RACE DEBRIEF

    After a third-place finish in last year’s constructors’ championship, we look at how Red Bull are shaping up ahead of the long-delayed new season as they look to go even better in 2020 when the racing action gets underway in Austria.

    How did they look at winter testing?

    Red Bull came out of pre-season in relatively buoyant mood, and that’s telling because you needed to do a bit of digging to appreciate how well their winter had gone.

    The car looked a bit of a handful at times, with Max Verstappen suffering a number of spins, and as much as the Dutchman downplayed them by saying he was just trying to find the limit of the car, when his rivals found the limit they usually suffered less dramatic moments.

    READ MORE: Why Austria and Hungary are the perfect tracks to show where the top teams stand in 2020

    A 360-degree view of one of Verstappen's spins in pre-season testing

    But that didn’t overshadow the fact that they have a quick car. Red Bull look to have the edge over Ferrari in the fight to be the main challenger to Mercedes, and they did lots of work on the harder tyre compounds during the winter to ensure they had a stable baseline to start the season with.

    There was a quiet confidence from Honda too, as the Japanese power unit manufacturers continue to make progress ahead of their second year with Red Bull.

    READ MORE: We’ve hit the ground running in 2020 testing, say Red Bull

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    Honda have made gains to put Red Bull into a competitive position on power

    What’s happened since then?

    It has been quite a quiet time for Red Bull in comparison to some of their rivals, as they haven’t been dragged into the driver market silly season.

    Verstappen has already committed to a new long-term deal signed over the winter, and Alex Albon impressed when stepping up last season but is never going to be judged before racing resumes.

    READ MORE: Red Bull 'happy with Verstappen and Albon' says Horner in response to Vettel links

    There was a collaboration with Renault as part of Project Pitlane during the shutdown, and a lot of work behind the scenes from Red Bull as a brand to help get the opening two races agreed at the track they own in Austria, but on the team front – aside from the numerous meetings regarding the sport’s future regulations – there wasn’t a huge amount happening in the public eye.

    A very warm one-day test at Silverstone took place last Thursday using the new RB16, with Albon completing the filming day at the home of the British Grand Prix as preparations ramped up for the restart.

    But perhaps most crucially, Formula1.com has learned that Honda have been busy during the break and will bring a new-spec power unit to Austria, while Red bull themselves will also introduce a sizeable aerodynamic upgrade for their home race.

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    Alex Albon tested the RB16 at Silverstone in June

    What have the drivers been up to in the break?

    Both Verstappen and Albon have been busy with sim racing during the break, but on different platforms.

    Verstappen has continued his usual sim racing with Team Redline, that saw him compete in the Le Mans 24 Virtual alongside Lando Norris, and also in some Supercars events.

    READ MORE: Our writers' predictions and hot takes ahead of the new season

    Albon on the other hand was a regular on Twitch as he got involved with the Virtual Grand Prix series and picked up a win in Brazil after an epic fight with Charles Leclerc, although he was often complaining about George Russell’s driving in private battles.

    Ahead of his second season in F1, it was Albon who go to carry out the filming day at Silverstone last week, with Red Bull and Verstappen agreeing it wasn’t worth their team leader traveling to the UK two weeks earlier to observe a period of quarantine just to be able to complete a maximum of 17 laps.

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    Alex Albon on track in the RB16 at Silverstone last week

    How are they looking for Austria?

    Red Bull will be very keen to get off to a flying start at their home race, even if it will be without fans.

    Verstappen has won on each of his last two visits to the Red Bull Ring – securing victory in dramatic style as he barged past Leclerc late on last year – and there’s the added bonus of two races at the same track to start this season.

    The Red Bull clearly seems to work well on the Austrian circuit, and the Honda power unit - upgraded for this race - has performed similarly impressively on the higher altitude tracks, as only Mexico and Brazil – the former where Verstappen grabbed a provisional pole last year and the latter where he won – are located higher up.

    Verstappen might not have the support he usually enjoys at this race, but he’s still one of the favourites to open the season with a win.

    READ MORE: Can any of last season’s midfield teams make F1’s ‘big three’ the ‘big four’ in 2020?

    Re-live last year's race - Austria 2019

    What will their target be for the season?

    At the end of pre-season testing, the answer to this question will have been second in the constructors’ championship and perhaps an outside chance of Verstappen getting into the picture in the drivers’ title fight. Now, the revised calendar appears to increase those hopes for Red Bull.

    Not only has Austria been a happy hunting ground in recent years, the venue of the third race of the season – Hungary – has also often been seen as a good opportunity for Red Bull.

    READ MORE: 5 headline-grabbing rivalries set to dominate the 2020 season

    Verstappen was on pole there last year and only just lost out to Lewis Hamilton due to strategy in the race, so the opening three rounds offer up good opportunities for the team to get a lot of points on the board early doors.

    Red Bull have also tended to come on strong the longer a season goes on, developing a car well. So there’s every chance they will be starting the season in a stronger position than if it had got underway in Australia, and if they can capitalize on the first three races then winning the championship could well become the realistic aim.