Max Verstappen concluded a dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix on the second step of the podium - and a traditional looking podium at that. However, his race would have been far different had his superhuman mechanics not managed to repair his RB16 following his off-track endeavour as a result of desperately trying to find grid - on his way to the grid! However, when all was said and done, and Verstappen was repaired and ready for action, the grid slot the Red Bull Racing talisman was sat in was 7th! As incredible as Max’s performance was...how has the situation got so bad at Red Bull? According to team boss Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing’s 2020 challenger has some ‘anomalies’.
When the newly revised F1 Calendar for the 2020 race season was first announced, there were many pundits predicting that after a double-header in Austria and a race in Hungary, it was plausible to expect to see Max Verstappen topping the Drivers’ standings and Red Bull Racing leading the Constructors’ title. Three races later though and it is a very different story seeing how Red Bull Racing are second in the constructors’ race on 55 points. This total is already 66 points behind the 6-time Constructors’ Champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas as they currently find themselves in an all too familiar position of first.
As for Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Standings, he has two Mercedes drivers ahead of him with 6-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion Lewis Hamilton already holding a 30-point lead over the Dutchman.
So, what has figuratively clipped the wings of the Red Bull?
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner attempted to shine some light on the situation when he spoke to the media after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“We have some anomalies with a car that isn’t behaving as we expected it to,” said Horner. “A great deal of work is going into understanding that and addressing that for the future races. So [Verstappen’s] recovery I thought was very strong, but still Mercedes have quite a lot of pace in hand as we see."
All race circuits have a different approach required whether it be long straights requiring extra downforce or wing adjustments for sweeping curves, however at Red Bull in 2020 the word ‘inconsistency’ comes to mind.
As a result of strategists and mechanics attempting a host of different setup changes for the RB16, it must therefore be very difficult to have baseline data which can be worked on and subsequently improved upon.
Of course, it does not help when your number one driver crashes on the way to the grid. Nor can it help when you have already had a chance of victory snatched from your grasp as encountered by Alex Albon following his collision with Lewis Hamilton on the opening race of the revised 2020 season in Austria.
Sunday’s incident, even before the lights went out, by Max Verstappen was not all that surprising following revelations made by the Dutchman to the media the previous day with regard to the performance of the RB16:
"Understeer, oversteer, lack of grip - not having a lot of top speed as well...So everything together just makes it slow. Of course if we would have understood, then we would have changed it or made it better.But clearly something is wrong still. We're still looking into it."
The unpredictability of the RB16 is also not helped by the fact that weather conditions alter its overall performance considerably, as Christian Horner stated after Sunday’s event:
"I think we've got something misbehaving aerodynamically...It's obviously a matter of understanding that and addressing that. In certain conditions, the car is behaving as expected. But I think we've actually got some very good data from this weekend. So obviously, the team will be working hard to understand it and resolve it as quickly as we can.”
Time is certainly not on Red Bull Racing’s side and with an unconfirmed race calendar and uncertainty over how many races there will even be - every race is crucial. Aware of this fact, motorsport.com posed the question to Christian Horner of whether it is possible to close the gap to the frontrunner - Mercedes?
“It's a significant gap, but it depends on how much performance we can unlock on RB16...We know that we've got the fundamental basics of a decent car here. It's just not behaving as our simulation tools predict that it will. We need to understand that, and make sure that we're achieving what it should be doing, which hasn't been the case. I think there's a lot of good data from this weekend, and the team's working very hard to understand it and get on top of it."
As the first triple-header has drawn to a close, there is much needed respite for many. For all those associated with Red Bull Racing, a break is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind as they have a chance now to solve the issues with their RB16 and kick-start their season by beating Mercedes at Silverstone - the home of Formula One.
Now, if that was to happen, that would certainly be an anomaly.