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Red Bull confirms launch date

NEWS STORY
04/02/2020

Red Bull has become the last team to announce the launch date of its 2020 contender.

For some time it was anticipated that the RB16 would be unveiled on 12 February, the same days as good friends Renault reveal their car. Today, shortly after Helmut Marko revealed that the car would be shaken down at Silverstone on 12 February, the Milton Keynes outfit confirmed that this would indeed form part of the car's launch.

In pre-season testing last year, Red Bull was infuriating, like Mercedes opting to give little away. Indeed, it is hard to recall if Verstappen ran on anything other than mediums over the whole eight days.

The toxic marriage to Renault at an end, Red Bull was expecting much of its new love, and Honda delivered, and while the Austrian team spent the year continually developing its car, so too the Japanese manufacturer was constantly developing its power unit.

Admittedly, the team was one of several seemingly caught on the back foot by the front wing regulations. Indeed, it was really not until a revised version was fitted in Austria that the team got on top of the problem.

While Verstappen's dismissal of Vettel in Melbourne was clear proof of the progress that Honda had made, it was some time before the entire package came together, but when it did...

Ferrari's own issues saw Verstappen begin the season with a podium, but it was Barcelona before he repeated the feat. And then came Austria. While Verstappen's move on Leclerc was questionable, Austria signalled that Red Bull - and Honda - was back. A few weeks later, the Dutchman claimed the first pole of his F1 career, with further poles in Mexico and Brazil.

Verstappen also proved victorious in the madness that was Hockenheim, while taking a well-deserved win in Brazil, scene of his silliness just twelve months earlier.

With Honda continuing to develop its engine in terms of reliability and performance, this meant the team suffered more than its fair share of grid penalties, but for the most part Red Bull took this on the chin, after all it was reaping the benefits of the Japanese manufacturer’s determination to improve.

With Pierre Gasly seemingly out of his depth, and consequently dropped at the start of the summer break, rookie Alex Albon was brought in from Toro Rosso. Though the Thai did brilliantly - as did Gasly back at Toro Rosso - the team appeared to miss DAniel Ricciardo in terms of his calming influence, his experience and his talent.

While Red Bull made a determined effort to improve, and did take a significant step forward, it will have to dig deep in 2020. Though the RB15 definitely had its moments, it took the team far too long to get there, and for that brief period that Ferrari ruled the roost, the Austrian team was very much third best again.

After the disappointment of McLaren, Honda will have breathed a sigh of relief that its first season with Toro Rosso went fairly well, certainly enough to persuade Red Bull to take the plunge.

Though there is continued speculation over the futures of a number of manufacturers, and Honda having made clear that costs need to be curbed, those three wins will have done wonders. Indeed, in the wake of Verstappen's win in Austria, the relief was clear, as Honda bosses openly wept in joy.

Honda became the first manufacturer to commit to F1 post-2020, albeit for just one season, but Helmut Marko believes that 2019's success, coupled with the fact that Verstappen has agreed a new deal to stay until the end of 2023, should be enough to persuade the Japanese giant to hang around a while longer.

Though Mercedes remains the benchmark and Ferrari continues to do what it always does - and that's not a positive thing - Red Bull and Honda have the opportunity to finally take the fight to its German rival in terms of a sustained title bid.

That said, with the big three already focussing on 2021, 2020 is going to be all about spending and strength, and in that department the Three Pointed Star would appear to have the advantage.

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