With pre-season testing just a month away, SkySports F1 Natalie Pinkham, David Croft and Karun Chandhok analyzed some of the big challenges Red Bull face in the coming season…
Although Red Bull dominated the 2022 Formula 1 season and Max Verstappen won 15 of the 22 races, not everything went well for the champions at the end of the season.
Now as they head into the new season they will try to ensure that the challenges they faced at the end of 2022 will not continue in 2023.
Red Bull has already had less time in their wind tunnel – where F1 teams test and perfect the aerodynamics on their car – than their rivals will in the next, due to winning this year’s Constructors’ Championship and being punished by the now infamous cost-cap saga season 25 instead of 28 runs in their wind tunnel.
Ferrari has 30 runs for second place in the championship and Mercedes 32 for third place.
Not only will they face technical challenges, but a driver feud and a potential challenger for their second seat could hamper the team.
Max vs. Checo: Does the saga rumble on for Red Bull?
With the Drivers’ title secured for Verstappen, it looked like everything was going right for Red Bull – up until the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez was struggling on medium tires after a late safety car at Interlagos and the team asked him to let Verstappen through on the condition that he would relinquish the spot if he failed to catch fifth-placed Fernando Alonso in the closing stages overtake.
When Verstappen was asked to fulfill that agreement in the last lap, he didn’t respond and when asked again told his team, “I already told you last summer? I gave my reasons and I stand by them.”
There was speculation in the paddock that Verstappen had long been angered by an incident that occurred earlier in the season at the Monaco GP, which motivated his notable defiance of team orders in Brazil.
The team were forced to have open talks immediately after the race and while they say everything is settled between the two riders, can there really be complete trust between them now?
Natalie Pinkham: “Moments like this live long in a racer’s memory and Monaco was clearly indelibly inscribed on Max.
“Remembering what Monaco did to you and using it all these months later in a battle for 6th and 7th place clearly bothered him.
“It’s not something that’s going to go away.”
Karun Chandhok: “I think we won’t find out the real damage done to Brazil until Checo is asked to help Max.
“I think this will be interesting.
“Ultimately Checo has to up his game because he only surpassed Max three times in 2022, all three on street circuits. He has to up his game if he wants to be able to fight.”
David Croft: “There must be a trust issue. You have to be able to trust your team and, as a driver, you have to trust your team-mate.
“Whatever happened in Monaco and the assumption that Checo’s crash was something that wasn’t an accident, let’s say.
“If it wasn’t an accident, is there a trust issue and in the back of your mind you’re like, ‘Are they going to do that again?’
“I don’t see how to fix it.”
Ricciardo for permanent Red Bull seat?
After a difficult couple of seasons for Daniel Ricciardo, he has found himself as a reserve driver at Red Bull in 2023 and many are speculating he could eventually return to the team’s second spot.
All eyes will be on Verstappen and Perez’s relationship, while the two-time world champion has also repeatedly indicated his intention to retire from the sport at a young age, so a vacant seat is far from impossible.
Although Ricciardo, now 33, has previously performed well in the Red Bull machinery, there are some big questions facing Milton Keynes’ team including whether the Australian is capable of maintaining his form in this new one generation of F1 cars.
The reality is there are also several other enormously talented drivers on the grid, such as McLaren’s Lando Norris, who could be keen on a Red Bull seat if it were available.
Natalie Pinkham: “I think he (Ricciardo) knows this is a car he can drive and it’s a team he can work very well with.
“It feels, and he said it, like coming home.
“I think what his McLaren days taught him is that his operating window is tighter than he first thought.
“It feels perfect that he’s coming back to Red Bull. He wants a break, he wants to reconnect with his family and they are giving him that opportunity.
“You’re not going to take him to every race, he’s going to get that time free to hit the reset button and it’s just the right place for that.
Karun Chandhok: “I’m excited to see how it goes because the last time Daniel drove for Red Bull was in 2018.
“Max has changed a lot and the path he has taken as a 25-year-old is growing in confidence.
“I think with Daniel vs Checo it’s an interesting fight for the 2024 seat. How do you rate Daniel?
“That’s what interests me. Putting it in the simulator isn’t the same as driving a car, so are they going to test it somewhere?
“I think they should try to get Lando Norris.”
David Croft: “I think (Ricciardo and Perez) are two very different types of riders.
“They are both capable of winning races, but to me they win races in very different ways.
“I hate to say this, I think Daniel is a great guy but he’s not the future for Red Bull, far from it, mostly because of his age.
“When Max spoke at the end of the season about possibly retiring at 31, it was a huge revelation for me. He is already thinking about when he will stop racing.
“If he thinks so, then Red Bull should think so too.
“Personally, I would try to find someone who could come in in 2024 if Checo isn’t the answer.”