Reigning world champions Red Bull Racing released their ninth challenger on Sunday.
The Austrian team unveiled the RB9 at their Milton Keynes headquarters to Formula One media, with the goal of taking their fourth consecutive title.
Despite Red Bull’s incredible success since it became a race winning force in 2009, Team Principal Christian Horner attempted to downplay expectations, while also welcoming Infiniti as the new title sponsor of the team.
According to Horner, “[the RB9] marks a new beginning for us: it’s our ninth car but we’re introducing Infiniti as our title partner, so the livery is strikingly different.
“To have won three-in-a-row in both Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships is quite remarkable. The 2012 season was tough and long, but our success was testimony to all the hard work and dedication in the factory. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to maintain continuity within our group.
The former racer, turned team boss added: “this is the fifth year that this driver pairing has been together. We’ve got continuity throughout the technical teams and in all the key areas. I think that’s proof that there’s a fierce determination to keep both of those trophies in the cabinet for another year.”
With the regulations remaining relatively similar, Red Bull could by all rights feel positive about 2013; however chief technical officer Adrian Newey was keen to play down any apparent advantage his package may provide, citing the Pirelli tyres as a key to the title.
“The most significant change is not the regulations, it’s the new Pirelli tyres. We had a quick test in P1 in Brazil but it was very hot and on a green track and in truth we didn’t learn a lot. We need to continue to understand the tyres.
”Every time we thought we understood them last year, some fresh surprise would come in and we’d realise it wasn’t complete. And they’ve changed the tyre anyway this year. Past experience is that it’s only when we get out testing that we really find out about the tyres.”
The talented designer reiterated that the lack of change in the technical regulations ensured that the RB9 was an evolutionary concept of last year’s RB8 machine, rather than a new project. “It’s an evolutionary car. It’s really been a case of refining the RB8. All the principles the same as last year. The devil has very much been in the detail with this car. We’ve tidied up some bits that we felt could be improved on. Development is now the key through the year.
“We obviously had a very tight championship battle last year and it was difficult trying to develop last year’s car and do the research into this year’s car. It gave us a very tight timeframe to manufacture this car.”
It is not inconceivable that such emphasis on the Pirelli’s could just as easily hand the title to a single rather than mix the results up again.
Should Red Bull judge the tyres correctly and continue the form they showed in the final third of last year, then Sebastien Vettel could have his fourth title sown up with races to spare, although the champion is not too keen on getting complacent.
“Although we have had great success, a new season is a clean sheet, with new car. It all starts again from zero; we all have the same chance. It will be another long year, with a lot of races, and a very tough challenge awaits us all. I’m looking forward to that.
“We’ve achieved a lot but I’m not really thinking about that, as it doesn’t give us a head start or anything. If anything it just adds to people’s expectations. But that’s the same for all of us – we expect a lot of ourselves too. So, I’m excited about it – the challenge, the racing, all of it.
“There’s no guarantee. You really have to focus on every single race, every single lap and try to get everything together. As soon as you have the helmet on, you want to perform and you want to do your best.”
Team Principal: Christian Horner
Chief Technical Officer: Adrian Newey
Head of Aerodynamics: Peter Prodromou
Chief Designer: Rob Marshall