Red Bull have released pictures of the 2018 car they hope will lead them back into Formula 1’s title race.

The RB14 has been launched in what the team have termed a ‘special edition livery’ with the race colours to be revealed when testing begins at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya next week.

The new car is being run for the first time at Silverstone on Monday as Daniel Ricciardo conducts the team’s permitted filming day.

The dark black and blue livery, already proving popular with fans on social media, is certainly designed to deter prying rival eyes from the aerodynamic detail around the chassis for a little longer.

The unfamiliar shapes under the paint, however, are here to stay, promised Red Bull.

The RB14 is the third car for the new season to be unveiled but the first which is expected to contend for wins and the world title.

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Red Bull are armed with one of the most talented and exciting driver pairings on the grid, with both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo aiming for their first Drivers’ Championship this year.

Red Bull’s early launch – exactly a week before pre-season testing begins at Barcelona – marks a departure for the team with the former world champions becoming the first outfit to formally unveil their 2018 car in a bid to shed their reputation for being ‘slow starters’.

Tipped as one of the main benefactors from the aerodynamic ‘rules refresh’ last season, Red Bull started the campaign poorly and were half a second off the pace set by Mercedes and Ferrari early on.

But an upwards development curve coupled with a strong end to the season – winning two of the final six races – has given the four-time world champions renewed hope for 2018.

Aston Martin have taken title sponsor rights at the team, the possible first step towards the British sportscar maker making a more wide-ranging F1 return as an engine builder in 2021 when the sport’s power unit rules are reset.

On track, Red Bull’s target in 2018 will be catching Mercedes and Ferrari. Much will depend on the progress engine suppliers Renault, with whom Red Bull have experienced a turbulent relationship in recent years, have made over the winter.

Will the RB14 convince Ricciardo to remain?
Red Bull’s stellar driver pair start 2018 in contrasting contractual positions at the team.

While the highly-rated Verstappen agreed to a long-term contract last season, Ricciardo is entering the final year of his contract and says he must be convinced by Red Bull’s title-winning potential before signing on.

Next year will be a big thing big for that, a cagey Ricciardo said of his future. I have another year with the Red Bull contract so we will see where l end up.

Red Bull themselves also have a critical decision to make in 2018 about their future in F1.

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Their contract with current suppliers Renault – a manufacturer they have frequently criticised in recent years – expires at the end of the year and unless a rapprochement is achieved their only option may be to follow junior team in switching to Honda.

Red Bull enjoyed four consecutive constructors’ and drivers’ titles from 2010 to 2013 with Sebastian Vettel, but have yet to find anywhere near the same amount of success in the hybrid era – winning only eight races.

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(c) Sky News 2018: Red Bull launch new RB14 with sights set on F1 2018 title challenge