After dominating 2011, Red Bull did not win until round four of last year's world championship in Bahrain.
Eventual three-time champion Sebastian Vettel was as low as sixth in the points at one stage, and by mid-September only had one win to his name.
He then went on a four-race victory streak to set himself up for another title. Prior to that, he had looked hard-pressed to catch Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and also faced times when McLaren looked a stronger contender than Red Bull.
Team boss Christian Horner conceded that it had taken a while for designer Adrian Newey to get to grips with the 2012 rule tweaks and the new Pirelli tyre specification.
"There was a big regulation change where the exhaust effect was reduced dramatically, and that particularly had a significant impact on our car because arguably our use of exhaust gases was more advanced than other teams," Horner said.
"So it took a while to understand that, and that combined with a different tyre took Adrian and his team time to get his head around.
"But they relentlessly stuck at it and the performance came."
Before Vettel's dominant September/October run, Red Bull trailed McLaren five-three in the 2012 win stakes, but Horner believes his team's performance was always better than the statistics suggested.
"Even when we weren't winning we were able to be securing sensible points," he said.
"We should have won in Valencia, that was probably our biggest frustration of the year.
"The points we gave away not only the 25 points we should have had for the win but also the points it gifted Fernando."
He added: "There were some challenges but getting that performance from the car and particularly for the last third of the championship was crucial."