Red Bull denies it has made a "massive step" for 2023

Race winner Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19 celebrates in parc ferme. 19.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Rew / XPB Images
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In a declaration seemingly aimed at further demoralising their rivals, Red Bull insists that it has not made a massive step in performance over the winter - implying that its current dominance is a reflection of the weakness of other teams.

Red Bull has swept the first two races of the season with Max Verstappen winning the season opener in Bahrain ahead of team mate Sergio Perez, and Perez taking the honours in Saudi Arabia over Verstappen in turn.

Verstappen had a 38s lead over best-of-the-rest Fernando Alonso in Sakhir, while Perez was 20 seconds ahead of the Aston Martin in Jeddah leading many to speculate that Red Bull could sweep all 23 races this season.

The only blot on the Red Bull copybook was Verstappen's driveshaft failure in qualifying, but he was still able to carve his way back from P15 on the grid to finish in the top two, such was the RB19's dominance.

It appears to have come as a bit of a surprise to Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan, who didn't think that this year's car represented that much of a step change in performance from 2022.

“It doesn’t feel like we’ve made a massive step," he admitted. “With all the brilliant people in Milton Keynes, we’ll make the best car we can, we’ll make the most progress we can.

Paul Monaghan (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Engineer in the FIA Press Conference.
12.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sprint Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

“[But] there was genuine concern, as you approach any first test, first race, whether we are as competitive as we want to be," he said. "We’re really judged to our opposition, aren’t we?

“If our opposition make a bigger step, we don’t come out on top," he pointed out, adding that reliability also played a major part in any team's fortunes heading into a new season.

“We saw what happens if we have a small error," he said, referring to Verstappen's driveshaft issue n Saturday. "It’s anything but a done deal.”

But with Ferrari and Mercedes both having relatively sluggish starts to the season, and setbacks for Alpine and especially McLaren, only Aston Martin seem to have made anything like the progress needed to take the battle to Red Bull.

2nd place Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 with 1st place for Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing.
19.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Race Day.
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Monaghan admitted that the quality of the technical and engineering team at Red Bull gave them a significant advantage in their bid to secure a second consecutive constructors championship, ands a third title for Verstappen.

“It’s been demonstrated, the depth of talent in Milton Keynes, that we have arrived in the situation we’re in,” he acknowledged. “We’re very lucky.

“Obviously now we’ve got to hold onto that. Others will try to catch us, there’s scope for them to pass us," he said. "It’s really a case of not resting on our laurels, not becoming complacent."

Two races into the season, Red Bull is already on 87 points with their nearest rivals Aston Martin and Mercedes tied on 38 points apiece, and Ferrari lagging behind in fourth with 26 points.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing Celebrate with the team.
05.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

At the same point in 2022, Ferrari was leading with 78 points with Mercedes second and Red Bull only third on 37 points. But by the summer, Red Bull had disappeared into the distance and formally clinched the title in Austin.

Everyone else is currently on single digits - with the exception of AlphaTauri and McLaren who have yet to finish in the points in either Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.

In the drivers championship, Verstappen leads by a single point from Perez after snatching the bonus point for the fastest lap in Jeddah, set on the very last lap of the race.

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