Smiles filled the Red Bull garage on Thursday as the mere three days of pre-season testing kicked off in Bahrain.
It was the world’s first real look at the car in which Max Verstappen will defend his back-to-back titles – and the Dutchman led the lap times on day 1.
“It’s almost frightening how early we finished the new car this year and how smoothly everything has worked so far,” said top team official Dr Helmut Marko.
“Everything worked right away. For now we are very happy,” the 79-year-old Austrian added.
“I think we are in a better position at the moment than last year at the same time.”
It was an ominous sign of another potential year of dominance to come, although Marko does expect Mercedes and Ferrari to be “closer”.
However, he added: “They both still have their problems, but I expect them to solve that with their experience.
“I am surprised that the Ferrari is still bouncing like that. We didn’t expect that. And the Mercedes still looks a bit restless. But it’s only the first day.”
The body language of 25-year-old Verstappen, though, was exceedingly confident and – according to Marko – is “still getting better”.
“He is fast and also takes good care of the tyres,” Marko said. “We have changed relatively little from last year’s car. It looks good for us.”
Red Bull’s 2023 car is visibly evolved in many areas, including around the tweaked floor edge regulations. Giedo van der Garde, a former F1 driver, told Viaplay that Red Bull’s new floor is “unique and genius”.
“They are in good shape,” said the Dutchman.
When the ten cars were rolled onto the grid for a pre-season F1 photo, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was caught having a detailed look at the new Red Bull.
“We have no fear of espionage from the other teams,” Marko insists. “The limited budgets no longer allows us to indulge in such tricks.
“You can’t just spend money on solutions if you’re not completely sure they will work.”
So for now, it’s all plain sailing at Red Bull Racing.
“It’s nice to see that compared to last year, the car has become even faster,” said world champion Verstappen. “The tyres work a little differently but otherwise we are good.”