Along with Williams, Red Bull are early contenders for the title of ‘most improved team’. Adrian Newey’s flaky RB3 of 2007 seems to have evolved into a rapid but reliable car in the form of the RB4. This was what the man himself had to say:
This car is very much an evolution of RB3. There are very common parts, but the concept and principle of the car is the same. It is an evolution, so it will make it easier for the team this year as they have learned how to work with it.
If the car can deliver on the promise it has shown in testing, then 2008 should be the year we finally see what Mark Webber is capable of.
Following two seasons with the least reliable car on the grid (Williams in 2006) Webber will be relishing the thought of seeing the chequered flag more often this year. Team mate David Coulthard has acknowledged how much the car has improved:
I think we’ve made a big improvement. But I think McLaren and Ferrari are at the front, and then there’s a group of uncertainty with BMW, Williams, Renault and ourselves. A lot of guys fighting over four places.
The podium will be difficult if all the McLarens and the Ferraris finish, but I think there’s definitely potential to make this car quicker. We’ve got an area that we know is weak and we just need to be able to design and build the parts.
It’s not realistic to expect a radical step forward from Coulthard at this stage in his career: Webber out-qualified Coulthard 15 times to two last year and that’s not going to change in 2008.
But the pair complement each other well – while Webber acts like a magnet for incidents regardless of whether they’re his fault, Coulthard can be relied upon to bag safe points. His neck problem at testing in Spain was a concern though and as ever there are a host of talented young Red Bull drivers eyeing his place in the team, not least of which their reserve driver Sebastien Buemi.
Although Coulthard set the third-fastest single lap time of the final test at Barcelona, it’s not clear whether the car is kind enough to its tyres over long stints to have a consistently quick race pace. But the radical engine fin that appeared on the car a few weeks ago showed they are exploring all avenues in search of performance.
Red Bull may also made life easier on themselves this year by choosing not to supply Toro Rosso with the latest chassis from the start of the season as they did last year.
With Red Bull looking likely to be right in the thick of the midfield group, they may even be racing with engine suppliers Renault on a regular basis. What would Flavio Briatore make of that?
Photo copyright: Red Bull / GEPA