JEREZ, Spain — Red Bull unveiled the car it hopes Sebastian Vettel will steer to a fifth consecutive Formula One world championship on Tuesday, but chief designer Adrian Newey said a major switch to six-cylinder engines means "all bets are off."
Four-time defending world champion Vettel and new teammate Daniel Ricciardo pulled the tarp off the RB10 at the Jerez circuit, just before the start of preseason testing. They then posed for photos with Newey and team boss Christian Horner.
F1 tweaks the rules governing the engineering of cars each season, but this year’s changes have required a major overhaul in design. That has led to speculation Red Bull may have trouble to extend its four-year dominance of the competition, which last year saw Vettel match Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in one season as he cruised to the title.
Red Bull said its new car was "our first interpretation of F1’s radical new technical regulations" and that it "has little in common with its predecessors."
Newey agreed that the new rulebook may give their rivals a better chance at finally ending Red Bull’s reign.
"I can’t see there are any favourites," said Newey, who is widely recognized as F1’s leading designer. "It’s so new and open. All bets are off."
The testing session proved Newey right, as Vettel barely made it out of the garage until the final 15 minutes before hurriedly completing three laps.
"I guess with our performance of last year we could have been happier if the regulations hadn’t changed," said Newey, adding that the main pressure falls on Red Bull’s engine manufacturer, Renault, as well as competitors Ferrari and Mercedes.
"Probably all three feel they could have done with another six months," said Newey.
Newey said that Red Bull would focus on working out the kinks of its new car first, and then worry about pushing its performance level.
Vettel said that meant the first few races of the seasons may not indicate who finally emerges as title hopefuls.
"It’s all guessing at the moment," Vettel said. "Whether it favours myself or other drivers is very tricky to tell. In previous years it was the same toys under the cover. This year there’s a lot of new things and everyone is struggling. It’s a massive challenge."
Besides switching to a 1.6-litre V6 turbo engine instead of last year’s 2.4-litre V8 engine, the rule changes focus on boosting cars’ energy recovery systems, which generate energy from braking and through waste heat from the engine. F1 has also lowered fuel to 100 kilograms per race, down from 160 kilos, increased the car’s weight, and forced alterations to gearboxes, exhaust, wings and nose height.
Mercedes, Force India, Williams and Caterham also presented their cars for the new season in chilly conditions for southern Spain. Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s sister team, launched its car on Monday.
Preseason testing continues here until Friday. The next tests will be held in Bahrain on Feb. 19-22 and Feb. 27-March 2.
The season opens with the Australian Grand Prix on March 16.