Although the Formula 1 community was pleased when it was released that Red Bull would be staying in the sport for the coming season after threats to quit, 2016 could still be a troubling year for the team.
After the chaos over their power unit situation, and finally being able to reach a solution under the compromise of running a TAG Heuer branded power unit, the team will surely look to head into the season without any problems.
The team will probably have to rely on their chassis to deliver podiums instead of pure power for another season, possibly only capitalising when others have problems. This could test the team’s resolve enough without any other dramas occurring.
However, drama is a predictable scenario. An emerging problem towards 2017 is that the team have a serious amount of driver congestion, with an embarrassment of riches at their disposal.
Daniel Ricciardo, the three-time race winner, and Daniil Kvyat, who claimed his first podium in Hungary last year, are a solid driver pairing. You would expect them to claim seventh and eighth in the Drivers’ Championship again next year at the minimum if they have the same standard of car in 2016, unless Force India have an unbelievable season.
Below the senior team, problems could lie in the organisation of their younger drivers in the Red Bull Junior Team programme by the time the next silly season gets underway this Autumn.
They have two drivers in their sister Toro Rosso team which could be looking for a move after their second season in Formula 1, if nothing else, to potentially save them from the chop. Max Verstappen is obviously one of the best young talents we’ve seen in the sport in some time, while Carlos Sainz Jr. has been on a Mark Webber-esque run of unbelievable bad luck following a number of unreliability problems in 2015.
You would expect that unless that somehow happened again, Sainz would have an opportunity to show how good he is this season after being ignored by many for praise due to the driving of Verstappen.
If Ricciardo and Kvyat complete their goals for the season and are successful in the eyes of the team, with the Australian already having a contract to 2018 and Kvyat having already outscored him over a season in 2015, where are Verstappen and Sainz expected to disappear to after 2016?
The only option would surely be to stay at Toro Rosso for a third year, or be snapped up by rival teams. Many already link Verstappen to a potential move to Ferrari, and if Sainz was equal to Verstappen throughout the season could follow him up the grid. Otherwise, they may have to be confined to same route out of Formula 1 that has beset many a Toro Rosso driver.
If it isn’t worrying enough, there are obviously talented drivers still further down the Red Bull system, including Pierre Gasly and Dean Stoneman, who are looking to advance in higher competitions. If the likes of Gasly were to impress in GP2 in 2016, he could be stuck in the system with nowhere but a reserve role to go to, or a drive might have to be bought in a lower team, much like when Ricciardo made his debut with HRT in 2011.
Of course, many young drivers in the programme have come and gone, and the drivers waiting in line may not be considered talented enough for Formula 1 if Red Bull are feeling cruel enough, but Gasly already has four GP2 podiums to his name.
These problems would be easily overlooked if Red Bull continue in 2016 to consider leaving the sport, but you would think that they may have hope that the technical changes in 2017 are enough to give a chance for the team to return to the top.
This would surely promote any concerns over successful young drivers as high on their list of priorities.