2020 was a strange season for Redbull, they could not consistently compete against Mercedes, but were miles ahead of the rest of the pack.
It left them hunting for scraps on the odd Mercedes mistake, this was compounded by the performance of Alex Albon, who was not able to get his Redbull into the sweet spot. Occasional flashes of brilliance are not good enough for a team like Redbull
When the 2020 season finally got going at the Redbull owned track in Austria, we were all hoping for Redbull to bring the fight to the Mercedes team, would we have a two-way fight for the championship? In a word: No
The first race in the season was a double DNF, Max Verstappen qualified in third behind the Mercedes cars, he was just under half a second away from pole, you could hear the collective groan from the Formula 1 fanbase, undeterred Redbull set out to spoil the Mercedes party.
Unfortunately, reliability issues hampered the attempt, with Max Verstappen retiring only a few laps into the race.
Alex Albon was able to the win the race after a great strategy call from the Redbull pit-wall, which put Albon in the fastest tire at the best time of the race.
Alex was on a charge, as he attempted to pass the slower Hamilton, he was hit by the Mercedes and spun to the rear of the field. Hamilton was given a 5 second penalty for the collision, not that it meant much to Alex.
Alex Albon would eventually retire for the race with reliability issues. He would be classified in 13th.
In a race where Lewis Hamilton would finish fourth, it could have been a prime opportunity for Redbull to steal an early march against their championship rivals.
How to solve a problem like Ricciardo?
Ever since Daniel Ricciardo shocked the world by leaving Redbull and heading to Renault, they have struggled to find a partner for Max Verstappen. The second Redbull seat comes with some unique challenges, how to cope with the clear favouritism towards Max Verstappen? How to handle the expectation of the team? How to deal with Helmut Marko?
Pierre Gasly was promoted to the team for the 2019 season, he was demoted back to Toro Rosso with nine races left to go, swapping seats with another rookie in Alex Albon.
Alex seemed to be coping well with the promotion, putting in some solid performances in the last nine races of the 2019 season.
The 2020 season was a different story, with only two third places in seventeen races and five races with no points (he would only retire from two races all season.) it was just not good enough.
What makes Mercedes so dominate is the consistency from both drivers, the team can use both to cover other teams’ decisions, allowing the strategy to come to them, Alex was never able to give that to Redbull consistently. No matter how talented Max Verstappen is, he can not challenge Mercedes on his own. Personally, I was hoping that Alex would come good, that he would just click with the car and head up the grid. It just did not happen.
Not long after the season finished, it was announced that Sergio Perez would be partnering Max, Alex was demoted to a testing role.
Twenty Twenty One: Year of the Bull?
Is this the year that Redbull can take a consistent battle to Mercedes? With (potentially) twenty-three races in the season and a driver paring that are both fast and dependable, it would seen that there is a high chance that we could have a battle on our hands.
The Honda power unit has showed that it is reliable and fast, with this being the final year of Honda’s involvement in Formula 1 (Redbull have taken over the Power Unit from 2022) they have decided to throw everything at this season, they want to bow out on a high.
As with every team, Redbull has been hampered with the token system for development of the car.
Redbull decided not to reveal where they spent the tokens, however the 2020 car struggling with rear end stability, a token spend at the rear of the car could be worth it.
Checo and Max
The decision to hire Sergio Perez for the 2021 season seemed like a “no-brainer” with the talented Mexican driver without a drive and Alex Albon underperforming. It seemed to be an almost daily question who would partner Max in 2021.
Sergio was announced as a Redbull driver, the questions were being asked almost immediately, what can Redbull do with two proven drivers and (hopefully) a reliable car? Of course, these questions are metaphorical, we know what we want to happen, but we can only hope that it will happen.
Max Verstappen continues to impress in the other Redbull, showing levels of maturity and increasing levels of race craft. Gone are the days of impulsiveness, replaced with a more “long game” train of thought. (the least said about Turkey the better).
Max and Redbull are getting to a very awkward place in their relationship, with Max demanding a Championship challenger and Redbull failing to deliver, it will only be a matter of time when Max stops believing in the Redbull’s promises.
On the other hand, if Redbull Honda gives Max a car that wins him his first Championship, could we see a new period of dominance?
For the first time in the turbo-hybrid era we may have two teams that could battle for the whole season.
Will this be the Year of the Bull?