THE self-professed ‘team of rejects’ that made off with Supercars’ biggest race has revealed a stunning livery for the 2018 season.
David Reynolds starts his third season with Betty Klimenko’s Erebus Motorsport squad being touted as a dark horse title contender after the group’s impressive 2017.
Along with their upset triumph at the Bathurst 1000 with co-driver Luke Youlden, Reynolds and the No. 9 Erebus Commodore were often taking the fight to the sport’s big three teams, fighting for pole positions and podium finishes.
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A third placing in the Newcastle 500 finale secured seventh in the drivers’ championship for Reynolds, and the honour of the highest-placed car from a team other than Triple Eight, DJR Team Penske or Tickford.
“A lot of people counted us out in the beginning and didn’t think we could make anything of it, but we just needed time to work it out,” Klimenko said.
“I always believed in my team and what they could do, now everyone else can see that too. There’s no reason we can’t be up there and be considered one of the sports top dogs.”
The new year sees more red and gold splashed on the satin black No. 9, a brand new chassis carrying Holden’s new ZB Commodore panels.
“The car is pretty black, so we can’t get much darker,” Reynolds laughed. “(Dark horse) is a cool tag to go into the year with.”
“It looks mean, it looks fast, I’m really looking forward to getting out there. We’re the small team with a lot of passion and fight in us.
“Honestly, it’s better than I imagined and we have evolved so much as a team.”
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will be looking to close that gap — with Verstappen in particular desperate to put more pressure on Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the race for the world title.
Pundits believe the time is ripe for Red Bull to make a serious challenge and bring an end to Mercedes’ incredible run of dominance that has seen it win the past seven constructors’ championships.
While Hamilton remains the man to beat, Verstappen’s hot form to end 2020 has some predicting the 23-year-old is ready to give the Brit and his teammate a serious scare — a mission that will be boosted by Red Bull’s developments during the off-season.
There was plenty of mystery at Red Bull’s launch of its new car last month when it kept the new RB16B in the garage during a filming day at Silverstone. The team released 76 photos of its day on the track — but none of them showed the newly-designed car it will use this season, preventing outsiders from getting a look inside the inner sanctum.
Former driver turned analyst Karun Chandhok said the secrecy suggests Red Bull has big plans.
“Are Red Bull going to pick up where they left off in Abu Dhabi? Max was frankly dominant, it was a brilliant win and Red Bull were coming on strong,” Chandhok told Sky Sports.
“They’ve got a new gearbox for 2021 which they’ve kept very secret. In fact, everything they’ve unveiled from their launch was of an old car — so they’ve been super secretive, more so than normal.
“There’s something there with the rear end and this new gearbox they’ve got so I’m waiting to see whether that pays dividends.”
Fellow Sky Sports analyst Ted Kravitz agreed Red Bull was keeping its cards close to its chest, and is interested to see what developments have been made to its power unit as well as the chassis.
After abandoning Renault to have its engines supplied by Honda in 2019, the Japanese company announced last year it will exit F1 at the end of 2021, so will be hoping to leave on a high note.
“What I’m more interested about with the Red Bull is how Honda are doing with this new engine. They’ve brought forward all the good stuff they were planning for 2022 to this year’s engine because Honda, of course, are not going to be around in 2022,” Kravitz said.
“This is their swan song season. They’ve got some good stuff on the engine, and let’s see what that does.
“That will really dictate the battle, I think. We know the Red Bull chassis is good, they won the last race in Abu Dhabi, and they’ll be there or thereabouts — it just depends on the engine.”
F1 commentator Martin Brundle believes “the pack is really going to be closed up in the next year or two” and has high expectations of Red Bull.
“I think Red Bull are actually going to be very strong,” he told Sky. “That performance they put in at Abu Dhabi and how they have developed the car over the winter, if they hit the ground running and deliver their potential straight away — which they haven’t often done, it must be said — I think Red Bull will be incredibly fast.”
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“I know it wasn’t to my standards, that I was below myself, but I am very much at peace with it. I think I have another world championship in me… I am not too old and I still have a long time in me.”
Vettel, whose career tally of 53 grand prix wins has been surpassed only by fellow multiple world champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, was positive about his move.
“Things are different here than Ferrari because the team is growing,” he said.
“It is not about the fancy looks and the fancy chairs in the office but the work done behind the scenes and from what I have seen the people are very talented.”
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer has cautioned that it will be three to five years before Aston Martin are in a position to challenge for world championships.
But Vettel said a team backed by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, whose son Lance is Aston Martin’s other driver, may get there sooner after F1 chiefs introduced budget caps to ensure greater competition.
“Formula One is changing and maybe you don’t need those three to five years anymore,” Vettel said.
“Maybe it will shrink and the hope is that everyone will be closer to the top and not just finish on the podium because the guys at the front retired or crashed.”
The new Formula One season starts in Bahrain on March 28.