Heading into the opening race of the season, other than the battle for best of the rest, the prospect of rivals protesting the Racing Point and Chase Carey, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn taking the knee, the talk is all about whether Max Verstappen can take his third straight victory on Red Bull‘s home track.
The reason for this is the Italian team’s disappointing form in pre-season testing, which suggested that rather than challenging its German and Austrian rivals, might have its hands (hooves?) full fending off Racing Point, McLaren, AlphaTauri and Renault.
Sadly, while a number of teams will feature upgrade this weekend, not least Mercedes, the tifosi, along with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, will have to wait until the third race of the season.
“The truth is that the outcome of the (Barcelona) tests led us to take a significant change of direction in terms of development, especially on the aerodynamic front,” said team boss, Mattia Binotto ahead of the season opener. “First, we had to understand why we did not see the results we had expected on track and how much to recalibrate the whole programme as a result.
“It would have been counterproductive to continue in the direction we had planned,” he continued, “knowing that we would not have reached our goals. Therefore we decided to come up with a new programme that looked at the whole car, knowing that not all of it would be ready for the first race.
“Our aim is to introduce the updates at the third race on 19 July at the Hungaroring,” he added.
“Apart from that, over and above the actual development of the car itself, these past few weeks we have worked a lot on analysing its behaviour, with simulation work and with the help of our drivers and I think that will prove its worth in Austria.
“We know that, at the moment, we don’t have the fastest package,” he admitted. “We knew it before heading for Melbourne and that hasn’t changed.
“Having said that, the Spielberg circuit has different characteristics to Montmelo and the temperatures will be well above those of February. We must try and make the most of every opportunity and then in Hungary, with the new development step we are working on, we will be able to see where we are really compared to the others, while having to take into account the developments our competitors themselves will have brought along.”