After Red Bull Racing finished seventh in the constructors' standings in its debut season in 2005 expectation was high for this year. However, it didn't really happen -- the team at least equalled its previous effort with seventh overall but was 18 points down on its tally for 2005, which can hardly be said to be an improvement.
A cooling problem on the RB2 hampered Red Bull early on, then the mid-season decision to focus on development of next year's RB3 inevitably meant the 2006 car was somewhat neglected. Sporting director Christian Horner admitted the decision made life difficult but he believes the long term gains will justify it.
The RB3 will have not only the input of championship-winning designer Adrian Newey, formerly McLaren and now Red Bull's technical chief, but also ex-McLaren aero chief Peter Prodromou, who took up his post at Red Bull last week. Combined with Renault engines, a deal which was recently announced, Horner is anticipating improvement in 2007.
"I think we are expecting a reasonable step," he told Reuters. "We've got a very clear plan over the next three years and ultimately Red Bull came into Formula One not to take part but to compete and to compete at the front. Hopefully next year will be the first serious step to achieving that."
The team's race drivers next year will be David Coulthard, who previously drove Newey-designed cars at Williams and McLaren, and new signing Mark Webber. Coulthard goes into his third season with Red Bull while Webber joins after a less than productive couple of years with Williams. It is Red Bull's most experienced line-up to date.
"Hopefully we can provide Mark with the environment to bring the best out of him," said Horner. "He has got undoubted speed as he has demonstrated in his career to date and hopefully he can realise his potential. With David, he's led the team very well during the last couple of years and hopefully we'll be able to capitalise on the hard work he's put in."
Meanwhile, sister team Toro Rosso is not without ambitions of its own. This season the squad used the 2005 Red Bull chassis but co-owner Gerhard Berger is quoted as saying that Toro Rosso will construct its own chassis for 2007. The team, which will be Ferrari-powered next year, also intends to expand its factory, either at the current base in Faenza or in nearby Forli.
"Toro Rosso had a good season in 2006," said Berger, according to Autosprint. "We always kept a certain level of competitiveness, but now things will get harder. My plans are that we will consistently be a midfield team within three years."
Toro Rosso has yet to confirm its driver line up for 2007. Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed were thought to be staying in the race seats but Red Bull test driver Robert Doornbos has recently been rumoured to be in talks to replace Speed. Berger has reportedly denied that Doornbos is being considered and said there won't be any big surprises.