This season will be one of new beginnings for Red Bull Racing. It's the first time in three years that it's not returning to the Formula One grid as defending champions, and without a world champion at the helm. But return it will to fight to regain its title, and this is the car with which it intends to do so.
Revealed ahead of the season's first test session in Jerez this weekend, the new RB11 is wearing a bold camouflage "testing livery" of the type we're more accustomed to seeing on road-going prototype than on a racing car. Expect it to be replaced by the familiar blue, red and yellow by the time the season kicks off in Melbourne next month.
Though the camouflage may keep certain aero developments disguised (if not altogether hidden) from the prying eyes of its rivals, the sloping nose mandated by the new regulations is plain to see. Otherwise the new RB11 is likely more of an evolution rather than a revolutionary clean-sheet redesign over the RB10 that returning hot-shoe Daniel Ricciardo drove last year, to be joined this season by Daniil Kvyat, who's been promoted from Toro Rosso to replace departing four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
Whether they can succeed, however, will largely depend on the engine. Red Bull has emerged as the primary partner for engine supplier Renault (sister company to the team's title sponsor Infiniti). In fact, after Lotus switched to Mercedes (and assuming Caterham doesn't make it back to the grid), Red Bull and its sister team Toro Rosso will be the only teams running Renault engines this season.
The team says it has worked closer than ever with the French automaker to develop the Renault power unit, but chances are slim that they'll be able to catch up to Mercedes given the restrictions on engine development. If anyone can catch the Silver Arrows, though, it'll surely be Red Bull – the only other team to win a grand prix last season.
After an intensely busy off-season, Infiniti Red Bull's Racing's 2015 Formula One car, the RB11, has hit the track and begun testing at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain ahead of the new season.
Featuring a striking new test livery, the RB11 features a host of improvements in all areas as the team seeks to improve on its 2014 campaign, when it took the RB10 from a difficult start to second place in the Constructors' Championship. The most notable shape change to this year's car is the lower nose box and front of the chassis, which were amended in line with the latest regulations, but beyond that many of the RB11's updates are under its all–new black and white skin.
THE RB11 DESIGN
Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey said: "The design of the RB11 has been very much about understanding what we learned from last season, which was a big regulation change as far as the power unit is concerned and the packaging that goes with that and setting about optimising the car from those lessons."
Chief Engineering Officer Rob Marshall added: "There are some changes that affect the shape of the front of the car but beyond that most of the changes are under the skin. We've identified the areas where we can make improvements and we've worked hard on these. There won't be a lot that's visible to the naked eye but a lot of hard work has gone into the bits that are hidden."
A large part of that work has involved improvements to Renault Sport's Energy F1 power unit, updates that have been made in closer collaboration with the team.
"The relationship with Renault is a lot closer now," says Team Principal Christian Horner of the team's technical ties with the French manufacturer. "Red Bull is the only partner for Renault now, through ourselves and Toro Rosso, and that focus from Renault together with a close involvement with our design team is yielding good results and a far closer integration between the power unit and the chassis side. Working in unison with Renault we can really make some big steps forward this year."
Newey adds that the process of reducing the deficit the team suffered last year will take time. "We have been working very hard with our partners Renault to help them develop the engine," he says. "What we have to remember is that the internal combustion engine and its very complicated associated items, the ERS and turbocharger, are long lead time items. Those are things where if one team takes an advantage then it takes time to overthrow that or get back on a par with or hopefully ahead."
THE RB11 BUILD
Christian Horner commented: "We've been pushing to the limit as usual. We had a very tight timescale for the car to be prepared in time for the first test, but that's normal in this team.
If you're not on the limit you're not trying hard enough."
The team's 2015 challenge will be spearheaded by a new look Red Bull driver line-up, introduced last week at the team's #OnBoard event, with Daniil Kvyat joining Daniel Ricciardo at the wheel of the RB11.
"It's an exciting and dynamic line-up," says Christian. "We know the quality of Daniel following his performances last year and in Daniil we have an outstanding talent. The speed, commitment and determination he demonstrated were all the qualities we're looking for.
"We've already seen what Daniel is capable of and we firmly believe that Dany has all the same attributes," he adds. "They're young, hungry, they're incredibly quick and I think they are going to push each other very hard throughout the year."
For drivers Ricciardo and Kvyat the brief two-month wait for a return to the cockpit is over and a first taste of the RB11's potential awaits.
"I'm looking forward to driving the RB11 and I'm hanging out to get behind the wheel again. I hope it's going to be a beast. We'll soon find out," says Daniel.
"There was plenty of pressure on me last year to prove myself in a top team and I think everyone knows now what I'm capable of so I'm excited – excited to build on what we achieved in 2014 and ready to give Mercedes a good fight."
"It's going to be very exciting to drive an Infiniti Red Bull Racing car for the first time for me," adds Daniil. "It's a fantastic opportunity for me and I'm really looking forward to finally getting into the car. It's going to be cool.
"Though many people in the team know me quite well, there is still the challenge of entering a new team for myself. However, I haven't really set any targets for 2015. I just want to keep doing the best job possible with hard work and the right attitude and that's the best thing I can do."
On joining forces with Daniel for 2015, Kvyat added: "Me and Daniel have known each other for quite a long time, about five or six years from when I entered the Red Bull Junior Team. We have a good relationship and I hope to have a strong relationship based on healthy competition, which will push the team forward."
THE TECHNICAL TEAM
The change in driver line-up behind the wheel has to a lesser degree also been mirrored in the team's technical department. While Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey is still very much involved with the team, he divides his time between the team and Red Bull's new Advanced Technologies division, a new technical group has been put in place to take the team forward.
"In anticipation of [Adrian's dual role] we created a senior technology team, led by Rob Marshall, which is assuming some of the day-to-day responsibilities that Adrian previously held," explains Horner. "However, Adrian still performs a very active role within that team and contributes on a daily and weekly basis."
The Chief Technical Officer was still deeply involved in the conception of the RB11. "Although I've been slightly less hands on than previously, I was still very much involved in the layout of the car, the package, and really trying to eke every bit of performance out of it we can do, but very much working with the engineering team" says Newey.
That engineering team is headed by Rob Marshall, who previously held the post of Chief Designer. He now steps up to become Chief Engineering Officer. The group also features Head of Aerodynamics Dan Fallows, Chief Engineer, Car Engineering Paul Monaghan and Chief Engineer, Performance Engineering Pierre Waché.
Head of Aerodynamics Dan Fallows says: "Adrian has changed his role slightly and we're now at the stage where we can be more self-sufficient. However, Adrian is still heavily involved. The reason the transition has been so good is that we're all used to working the way Adrian works and we follow his philosophy. Therefore, when he does have an input into our discussions it feels very natural."
Newey adds "I'm stepping back a bit, getting involved in other things, so that Formula One isn't my sole focus. I will still be going to races and I will certainly be at the first race and at the pre-season tests, overseeing, guiding and mentoring and still trying to come up with some ideas of my own as well."
The RB11 is the first product of this new process, with Newey heavily involved in the project, which has ultimately been delivered under the stewardship of the new technical group.
Christian concludes: "Our target is simple: to close down the gap to Mercedes yet further," says Horner. "We were the only team other than Mercedes to win a grand prix in 2014 and we won three with Daniel Ricciardo. Our target is to close the gap down and put Mercedes under as much pressure as we possibly can. We know what we're aiming at, we know what we need to achieve and I believe that with the RB11, with the drivers we have and with the new structures put in place we should be able to do that."