After three years without a championship title the Red Bull RB13 was considered by many to be the car most likely to challenge the dominant Mercedes team at the beginning of the 2017 F1 season.
The team continued to use Renault power units which, for a second season, were branded by TAG-Heuer. But while the French engines ended 2016 still lagging behind the three-pointed star, a change in rules offered Red Bull serious hope for the year ahead.
A major overhaul in the aerodynamic regulations, instigated in part by the Red Bull bosses, promised to offer them a means of cutting Mercedes’ advantage.
Before the RB13 was launched chief technical officer Adrian Newey predicted the rise in downforce would mean drivers could tackle more corners without lifting.
“Copse at Silverstone, turn nine – the kink in the back straight – at Barcelona, those are no longer corners,” he said. “They are bends in the straight, in effect.”
“It’s a gradual march, we’ve already seen that with Eau Rouge at Spa which used to be a big deep breath corner but is now simply a bend on the straight. This extra downforce, extra grip, takes that direction further.”
Team principal Christian Horner said Red Bull “went into the winter on a real high” following a strong end to their 2016 campaign. “Momentum definitely built during the course of last year. We developed the car well, we raced well, strategically we were strong.”
“It’s also a clean sheet of paper and that for any designer or engineer is a real exciting challenge. A few years ago, 2009, there was the double diffuser: Is there a gizmo like that we’ve missed that somebody else has found? Hopefully not and hopefully we’ll be competitive.”