

Daniel Ricciardo bagged a lucky win in Azerbaijan where team mate Max Verstappen stopped early on. The latter bore the brunt of the team’s problems early in the season but later in the year roles were reversed and Verstappen claimed a pair of excellent wins.

The Renault’s shortcomings went beyond reliability. Mercedes and Ferrari can still extract more from their power units on a single flying lap, which often consigned the RB13s to the third row of the grid. Pole position only ever went to the silver or red cars.

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In race trim Red Bull were usually a more potent threat. Both drivers demonstrated exceptional race craft, Ricciardo dazzling time and again with his super-late moves on the brakes. Verstappen continues to be the sport’s most exciting young talent.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2017
Ricciardo scored the team’s first of three wins
Late in the season Red Bull had found great form with their car but were hit by a fresh wave of engine problems and grid penalties. It’s no surprise Horner has become a vocal critic of the already-agreed rules change which will see the maximum number of engines per driver reduced from four to three next year.

In the meantime he is putting a brave face on things. “We will take all the lessons from this year into next year and we have a lot to be optimistic about,” he said. “We are hopeful that the engine situation will improve and we are getting a lot of promises that will be the case.”

How much of a future does Red Bull have with Renault? Their contract is tipped to expire at the end of next year and rumours claim Renault will not extend it. Red Bull may be in a situation where it has to take over their sister-teams Honda deal as an interim solution until 2021 when new engine regulations arrive. The team appears to be betting on new 2018 title sponsor Aston Martin being the long-term solution to their power problems.

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  • 18 comments on “Power unit problems weren’t Red Bull’s only weakness in 2017”

    1. Hopefully, next season they’ll be competitive enough to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari right from the get-go.

      1. Yes but with “ it will be better next year “ Renault I doubt it☹️

        1. it will be better next year

          Ferrari also sort of have a history of doing that though

          1. Well at least this year they more or less delivered, albeit with some small reliability issues.
            I still think the red car was up to the challenge this year. But with only one capable driver who had a tendency to loose his head, it’s difficult to win the championship.

    2. It puzzles me how F1 teams don’t try harder to build strong relationships with engine partners. There are only four engine suppliers to choose from and I hardly see Mercedes or Ferrari supplying Red Bull with their engines, so why rock the Renault bridge? Maybe Red Bull doesn’t think that Renault is their future motor solution but F1 is unpredictable and while I don’t know how much money any of these manufacturers are pumping in, any of them has a chance at building a fine engine. IMO, Red Bull as a team that doesn’t build their own engines should keep their options as wide open as possible.

      Otherwise, I am pretty excited to continue watching Red Bull as they have a very promising driver in Verstappen and a quick and reliable driver in Ricciardo and I hope they can fight at the front next year. I’m a big fan of watching people drink champagne that tastes of feet.

      1. Most do @wpinrui, its rather just Red Bull that seem to think they don’t need to (we pay them, so they are not a partner). McLaren tried a lot harder to get along with Honda, but that broke down after the umpteenth engine failure while running dead last from lack of power.

        1. @bascb Yeah, Red Bull is simply too arrogant. 1 year of failure after big regulation change and more importantly after delivering 4 world titles is never be able to justify how hard they trashed Renault. It’s no wonder that people and Renault view of Red Bull dropped drastically while McLaren can part way with Honda without hard feelings.

          1. So after a shocking PU in 2014, that was massively down on power in comparison to the Mercedes PU, considerable unreliability issues in 2015, when Renault were trying to say that there were no issues with the PU and wouldn’t do anything to sort it out, they weren’t allowed to do anything about it?

            The Renault issue is that they would not listen to anyone and deny they had issues. This season with all the failures STR have had, Renault once again were trying to lay blame on STR! Despite have PU related failures themselves… I don’t blame RBR for shouting about how bad the PU’s were in 2015, they were bad and Renault wouldn’t acknowledge it and shifted the blame. It was only after RBR payed for Iilien to go in and try and sort things out that the PU came out better for 2016, Renault decided they didn’t need his input for 2017.

            The pre 2014 Renault V8’s were also down on power compared to the rest of the field, it was the Aero package that made the difference…

            1. Renault did screw up badly, but Red Bull already openly trash talking them since end of 2014. Also remember despite no chance of beating Mercedes, still the one who grab wins when Mercedes failed and finish comfortably as the best of the rest. In that kind of situation, you’d want to cooperate even better to surpass Mercedes not throwing tantrum publicly. That’s what make people don’t like them.

              Compare to McLaren Honda situation that is much much worse than Red Bull Renault’s. They managed to keep it behind media for 2 years (except Alonso’s not-so-sneaky radio comms) and the most blunt thing ever officially said is “Ask Honda”.

      2. Yeah, one would guess they had learned something from the feud that two years ago almost left them with no engine at all, but still..
        Their arrogant attitude hasn’t changed that much, which sounds strange to me, as I thought Horner was a smarter team manager.

        1. @liko41, I know in the past that Webber indicated that Marko, given his links to Mateschitz (one of the co-founders of Red Bull), holds a lot of sway over the team – and Marko tended to be a more vocal critic of Renault than Horner, perhaps suggesting that Horner was being pressured from above.

    3. RBR found some performance and became a real threat for both Ferrari/Mercedes after they have introduced in the Malaysian GP a clever suspension system which replicated the effect of the already banned suspension. A perfect timing btw since the head of the FIA technical department has already resigned !
      The system was only introduced on Verstappen’s car (as reported by Ricciardo). Ferrari and Mercedes are currently looking at the system. Toto confirmed this when he was interviewed after the Mexican GP by the Italian SkySport reporter while Christian Horner said that the team is developing the car in all the areas and refused to give further indications.
      Whether the system is legal or not, we can expect a political fight before the season between RBR, Ferrari and Mercedes

      1. My advice would be they take this system to the FIA now, or likely they already have, for clarification as to it’s potential illegality. No point in putting it on the car only to have it denied ahead of the first race next year, and be caught on their hind foot.

        1. @robbie
          But thats not how it works. Unless there is any team which are sure they can get it banned and sure they will benefit from getting it banned they wont go to FIA with it.

    4. I wonder if Red Bull will ever reach the dizzy heights of the early ’10s again? Their dominance has a whiff of underdogs Leicester winning the Premier League about it: Red Bull nailed the regulations change at a time when thoroughbred Manufacturer outfits were few and far between in the aftermath of the ’07-’08 financial crisis, Mercedes were in the early stages of their gradual ascendence (I am aware they inherited a championship-winning team in Brawn the year before, although Red Bull had the quicker car by late-season), Ferrari and Williams were in troughs of their own come 2011, McLaren faded away, and Renault were yet to arrive on the scene.

      Fast forward a few years: Mercedes are on top of their game, Ferrari are back in the picture after a barren spell, Renault have the full heft of the French marque behind them again (let’s not forget, the team won two manufacturer championships in the mid-’00s) and are beginning to surge, and McLaren have pedigree and serious potential going into next season to match–if not surpass–Red Bull, despite their matching ‘customer’ powerplants.

      Next year is the true test for Red Bull. They didn’t master the regulation changes near-enough out of the box this time around, but if the team can hold their own against four teams which suddenly represent genuine opposition on paper, then they can fight for championships again in the very near future. If, as I fear, they begin to fall behind (if not often, perhaps only occasionally), then Leicester-itis will become a reality.

      At present, I’m unconvinced Verstappen has made the right move in pinning his colours to the energy drink mast, and Ricciardo would be wise to look elsewhere before resigning with the team. It will be fascinating to see how the pecking order changes in 2018.

      1. I really agree it’s going to be intrestering to see wether RB can find it’s winning ways again in this era. I do wonder on what basis you expect McLaren to have potential? They say they had a wonderful chassis this year. Well maybe so, but there is no way we can ever check that as viewers.
        I think seeing if McLaren can really pick up the pace to at least the same levels as RB and Renault is an even more interesting question for next season.

      2. Danny Ric is not going to make a decision, nevermind re-sign, until he has seen how the Honda unit goes in the TorroRosso. Everyone knows that that is what RedBull will end up running in 2019 until the new engines are introduced. Now that Max has nailed his flag to the mast there is no pressure or urgency for him to sign until the annual Kimi/Bottas contract talks come around.

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