Cameron Curwood, F1 correspondent
Vettel and Webber ready to defend constructors’’ title
Red Bull revealed their 2012 championship-defending Formula One challenger Monday, just a day before it is set to hit the track for testing. The Red Bull R8 was unveiled at their factory in Milton Keynes, England, and will start a four-day pre-season testing session on Tuesday at Jerez, in Spain.
Despite the dominance of the Red Bull team in the 2011 season - twelve wins from the nineteen races, including six wins in the last eight, and a margin of 153 points over McLaren - the team was guarded in its hopes and expectations for 2012 and the Adrian Newey-designed RB8.
Defending world driving champion Sebastian Vettel remarked, "The target is obviously to try to do it again. And to try to get everything out of ourselves, so we will see how we get on with the new car, the RB8. At the beginning of last year we didn't really expect whatever happened last year, so I think it's the same thing again. It would be wrong to go into this season and expect 2011 to happen again. I think it will be very, very tight this year and everything else would be a surprise to be honest. Looking at the cars, you know there's not much room we have left to play (with) for designers and to find something extra."
... the gaps will be even closer than they have been.
Like most of the cars we have seen debuted this year, the RB8 has the distinctive, and most say ugly, 'stepped' nose. It also must conform to the new 2012 regulations, which ban the exhaust position and use of "off-throttle blown diffusers." Adrian Newey suggested this could pose a problem for the Red Bull team.
"We've lost the exhaust technology, with the restriction of the exhaust outlet position," he said. "We designed the RB7, last year's car, around that exhaust position, and were probably the only people to do so. So it may be that we've lost more than other people through that. (This is) the fourth evolution of the RB5 this year, so obviously (there is) pressure to try to stay there, if we possibly can. A difficult task."
Vettel agreed. "You know, the last two years we have had two big things taken away, the double diffusers, plus, for this year, the system around the blown exhaust," he said. "So we are missing that and therefore I think it's difficult to really create a difference. We'll see, obviously we hope our car is better than all the others but it will be difficult, and I think the cars will be fairly similar, as in the gaps will be even closer than they have been."
Mark Webber, who finished a distant third to his teammate last season with only one victory, after a much better 2010 season that included four victories, pointed out the need for the team to continue its work ethic.
Webber said, "The bar has been set high. We have cleaned up in the last few years. The constructors' championship last year was very dominant. We know that we have to keep working hard."
Red Bull's team principal, Christian Horner, echoed Webber's thoughts on effort. "We are still a young team," he said, "and to consider the four world titles that we have won in only seven seasons of competition, it's something we're fiercely proud of, and determined to add to.
"The team's goals are quite simple. It's to try and defend both titles in the manner (in which) we achieved them. Of course, when you've achieved what we have, particularly in 2011, we've set a very high standard for ourselves. But, we're always looking to improve, we're always looking, in all areas, to try and do better. We can't control what our opponents do, we're up against some formidable opponents, but we can only really focus on ourselves and only when we get to Melbourne will we truly know where we sit against our rivals."
The first comparison to those rivals will happen immediately, when Webber drives for the first two days of testing in Jerez, then hands over the car to Vettel for the remaining two.
Webber commented on the initial test, "The initial running is really about getting as much information as we can, learning what the car strengths are, where some of its weaknesses might be and then we need to work on those very, very quickly. We don't have much testing before we get to Melbourne and before we know it the winter programme will be over. It is a big responsibility and one that I'm looking forward to."
While most comments from the team were guarded, saying it would be close and they need to work hard, Newey's answer to the question on expectations for 2012 was not exactly as confident as one would imagine from the defending champions, and one he says he always feels he must give. "I have absolutely no idea," he said bluntly.