While the inelegant new name for Red Bull’s second Formula 1 team captured headlines, their announcement today was arguably more significant for another reason.
A series of drivers were promoted from junior categories in the hope of becoming Red Bull racers. Some of these succeeded spectacularly, including Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.
Today Red Bull has formally confirmed a change in priorities for the team. Having been “launched as Scuderia Toro Rosso and charged with bringing future champions to the grid,” the team declared it is “now reborn with an expanded mission to battle for the sport’s biggest prizes.”
This is a significant change for a team which previously embarked upon season after season with Tost declaring this would be the year they finally finished inside the top five, which they never once achieved as Toro Rosso, or after they became AlphaTauri in 2020.
That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy some success. Vettel made the team race-winners before the senior squad took its first victory, wielding what was largely the same chassis as Red Bull’s, back in 2008 when teams were permitted to do so. Pierre Gasly added a second win, scored, like Vettel at Monza, when the cards fell his way in 2020.
But consistent success was always going to elude this team as long as it was turning over drivers at the rate of one every year or two. Or, as in the case of Nyck de Vries last year, less than half a season.
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Following its rebranding, Red Bull has made it clear it has higher expectations for its second team. “The new identity is not simply a name change,” said Red Bull Technology’s chief marketing officer Oliver Hughes, “it’s the start of a thrilling new journey designed to take the team to new levels of competitiveness.”
This may sound like so much marketing bluster, but it is consistent with other changes already in place. Tost has headed off into retirement, leaving the team in the hands of recently appointed CEO Peter Bayer and new team principal Laurent Mekies, a star signing from Italian rivals Ferrari.
On the driving side, the team goes into the season with by far the most experienced line-up it has had under Red Bull’s ownership. Yuki Tsunoda becomes the first driver to begin a fourth consecutive season at the team, while Ricciardo will rack up his 250th start this year and is an eight-time grand prix winner.
The team is also pursuing much closer co-operation with Red Bull Technology over its car design. This began last year, and the effect it had on the team’s performance was noticeable through the final races. Tsunoda started the season finale sixth on the grid and Ricciardo lined up fourth – splitting the Red Bulls – three races earlier.
The opportunities available to the team under the rules are no longer as great as they were for Racing Point four years ago when they produced their RP20, a close facsimile of the previous year’s world championship-winning Mercedes. However the success of the ‘pink Mercedes’, which gave them their first win late in that season, provides a guide to what might be expected of Red Bull’s second team in 2024: The technical regulations are largely stable, they use the same power unit and gearbox as Red Bull as well as other key parts, and they were already moving forwards as last season came to an end, even introducing a technical update at the final round in Abu Dhabi.
For any team, challenging Red Bull for victories this year will be a stretch: The reigning champions won all bar one of last year’s 22 grands prix. But ‘Visa Cash App RB’ – which will surely be widely referred to as ‘RB’ – has the unique advantage of sharing many key elements with Red Bull. How far ‘RB’ can go towards their new goal of being title contenders will be one of the fascinating questions of the upcoming season.
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