Editor’s Note: This article on Red Bull success in F1 is posted in collaboration with an independent writer. The opinions and information contained within do not necessarily represent Frontstretch and its staff.
Red Bull stopping Mercedes from winning their ninth constructors’ championship in a row was a task that, admittedly, was easier than many people expected it to be. In part, that was down to Mercedes enduring what can only be described as a nightmare season.
The changing of the guard
However, the fact remains that before their winless 2022 season, Toto Wolff’s team had won eight constructors’ titles in a row. It was such extraordinary dominance that will surely be used as a future case study in how to effectively build one of the most commanding dynasties in the whole of sports. Irrespective of how this phenomenal run ended, though, Red Bull had spent years working tirelessly to bridge the gap between themselves and Mercedes over the last decade.
Indeed, the quest to return Red Bull to the top of the drivers’ and constructors’ standings became an all-consuming obsession for the powers that be of the Austrian team. As we know, it was a goal that was achieved in 2021 when Max Verstappen won the drivers’ championship following late drama in Abu Dhabi. Given the well-documented circumstances that surrounded this win, there were subsequently a large amount of F1 racing fans who attached an asterisk to the 2021 success, which would have hurt Red Bull’s pride following all the back-breaking work they had put into overtaking Mercedes.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
That is why the 2022 triumph in both the drivers’ and constructors’ standings would have provided immense satisfaction and left no one in doubt that Red Bull were the best team on the grid.
Finally, there were no more asterisks or debates, the Red Bull team headed by Christian Horner had wrestled back the initiative after a decade of playing catch-up. In some respects, you could say that the accomplishment of hauling Mercedes in required as much determination as building a championship-winning dynasty given how far ahead Wolff’s team was and how much money they had earned in the process of winning eight consecutive titles. In short, trying to keep up with a juggernaut going at that speed requires an unprecedented level of dedication and commitment that other teams like McLaren and Alpine weren’t able to match.
Ultimately, it is the acknowledgment of this Herculean sacrifice in the past causing concern among the Red Bull team, producing worrying cracks that are beginning to form so soon after re-establishing themselves at the summit of the sport. Tellingly, the latest odds for the 2023 Constructors’ Championship, according to Betway, prices Mercedes, as of the 6th of December, at just +125 to make it nine team titles in 10 years. One can, all of a sudden, get a better understanding of how precarious Red Bull’s position really is as the new season approaches.
"We have discussed everything internally, there's been a lot of speculation going on social media" ❌
Sergio Pérez puts to bed all rumours regarding Verstappen and Monaco qualifying 👇 pic.twitter.com/FPIHHUziTh
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 17, 2022
So, what do the Austrian team need to get a handle on before the start of the season to stop them from surrendering top place to their rivals?
Helmut Marko needs to be less outspoken
Since 1999, Helmut Marko has overseen Oracle Red Bull’s driver program. Naturally, it is a role that has seen the 79-year-old develop favorites given that he is the man that advises the team on who their next star will be. Put another way, if Marko throws his weight behind an emerging driver, then he will ensure that heaven and earth is moved in order to see them rise to the top. The problem with this tunnel vision has, admittedly, seen graduates like Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen win world titles at the expense of teammates who are ordered to play second fiddle to the talented starlets. In this instance, Marko has recently been dismissive of Sergio Perez’s role at Red Bull and openly said that the Mexican is not talented enough to beat Verstappen.
Whether that’s true or not, there is nothing to gain by going public with these opinions. Crucially, these ill-advised remarks also come on the back of Verstappen not allowing Perez to pass him at the Brazilian Grand Prix in order for Checo to consolidate his second-place position in the drivers’ championship standings.
BREAKING: Red Bull have been given a $7m fine and a 10% reduction in permitted aerodynamic research for breaking the budget cap.
The FIA said that Red Bull had overspent by $2.2m in 2021. pic.twitter.com/MOYxq6EpTr
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) October 28, 2022
The reality is, alienating Perez will only harm Red Bull’s efforts to keep Mercedes and Ferrari at arm’s length, especially when you also consider the team will have reduced time in the wind tunnel this preseason. Put another way, Red Bull are already heading into 2023 at a disadvantage and will need everyone in the garage pulling in the same direction in order to overcome these setbacks.
As things stand, these cracks can be mended but, concerningly, individuals at Red Bull are showing no sign of adopting a reconciliatory tone which may mean they only widen over the offseason.
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