F1 2018: Testing suggests Red Bull might have got their wings back

Red Bull's 2018 car
Dashing through the snow - Red Bull testing in Barcelona
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Bad weather has disrupted four days of F1 Testing in Barcelona but Ralph Ellis thinks he's seen some hints that will be good news for Max Verstappen.

"Betfair’s markets have reacted to what they’ve seen – they are now [5.2] second favourites in the betting for the Constructors Championship, just a fraction ahead of Ferrari [5.3]."

If you are Red Bull, you can't afford to enter Formula One to do anything other than win. The brand values and the advertising slogans demand it.

'Red Bull Gives You Wings' doesn't work for your marketing department if your car is trailing in half a lap behind Mercedes and Ferrari on a regular basis.

That's why there has never been as much pressure on their car designers to come up with something better as there is at the start of this season. It was 2013 the last time one of their drivers lifted the title and that's four long years of anguish.

Whisper it softly, but after four days of testing in Barcelona there are the first hints that the team might finally be moving in the right direction.

Disrupted by snow

Of course it is hard enough in any given year to get accurate ideas from testing days about who will have the quickest car. They run with different tyres and different fuel loads, amid much subterfuge about the technology which will be on show when they get to the grid of the opening race in Melbourne in March.

And this year has been even tougher, with snow disrupting two of the four days so severely it looked at times like it was being held on the M1. The cold made it impossible at times to get tyres up to proper running temperatures.

But I did pick out last year that Ferrari would be more competitive and this time it's Red Bull who are giving off the good vibes.

From the moment when Daniel Ricciardo finished top of the time sheets on the first morning there were was a feeling that Red Bull, who brought Adrian Newey back into their design team during the winter after he'd earlier stood down, were in a good place.

Red Bull Constructors' Championship second favourites

The main technical issue for all the teams has been to incorporate the weight of the new 'halo' safety bar, and Red Bull's solution to balance it by bringing the centre of gravity lower seems quite innovative.

Betfair's markets have reacted to what they've seen - they are now [5.2] second favourites in the betting for the Constructors Championship, just a fraction ahead of Ferrari [5.3].

They still have issues to resolve, not least with engine suppliers Renault who took the blame for all of last year's reliability issues when Max Verstappen four times failed to finish because of breakdowns.

But it's an interesting sign that the French firm say they are prioritising reliability, while believing they will still have enough pace in the early part of the season.

It's a big year for Verstappen, who turned 20 in September. At the start of his second full season with the team it's no longer enough to be the kid who is full of promise, he has to start delivering some results.

He certainly has looked comfortable in the new car in Barcelona this week, even if the weather has restricted him, and we know he's fast. If the first signs about his car are right he could be good value at [8.0] third favourite in the Drivers Championship betting. Maybe, just maybe, Red Bull have found their wings again.

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