Red Bull has launched its 2022 Formula 1 car and livery with a basic version of the RB18 that Max Verstappen will use for his title defence in 2022.
The car revealed at the launch is likely to be vastly different from the car that will be used during pre-season testing and the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with many of the real secrets of the RB18 hidden by what appears to be a dummy car.
The RB18 follows in the wheeltracks of the RB16B, Red Bull’s fifth title-winning F1 car and the design that ended Mercedes’ unbroken run of championship wins in the V6 turbo-hybrid era.
Verstappen won the drivers’ championship after the controversial conclusion to the 2021 season with a late safety car period in Abu Dhabi.
In recent years the high-rake Red Bull designs have been difficult to tame and much has been made of the new rules presenting an opportunity for Red Bull to make its car more compliant because the concept will change so dramatically.
That will be particularly important for Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, who stays on for a second season alongside the world champion after a below-expectations first campaign.
The design of the RB18 has been challenging as Red Bull, along with Mercedes, faced the toughest task in balancing the demands of 2021 development and 2022 design work last year.
That’s partly offset by the team long since being at the forefront of constantly improving its production speed and capacity to maximise design and development time.
But Red Bull has also had to adapt to the demands of the cost cap, cutting personnel and modifying processes for F1’s new era, and it had the joint-largest aerodynamic testing restrictions last year while designing the car.
There is also an ongoing effect of this as Red Bull has the second-smallest allocation of windtunnel and CFD time for the first six months of 2022.
This will impact the aerodynamic testing it can do during a crucial phase of development with the new cars.
New name and post-Honda branding
The team has rebranded as Oracle Red Bull Racing after expanding its partnership with the computer technology company, which now has prominent branding on the rear wing and sidepods.
Honda’s ‘HRC’ logo is still present on this year’s Red Bull, albeit on the engine cover beneath the driver number.
Honda’s official exit also means the RB18 will nominally have a ‘Red Bull Powertrains’ in it this year, but that power unit is still very much a Honda in everything but name.
In 2022, Honda continues to produce, assemble, maintain and support the engine even though it has formally quit F1.
It continued to work on a new specification of the power unit for this season, which is important because this year the engines will be frozen until the end of 2025, and the upgrade also tackles the increase to 10% renewable ethanol E10 fuel that requires major changes in the engine.
As for the future, Red Bull says its new title sponsor will assist with its work on a brand new engine for F1’s new rules in 2026 as Oracle’s cloud system will support the modelling of the new engine combustion chamber.