The Milton Keynes-based squad is due to reveal its 2024 challenger at its factory next week and is well aware that there is little reason to do anything dramatically different after such a crushingly dominant campaign in 2023.
But chief technical officer Adrian Newey is mindful that, while it has been the benchmark squad so far, its decision to simply hone the concept may not necessarily be enough to keep it ahead.
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Speaking to the team’s Talking Bulls podcast about what could be expected from the RB20, Newey said: “Our car, it’s very much a third evolution of the 22 car.
“Last year’s car was an evolution of ’22 in its main points being of course, the normal winter development in terms of aerodynamics, some understanding on what we needed to do with suspension to try to improve the car as well, and getting weight out of it, because we never got down to the weight limit in ’22.
“This year’s car is the third evolution of that original RB18. What we don’t know, of course, is the third evolution too conservative, while others have done something different? You just don’t know.”
Newey’s comments about there being no clear direction on whether Red Bull has done the right thing comes with him admitting that he was completely surprised last year about how far ahead his squad was.
“RB18, the first car, to the new regulations, I think we managed to get fundamentals right in terms of how we approached the research process, the architecture of the car, in terms of its layout, and so forth,” he said.
“We managed to come out with a decent car that we then developed through ’22. And obviously, we had a very strong second half of the season in ’22.
Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer looks on from the pitwall
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
“[In] ’23, so now the second season of those new regulations, we completely expected the grid to close up. So last year, took all of us, me most of all, by complete surprise. We really didn’t expect the domination that we had.
“This year, then, from what I understand, a lot of people, a lot of our rivals have kind of taken a good look this time, and I suspect there’ll be quite a few cars that look very similar to our car.”
While Red Bull won all but one race last year as Max Verstappen roared to his third consecutive world title, Newey thinks that things had properly closed up by the end of the year.
“The grid was tight and the races were getting tighter,” he said. “Austin, we were going to lose that. So we took a gamble and pulled Max in to do an extra stop, and Max did the rest.
“Vegas, to be perfectly honest, probably Charles [Leclerc] in the Ferrari was the quicker driver. Max made the difference there for sure.
“So by the end of the season, although we managed to win everything bar Singapore, everybody was snapping at our heels. So it doesn’t take much of a swing over the winter now. So there’s a lot of pressure.”
Newey explained that while there would be benefits to the team tasking designers to try to look for more radical approaches, the cost cap prevents the team from chasing every available option.
“There is that [question], should we have a group that goes out and looks at completely left-field ideas, or do we keep developing the route we’ve taken?” he asked. “We’re resource-limited.
“So we can’t do everything and we can’t look at every avenue. So we’ve taken the approach of developing what we’ve got. Hopefully, that will be the prudent and correct decision.”