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In 2020, Red Bull Racing seemed to have built a very good car, during the winter test in Barcelona. Although the RB16 spun quickly, the speed in the car was good. Red Bull seemed to become a major competitor for Mercedes for a while. But then came COVID…
The Formula 1 season was halted for months due to the corona virus. Where the first race should have been held in March, the first official meters were only driven in July, during the Austrian Grand Prix. It turned out that Red Bull didn’t have such a good car at all and that Mercedes – again – would be the dominant team.
But according to Pierre Wache, technical director at Red Bull Racing, this could have turned out very differently. The car that Red Bull had built was initially good enough to fight with Mercedes, but Max Verstappen eventually failed to do so.
Verstappen has too much talent
Wache told MotorsportMagazine’s Mark Hughes that the RB16 was very fast, but also very unstable. Because Max Verstappen has so much talent, he simply drove around that instability and was faster lap after lap. This made the engineers sure: we are on the right track.
But in the end the car could not be further developed, because it would become too unstable at that time. Red Bull found out that they had gone in the wrong direction, because Verstappen was just too good and the problem was not addressed. At that point it was already too late and the gap to Mercedes had become too large, but the team did have a good base for 2021.
This meant that Red Bull was able to build a strong car last year, which Max Verstappen immediately used. The Dutchman became world champion in Formula 1, by beating Lewis Hamilton in an even faster car.
Second driver in trouble
According to Wache, this is also the reason why Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon had such a hard time in 2019 and 2020. They don’t have the exceptional talent that Max Verstappen does, so they couldn’t get around the problems. But because Verstappen was going faster and faster, the engineers decided to go his way.
In 2021 Albon was ultimately a very important factor within Red Bull Racing, as he has largely set up the car for the races. Verstappen and Pérez gave their feedback on the track, after which Albon dived into the simulator to adjust the car to their wishes.