Red Bull’s astonishing team effort puts Verstappen in control of the title | Red Bull
Max Verstappen may be pressing the pedals in Singapore on Sunday as he tries to seal his second Formula 1 world championship, but the Dutchman and the rest of the paddock know it was his Red Bull team who masterfully pulled the punches strings this season.
Verstappen’s march to the title was so frightening that it now seems almost inevitable from the start, but it was far from it. 2022 has been a masterclass of an F1 team shooting at all levels. Red Bull took the lead with such confidence and precision that they quickly imposed a sense of inevitable success that left their rivals reeling. On occasion it was literally: the nightmare of a Ferrari crew bringing only three wheels to a pitstop at Zandvoort will no doubt haunt Maranello for some time to come.
Verstappen will claim the title at Marina Bay if he wins and sets the fastest lap as long as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez finish below eighth or third respectively. It’s not a likely scenario but, regardless, if it’s not sealed in Singapore, it almost certainly will be at the next race in Japan.
Expect one of Verstappen’s first reactions when the deed is done to profusely thank his team and show his gratitude for the car they have developed. Both have been exceptional, regardless of the noise that now surrounds the team following allegations of exceeding the budget cap last season.
After spending so much time, energy and money in a brutal title fight last year, it was feared that it was to the detriment of this year’s model, but under brand new regulations. , Red Bull Technical Director Adrian Newey delivered another powerful lap. in the RB18.
The low-drag concept – allied with a powerful engine and Newey’s brilliant exploitation of the new ground-effect aerodynamic rules – has delivered one of Red Bull’s most well-rounded cars for nearly a decade. Solid in the corners, it was now also very quick on the straights and, in Verstappen’s hands, easy on its tires – a combination of race pace that no team could match.
In the second half of the season, the RB18 was formidable on any circuit, as former Red Bull driver Mark Webber observed. “Their car is immune to different sites, that’s probably the biggest string to their bow,” he said. “They can take the car anywhere and the thing comes out the back of the truck like a missile.”
But that it was truly a team effort, beyond Newey’s design, was made clear as the season progressed. First, they developed with an aggressiveness and focus that proved vital. At the season opener, the car was up to 10 kg overweight, which cost about 0.3 seconds per lap.
Worse still, it meant the team couldn’t remedy the car’s understeer by moving the ballast, as Red Bull technical director Pierre Waché admitted: “At the start of the season, we didn’t had no ability to shift the weight, and that was part of the setup.”
Verstappen hates understeer, preferring a sharp front end, and his discomfort with it was clearly visible in Monaco, where he battled all weekend. As the season progressed, however, the team shed weight, adjusted ballast to allow Verstappen to exploit the best of the car, and he took seven wins from the next nine races.
He was also helped by another of Red Bull’s strengths: the team’s precision of execution. The strategy calls on the pit wall by Senior Strategy Engineer Hannah Schmitz and Team Race Strategy Manager Will Courtenay were flawless and in Hungary and Monaco were instrumental in ensuring the victories, respectively for Verstappen and Pérez. The performance of their mechanics and engineers over the race weekends was impeccable, including a series of fastest pit stops.
Yet until 2021 Red Bull had not been in a title fight since 2013. They were pushed to the limit last year by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes but then, as now, there is no had no rust in the operation, no hesitation and no calamity. Ferrari should have challenged harder but their failures were made all the more glaring by Red Bull’s control.
Webber recognizes the team as the same crew he raced for between 2007 and 2013, a commitment to maintaining stability that has been crucial. “Their weapon never dulled,” he said. “They have always been sharp, knowing that when the day comes they will be ready to go. They have a fierce winning mentality,” which means Red Bull now lead the constructors’ championship 139 points clear of Ferrari, another title they will win sooner or later.
Verstappen has been at the forefront of this onslaught and has proven beyond doubt to be one of the best drivers of his generation. But this campaign, he also benefited not only from the material but also from the human support which proved to be almost infallible. It’s a worrying import combination for the rest of the sport to ponder as they consider how to challenge giants Red Bull next season.