As we approach the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, Red Bull Racing sit on top of the Formula One Constructors’ Championship with 235 points as well as a 36-point lead of over Scuderia Ferrari. However, the Milton Keynes based team is not resting on their laurels and Red Bull Racing chief engineer, Paul Monaghan, explained to the media, during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, that his team is fully expecting to continue to develop their 2022 challenger – the RB18 – to ensure they stay ahead of the pack throughout the rest of the year.
Previous Formula One championships have been dominated by Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. However, at a time when the Silver Arrows are struggling with their package, the closely matched battle between Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing has captivated the motorsport world.
With 7 Grands Prix completed in 2022, Red Bull Racing have breathing room between their rivals but having seen Scuderia Ferrari in a similar position earlier in the season, the team is well aware that things change quickly.
The strength of the RB18, Red Bull Racing’s 2022 challenger, appears to be its straight-line speed which is achieved running a low drag set-up. However, Scuderia Ferrari and their 2022 challenger, the F1-75, appears to have the edge in the slow corners. Due to this, Red Bull Racing chief engineer, Paul Monaghan, has outlined how the team intends to develop the RB18 moving forward.
“We're learning to evolve our programme and our lap time,” said Monaghan when speaking to the media in Monaco. “And it's relative to those guys. We can look at what the Ferrari is good and bad at. And I think it would be naive of us not to.
“They tend to be quite strong [at] low speed. And then we tend to be better in other areas of the circuit. And there's a big visual clue if you look occasionally as to how we've achieved our lap time and they have achieved theirs. Are they stuck in that pattern? I don't know. Are we stuck in ours? No, not at all. We are open-minded to change. Said Monaghan.
Such a mindset will serve Red Bull Racing well as they seek to claim the F1 Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 2013. Monaghan wisely stated, “if you stand still in this sport, you can often be left behind, so if we don't look and learn and reconsider that would be a little bit presumptuous of us.”
A decisive factor is of course different circuits on the race calendar which may require considerably different packages. An element of racing which is all the more challenging in the cost-cap era of Formula One.
“So, at the moment, I'd say we're quite happy with our trade as we strike it, and I think Baku will pull everybody in one particular direction. I think Silverstone, that could produce a bit of difference, shall we say? Spielberg will produce a bit of difference…On Hungary, I expect there'll be a convergence again, but that's track nature and how we best exploit our lap time, isn't it? So, at the moment, I'd say we've got our trade reasonably good. But come [the final Grand Prix in] Abu Dhabi we might have got it right or wrong.”
It is widely thought that Scuderia Ferrari threw away race victory in Monaco due to strategical errors. Sergio Perez and Red Bull Racing lucked into a win in Monte Carlo on a day when Scuderia Ferrari clearly had the quicker car.
“It's always going to be a slightly subjective view on how or what your opposition's relative pace is,” Monaghan remarked whilst acknowledging the strengths of the Prancing Horse. “I think it would be a bit naive of us to think Ferrari were going to sort of drop the ball here. And I would hope that they would view us in the same way, as we're confident enough to come here with a decent car. It looks like both teams kind of achieved their objective, and I would argue over the order, but they probably wouldn't.
“So, I think once you've got a strong car, then you shouldn't come to this circuit particularly fearing it. Some of this circuit's characteristics, and I'm going to have to leave you to extrapolate to what we really mean, might amplify, some car's problems and quell others, but that's for each and every team to do their own work on that one. And it's perhaps ill of me to even offer a judgment. And I certainly wouldn't offer an objective in subjective assessment of how the others approached it, what their strengths and weaknesses are. It's enough on your plate to try and keep your car evolving and exploiting it to its full potential.” Monaghan concluded.
So many issues for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari to consider and respond to at a time when the key to success is surely being proactive as opposed to reactive. Monaghan says it’s a lot on their plate. One thing is clear, both teams are serving up a feast and our appetite is well and truly whetted for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.