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Take five - The Red Bull challenge // A level playing field puts the champions on the defensive

Published by Christine

Pocket F1 Handbook 2014

We're now officially one week away from the first F1 action in Australia, and that means it must be time to look at another item on our list of five things to look forward to in the 2014 season. Distilled from the useful season preview, Pocket F1 Handbook: Guide to the 2014 Grand Prix Season, these five things should go to prove, if we didn't know already, that the year ahead is going to be brilliant. We've looked at new drivers and potential team improvements, but today we're going to focus on the defending champions.

Even before we saw Red Bull’s diabolical pre-season testing, we were looking forward to a sea change in the order of Formula One teams. The Austrian squad’s four consecutive world championships have been secured with varying degrees of domination but 2013 was a step beyond. The fastest driver with the fastest team deserve the title, regardless of the effect it has on the championship, but I think most would agree that it’d be nice to let someone else have a go.

Any considerable revamp in the regulations can shake up the order on the grid, we’ve seen it before and expect to see it again in 2014. There’s such a range of changes incoming, from the hugely different power units to the brand new Pirelli compounds to the smallest of qualifying tweaks, that it seems only natural that the playing field has once again been levelled.

Throw in the unexpected trials and tribulations that Red Bull have so far seen in testing this year, and it’s even more unlikely they can secure another nine race victories in a row. Much has been made of the lack of Renault running, and Red Bull’s own chassis has hindered their progress as well. Adrian Newey is infamous for creating cooling problems in new cars, determined not to compromise an inch on the chassis. Combining ambitious designs with new and reasonably untested power units is a recipe for disaster.

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It’s an unprecedented fall from grace for the defending champions, considering just how strong they were at the tail end of 2013. They still could be contenders, and they still could put on a good show, but even the team are tempering their expectations.

I’m very confident we’ll overcome the issues. The question is when, and how quickly. We’re trying to go to Melbourne in as good a shape as we can, but we’ve probably covered only about a third of the mileage of some of the other teams. But we’re pushing and we want to catch up as quickly as we can.

- Christian Horner

Red Bull fans are in for an anxious wait, but anyone agnostic or supporting another team can only celebrate this glimpse of an opportunity. F1 always goes in cycles, and the dominance of one team will never last forever, but whilst we were in that Red Bull period, it felt like it was never going to end. 2014 will be the breath of fresh air that Formula One so desperately needs. New faces on the podium, new interviews up and down the grid, perhaps even one of those backmarker teams getting their first point?

It’s a season full of possibilities, and that is what makes it, and particularly the first race in Australia, absolutely unmissable.

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