Red Bull’s drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have provided their first impressions of the team’s 2021 Formula 1 car, the RB16B, after its shakedown at Silverstone.

New signing Perez, who has been drafted in to replace Alex Albon for 2021, got first honours behind the wheel of the RB16B on Wednesday morning, before handing over the car to teammate Verstappen.

Red Bull said both drivers enjoyed trouble-free runs and were able to complete the permitted mileage of 100km - the equivalent of 17 laps of the Silverstone grand prix layout - that such filming days are restricted to.

Despite only making his on-track debut for Red Bull during a two-day test at the British Grand Prix venue earlier in the week driving a 2019-specification RB15 as he continues to get accustomed to his new team, Perez reported that the evolutionary RB16B had noticeably improved grip and “good potential”.

“Driving the new car that we’re going to drive this season, it’s always a very special moment for all the team,” the Mexican said.

“They’ve been working so hard through the winter so to finally go on track with that car is quite an emotional day. I have to say that I can see the potential of it.

“I was extremely pleased to come from RB15, already have a reference of how a Red Bull car feels, and jumping into my car, the car that I’m going be driving this year, it’s incredible.

“Conditions are not great out there but it’s just nice to get a comfortable feeling with the pedals, with the brakes, with all the new stuff that I’m going through, so it’s pretty exciting.

“I can just feel a step in overall grip at all speeds, I could already feel that. I haven’t done a lot but I can already see that the car has good potential.”

Speaking about his early impressions, Verstappen, who was able to directly compare the RB16B with its predecessor that he drove to two victories last season, was immediately aware of the new aerodynamic changes introduced in order to cut downforce levels and slow the cars down this year.

Having driven the RB15 in the morning in his first outing of the year to help him get up to speed, the Dutchman said the focus of his running in the updated RB16B was simply to get comfortable and earn a “basic understanding” of the car.

"Of course there are differences," he explained. "I mean, already the big change is of course the floor, they cut it a lot on the rear. So the car is always going to behave a bit differently.

"But it's not about setup work or whatever. It's just about getting comfortable in the car and get a basic understanding of the car. And then all the work has to be done anyway in Bahrain.”

Does Red Bull have something to hide?

Arguably the biggest intrigue of Wednesday was caused by Red Bull’s mysterious decision to withhold images of the RB16B on track at Silverstone, meaning the only glimpse we have so far had of the team’s latest F1 car is via the two studio shots it released during Monday’s no-frills launch.

It is an interesting tactic from Red Bull not to immediately share pictures or video footage of its new car in action in the same manner that many teams do. It is not unheard of for teams to keep their material private, though it does mark a departure from Red Bull’s shakedown events of recent years.

While this rather secretive approach might simply just be a desire to withhold imagery for a later release date, it could also imply that Red Bull wishes to hide some developments from prying eyes, particularly those of its chief rivals.

If the latter is indeed the case, there will be an added element of fascination surrounding the Red Bull garage when the shutters come up and the RB16B is revealed in the flesh for the first day of pre-season testing in Bahrain on 12 March.

Although teams are carrying over a significant portion of their 2020 car into 2021, including the same chassis, all 10 outfits each have two development tokens to spend on certain elements they can re-design, opening the door to make any needed improvements.

Despite the quantity of carry-over, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described the RB16B as an “extensive” update on its predecessor.

“It is very much a carry-over,” Horner said. “So the chassis is the same chassis that we used in Abu Dhabi for example.

“All the peripheral bits, they get revisited and changed so it’s an update, an extensive update, I would say, hence the name 16B rather than being an all-new car.”

With pre-season testing cut back to just three days of running - the equivalent of just 1.5 days in the car for each driver - Wednesday’s shakedown provided a valuable opportunity for Perez and Verstappen to sneak in some extra mileage ahead of the new campaign.

“There are systems checks, it’s a new engine from Honda on their side as well, so that’s where the main focus is," Horner added. 

“You get some initial feelings but it’s difficult in these conditions, at this temperature. You’ll get something from it, [Verstappen] will have a reference point from when he last drove the car.

“Even though it’s a filming day it’s great for the drivers to be able to jump into what was the old car from a couple of years ago and reference that against the RB16B.

“It blows away their cobwebs and also gives them a brief experience of their car for the season.”

 

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