For the first time since 2008, Red Bull Racing suffered their first winless season in 2015, but there were still smiles at the end from Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.
Problems with reliability from their Renault power units saw the Tilbrook squad drop to fourth in the constructor’s championship come the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The issue with Renault has overshadowed the performance of Kvyat in particular. Thrown in at the deep end after just one season in the sport, charged with replacing four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and pitted against the sport’s newest golden boy Ricciardo, the likeable Russian not only scored Red Bull’s best result of the season - second in Hungary - but also beat his team-mate at the first time of asking.
Ricciardo came into the season having won three races in 2014 on his way to third in the championship, but struggled to make the RB11 look in any way competitive, and two third place finishes were the only fruits of his season.
The shortcomings of the car were plain for all to see though. When driving at circuits which demanded power and pace, Red Bull simply weren’t at the races.
At power circuits like Canada, Austria and Italy, Red Bull were nowhere to be found. The Renault engine’s shortcomings were painfully obvious as a lack of grunt left them sitting ducks as Mercedes and Ferrari powered cars made light work of them.
But their strengths were highlighted when top-speed didn’t matter. At places like Monaco, Singapore and most notably Hungary - where both drivers finished on the podium - Red Bull were back to strength, reminding everyone they were still a force to be reckoned with given the right equipment.
Their battles during the course of the season were by-and-large against the likes of Force India, Lotus and sister squad Toro Rosso rather than the upper echelons.
But as the season progressed, both Kvyat and Ricciardo found themselves creeping up the order, getting the better of the pack and finding their way forwards.
A handful of fourths, fifths and sixths were salvaged by the pair as they overcame their engine’s shortcomings, propelling Red Bull to a comfortable fourth place in the final standings, while Kvyat and Ricciardo took home seventh and eighth respectively in the driver’s order.
While mystery and suspense surrounds Red Bull’s engine plans for 2016, team boss Christian Horner confirmed his team would be on the grid next year, and had put pen to paper on an engine deal they felt would help project them back up the grid.
And though it has been a difficult, and at time trying season for the former world champions, the progression shown will give them promise going into 2016.
“I’m happy the season is over,” said Ricciardo. “I’m optimistic that next year will be better.
“I think we ended the season with a lot more feeling and confidence in the chassis.
“This season has made us stronger as a unit and I’m happy to move forward with these guys to be better next year.”
Kvyat said: “Our focus from now is 2016 and if we can make some steps forward over the winter, we will be happy.”
Horner added: “This long season has now drawn to an end. It’s been a demanding year, at times frustrating but we had a few highlights, and we now look forward to hopefully brighter prospects in 2016.”
STANDINGS: Kvyat - 95pts (7th), Ricciardo - 92pts (8th). Red Bull - 187pts (4th).