Red Bull’s season of excellence punctuated by memorable moments of controversy : PlanetF1

Red Bull’s season of excellence punctuated by memorable moments of controversy : PlanetF1

Red Bull swept the board in 2022, but it certainly wasn’t an easy sailing season for Milton Keynes’ team.

After eight years in the exhaust of Mercedes, Red Bull couldn’t have asked for a better return to form.

After a turbulent start to the season, the team put on a confident run with sustained brilliance until the end of the year. In the last 19 races of 2022, all but three have been won by the team with the charging bull alongside their livery.

2021 would prove monumental for both the sport and Red Bull, but any fears that the protracted battle that lasted until the final lap of the final race would affect the team’s fortunes in 2022 were soon buried.

2022 was the perfect combination of a confident and matured Max Verstappen combined with the brilliance of Adrian Newey, given a new set of rules and able to direct the design of a near-perfect car.

But despite all the perfection, the season itself was not without incident. The team entered 2022 after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the clouds of controversy that emanated from the final moments of the 2021 campaign.

While Red Bull were innocent, large swaths of both the media and fan base used Michael Masi’s actions as a stick to smack them, arguing without merit that Verstappen’s first championship win should have been an asterisk.

Red Bull had to start strong in 2022 and while the RB18 immediately looked like a fast car, it also looked a step behind Ferrari. At the inaugural race in Bahrain, Charles Leclerc took pole, fastest lap and race win, while Red Bull suffered double DNFs for both Verstappen and Sergio Perez in Red Bull’s first year, as well as Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri, who had powertrains despite continued support from Honda got off to a rocky start.

These reliability issues would recur in Australia. Verstappen suffered a fuel leak making it look like Ferrari would lose both championships.

The Dutchman was depressed and already gave up the title speech, but things clicked for both him and Red Bull after the trip to Melbourne. Verstappen would win the next three races to move ahead of Leclerc in the standings. At the time of the British Grand Prix, Verstappen had a 49-point lead over the Ferrari driver.

The Scuderia might have hit back with a win at Silverstone, followed by Red Bull’s home race in Austria, but it would prove a flash in the pan. Because if there was one race that reflected Verstappen’s season, it was Spa.

He qualified for pole and was moved back to P14 for exceeding engine component limits, but that proved to be of little concern. At the end of the second lap he was eighth. On lap six he was in P6 and on lap eight he was on the podium.

He went into first place on lap 12 after not pitting, but by lap 18 he was on fresher rubber, slipstreaming from leader Carlos Sainz. He passed the Spaniard with the same effort it takes to knock a fly off his shoulder and never let go of control of the top spot ever since.

By 18 seconds over second-placed Perez, it was about as dominant as a win can get. The Belgian Grand Prix proved to be not only one of the season’s achievements, but one of the best in the Dutchman’s already remarkable career.

The race at Spa was the first after the summer break and with the win it was all but clear where the two titles would go.

It was this ease with which Red Bull galloped to the title that made their controversial moments all the more memorable.

Ahead of the Singapore race, rumors surfaced that Red Bull, along with Aston Martin, had surpassed the 2021 cost cap. Rivals wanted blood, with some suggesting penalty points should be imposed, while McLaren’s Zak Brown called the breach “fraud” in an open letter to the FIA.

The saga exploded with rumors of what penalty would drive Red Bull away until shortly after the Japanese Grand Prix when the FIA ​​confirmed the team had committed a minor overspending.

The differences in the calculations appeared to amount to labeling a tax refund, but the saga ended when they were handed a fine along with a reduction in their wind tunnel time for 2022.

With that problem, it was time for a final moment that would have left Christian Horner with his head in his hands. With Verstappen’s title sewn up, he refused to cede a spot to Perez, who was battling Leclerc for P2 in the championship.

The Dutchman defied team orders and told race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase he had his reasons, but a needless civil war erupted in the Red Bull garage. Just like with the cost cap, rumors surfaced as to what exactly were Verstappen’s reasons for Perez’s crash in Monaco qualifying, which prevented the Dutchman from setting a final flying lap time, which turned out to be the most likely source of Verstappen’s grievances.

Perez would continue to lose to Leclerc in P2 and while Red Bull claim water under the bridge in terms of the teammates’ relationship, the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as the third driver for 2023 adds further intrigue for the year ahead.

Even with the cloud of cost caps hanging over it and the simmering tension that threatens to erupt again in the future, 2022 can only be described as a tremendous success for Red Bull.

They nailed the 2022 regulations, an achievement that will stand them in good stead going forward, while Verstappen delivered a near-perfect season to secure a second drivers’ title in as many seasons.

He did so with his gold boots and the number one emblazoned on the nose of his car and if anything happens in 2022 it will be some time before we see that number on the front of any car other than the Red Bull .

Read more: Ferrari sees the 2022 season go from overwhelming success to painful failure

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