Red Bull remains the team to beat but they would do well to remember nothing is permanent in F1

Red Bull have won both the drivers’ and teams’ championships in the last two seasons and the drivers’ title in 2021. But 2023 was something else for them.

Chief engineer Paul Monaghan, Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Team principal Christian Horner, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Technical Director Pierre Wache REUTERS/Alan Baldwin(REUTERS)

There are a couple of weeks left before the 2024 Formula One season vrooms, vrooms at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Teams are busy launching their cars for the upcoming season and the buzz is unmissable. The question that’s on every F1 fan’s mind though is if Red Bull are going to dominate the same way as last season.

Red Bull have won both the drivers’ and teams’ championships in the last two seasons and the drivers’ title in 2021. But the year 2023 was something else for them. Their 26-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen won a record 19 races out of 22. To all intents and purposes, it was total dominance that left the rivals gasping for breath.

There is consensus in the F1 world that Red Bull will win again but will their dominance be similar to that of last year? That’s the question. McLaren, one of Red Bull’s major competitors, believe the reigning champions once again are heading into the season as firm favourites. McLaren driver Lando Norris believes Red Bull can be beaten in some races but he is not sure if the same can be said for the entire season. “Are they beatable? You have to say ‘yes’. The question is, ‘are they beatable over a season?’ That will be very difficult,” Norris said earlier this week.

Red Bull, who joined the sport in 2005, launched their new car (RB20) on Thursday which stunned the audience at the team’s Milton Keynes campus in the South-East of England. There have been some key modifications introduced like vertical sidepods inlets and horizontal shoulders from the cockpit on either side of the engine.

The rivals may not be sure of beating Red Bull over the course of the season, their chief technical officer, though happy with the new car, has not ruled out the possibility of the other teams surprising them with massive improvements of their own and eventually turning the tables on them. “…From the shakedown at Silverstone [this week], it seems from what we can tell it’s behaved as expected it to. But that is no guarantee of anything. It could be that some teams have made a bigger jump than us,” said Adrian Newey.

However, not everything is in order at Red Bull. Team principal Christian Horner has been in some kind of soup over the last couple of weeks after a female employee complained against him, accusing him of inappropriate and controlling behaviour. The investigation is still going on but Horner may now be out of trouble in light of the fact that he was present at the car launch. If there was no resolution to the matter, Horner wouldn’t be there, would he? At least that’s what common sense would dictate. At the same time, if the investigation drags on, it could impact the morale of everyone at the team, from Verstappen to Newey to everyone else.

At the launch, former Red Bull driver and now company ambassador David Coulthard appeared to make a joke at the expense of Horner which also suggested the matter was now worthy of a joke and that the 50-year-old Horner was likely to be exonerated, sooner rather than later.

Verstappen meanwhile is looking to win four successive drivers’ championships. Only four drivers in the history of the sport have done it before. These are Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Schumacher in fact won a record five times in a row from 2000-2004 with Ferrari. So there is a lot of motivation going for Verstappen.

Be that as it may, he and Red Bull will do well to remember that it is kind of impossible to dominate F1 for a long duration. It doesn’t take too long before one of the rivals comes up with a miracle car and ends the domination of the champion car at the time. Verstappen would hope it doesn’t happen at least this season.

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