Cumbria Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Graham Read
Formula 1 Correspondent
8:34 PM 15th February 2024

Red Bull Launches Its RB20

Red Bull has this evening concluded the ten 2024 Formula 1 pre-season launches at its factory in Milton Keynes, and, apart from the unveiling of its new RB20 car, for team principal Christian Horner, it was just business as usual despite the recent allegations against him.

Red Bull’s new RB20
Red Bull’s new RB20
As such, the launch, which began at 19.30 GMT, was set against the backdrop of the recently started investigation into alleged “controlling behaviour” by Horner, made by a female member of the racing team to Red Bull’s global head office in Salzburg, Austria. The allegations are understood not to be of a sexual nature, and Horner totally refutes any wrongdoing, remaining determined to continue in his role as the highly successful outfit’s team principal, a position he took up when Red Bull first entered Formula 1 back in 2005.

This makes the likeable Brit the longest-serving current team principal, as so many others have come and gone on a regular basis. It also seems that the investigation by the independent British KC appointed to lead the process may take longer than initially expected. The Red Bull team and Horner are keen to conclude the matter as soon as possible and focus instead on preparations for the forthcoming season, but the investigation may potentially even stretch until or even beyond the opening Grand Prix in Bahrain in early March.

It was business as usual for Christian Horner tonight
It was business as usual for Christian Horner tonight
Following the death in October 2022 of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, with whom Horner was close, the relationship between the Red Bull parent company’s senior management and Horner has seemingly become a little strained, and it is not for nothing that Formula 1 has long rightly been known as the Piranha Club. This usually relates to the arrival and departure of drivers in the cutthroat F1 paddock environment, but team principals certainly aren’t immune from it either, and we can but await the outcome of what may well be a power struggle between Red Bull’s global management and Horner.

Turning back to the real focus of tonight’s Red Bull launch, namely its new RB20 car, which undertook some initial running behind closed doors at Silverstone on Tuesday, it will have a lot to live up to as its predecessor, the RB19, helped the team achieve the most successful F1 season ever in 2023. Mainly through the efforts of triple world champion Max Verstappen, the team won every Grand Prix last year, bar one.

(L-R) Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez will again drive for Red Bull this season
(L-R) Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez will again drive for Red Bull this season
Along with Horner, Red Bull’s two current drivers, 26-year-old Verstappen and Mexico’s Sergio Pérez, were present at tonight’s launch, and it was clear that they couldn’t wait to get more time behind the wheel of their new high-speed office. Following the unveiling of the car, which was broadcast live, the 50-year-old Horner was happy to field questions from the media present and specifically denied there being any truth whatsoever in the allegations made against him.

After a promising start to the 2023 campaign, Pérez’s form tended to dip significantly, and all too often, Verstappen was left to fight alone at the front of the grid without any support from his teammate. This obviously did not go unnoticed, and Pérez was fortunate to remain in the car until the end of the season. He has one year left on his current Red Bull contract and will have to drive far more impressively for the team not to lose patience with him and find a replacement. Competing for Red Bull would be a dream opportunity for so many, but equally, it has often been proven that driving alongside Verstappen in the same machinery is something of a poisoned chalice, as virtually no one can match the Dutchman’s consistently blistering pace.

With all the launches completed, the focus will now shift to Bahrain and next week’s official three-day pre-season test starting on Wednesday. This will be the first opportunity for initial conclusions to be drawn about the comparative pace of the ten teams and the oh-so-lucky 20 drivers who will line up on the grid on March 2nd for the opening Grand Prix of the new season. Please note that this race will take place on a Saturday and not a Sunday as usual, to allow a full week before the subsequent Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which is being held on Saturday 9th, before the start of Ramadan the following day.