Infiniti Red Bull Racing championed evolution over revolution at the launch of the team’s 2013 model, the RB9.
And who could blame them? With Red Bull boasting a hat-trick of Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships heading into the new season, the RB9 conforms to the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
As Chief Technical Officer, Adrian Newey, explained, the Red Bull that will compete in the Australian Grand Prix in March bears many similarities to its 2012 predecessor, something the engineer attributes to the similar technical specifications of the 2013 season.
“RB9 is an evolutionary car,” Newey commented at Sunday’s launch in Milton Keynes. “Probably the most significant change is not the regulations, but the new Pirelli tyres.”
“Because the regulations haven’t altered greatly it’s been a question of refining RB8,” he added. “The front wing stiffness test has been made harsher, making compliance difficult in terms of how stiff the wing has to be, but the rest of the car is very much an evolution. All the principles are the same as last year’s car but hopefully evolved somewhat.”
As for the specifics of how the RB9 has evolved from the RB8, F1 fans will have to wait until later in February to find out, following testing in Jerez and Barcelona. With other leading contenders, including Ferrari and McLaren, revealing bold developments, the champions are playing their cards much closer to their chest – for now.
The controversial stepped nose has definitely been retained though, including a small vanity panel, complimenting Newey’s assessment that the devil is very much in the detail.
The greatest aesthetic change made by Red Bull comes in the livery. The RB9 contains eye-catching sashes of purple, a major transformation from the blue hued RB8, brought about by the relationship with new title partner Infiniti.
At the launch Team Principal, Christian Horner, described Red Bull’s “fierce determination” to claim a fourth consecutive Constructors’ title. He credited this esprit de corps to his team’s remarkable stability, celebrating the “continuity throughout the technical teams and in all the key areas.”
Included in this continuity is the driver pairing of triple F1 Drivers’ Champion, Sebastian Vettel, and Mark Webber, a veteran of almost 200 grands prix.
Vettel, the youngest ever Drivers’ Champion, is taking nothing for granted despite leading the competition for the past three years. “Although we have had great success, a new season is a clean sheet, with a new car - it all starts again from zero,” he said. “It will be another long year, with a lot of races, and a very tough challenge awaits us all.”
Webber, winner of two grands prix in 2012, will be suiting up for his seventh year in a Red Bull, making it the longest driver / team partnership in the 2013 championship. It won’t be a 100 per cent identical set up for the Australian though, with Webber’s former race engineer Ciaran Pilbeam being replaced by Simon Rennie for the new campaign.
The 36-year old will have the first drive of the RB9, taking ownership for the first two days of testing in Jerez, with Vettel completing the week behind the wheel. With Red Bull acknowledging the RB9 remains a car in transition, all eyes will be on the pair to see how the minor adjustments to the RB8 perform on the racetrack.
The consummate professional, Webber remains focussed on his testing responsibilities, despite the season opener in Albert Park now only a few weeks away. “My job in Jerez will be to look for areas where we can improve the car and try to understand what it might need,” he said.
“Winter testing is very different to racing: next week is all about gathering data. We’ll be keeping the car circulating as much as we can, there will be really long hours in the garage for all the guys but we’re looking forward to getting out there and collecting as much information as we can.”
Both drivers will be keen to make the most of February’s testing with Red Bull successful in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix only once before, back in 2011. Webber in particular will be determined to start the season strongly, with last year’s fourth place his best finish in 11 starts at his home circuit.