Red Bull Racing – Birth of a new F1 Champion

The 2010 Brazilian GP was by no means a thriller, yet it must be the most memorable day in the lives of the men and women who are part of the Milton-Keynes based Red Bull Racing team. After several hits and near misses, mistakes and misfortunes, Red Bull have finally clinched the World Constructors Championship – and are now properly one of the “big” teams that Ferrari and Mclaren have to respect. In my view, the seeds for this triumph were sown when Christian Horner brought the legendary Adrian Newey on board. The design genius has been responsible for several cars that have dominated championships and it was only a matter of time before he hit the sweet spot at Red Bull.

Inset : RB6 has been class of the field

This year’s RB6 has been a rocketship – consistently quick in every single circuit in the world – as Red Bull’s incredible qualifying achievements have shown this year. Considering the fact that the Renault engine doesn’t quite have the grunt or the reliability of the Ferrari or the Mercedes-Benz, and that the drivers have made several mistakes, one wonders what Red Bull could’ve achieved if they’d had Mercedes-Benz engines and a driver like, say, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton or even Kimi Raikkonen. But fortunately for us, the strengths and weaknesses of these championship-contending teams have more or less evened out the playing field, giving us an extraordinary season with unprecedented action, excitement and unpredictability.

Image : The valiant Jaguar Racing team

At this point I think it would be interesting to reflect upon the circumstances that led to the birth of the Red Bull Racing team. Cut to the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix of 2004, when the erstwhile Jaguar Racing team announced that parent company Ford had pulled the plug on it, and the team was to be sold or closed down if no buyer were found. It was sad to see a name like Jaguar leave F1, but it was even sadder to think of the hard working men and women in Milton-Keynes, people no less talented or passionate or committed than the people in Mclaren or Ferrari, and yet, people who’ve never really enjoyed the success that they deserved. It is worth noting that, according a reveal by F1 Racing mangazine, although Toyota was acknowledged to be the biggest spender in F1, their total expenditure was about 3% of their global marketing budget. In comparison, Jaguar Racing got a mere 0.05% of Jaguar Cars’ annual expenditure – a pittance.

Inset : Technical Director Adrian Newey and Team Principal Christian Horner

Formula1 isn’t about bigger equalling better – money talks loud, but not it is not the loudest. Brawn GP proved that last year, a team on the ropes, struggling to survive, coming through purely on technical expertise and excellent management of resources along with brilliance in strategy. Yet money is vital – if it wasn’t for Honda’s investment in the ’09 car, we may not have witnessed one of the greatest fairytale success stories in motorsport. A solid budget enables the team to push the development process harder and faster, attract more talent to the team and crucially, hire drivers based on skill rather than sponsorship. Force India’s improvement in leaps and bounds is a case in point. Ford though, after wrecking Jag’s chances with budget-cuts,  also played musical chairs with Jaguar Racing’s management, leading to instability in both administration and design.

Inset : Red Bull Racing drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel

Teams like Ferrari and Mclaren don’t rely on revolutionary designs or shuffling the management in order to get instant results. Nor is their considerable budget the sole reason for their success. Building a good car is very much a human thing – it is about having the right people in the right jobs, and making sure the team works as one cohesive unit in the same direction with clarity in thought and skill in exection. It is a long process, and poor results have to be endured and acted upon – passing on the blame and moving in a different direction can buy time, but not long term success. It’s a continous process and once the team reaches a level of competance and stability in terms of design, management and resources, the results are guaranteed. In 2004, Ford were at the beginning stage of the decline in profits that culminated in their recent bankruptcy. As such, it was a golden opportunity when the Chinese government was willing to enter into a partnership with Ford in order to take the Grand Prix team to new heights. Sadly, Ford’s bean counters chose to look at costs rather than profits, and concluded that selling Jaguar Racing would bring about an increase in share price – not caring about the fact that they were selling 40 years of motor racing heritage and history to please shareholders.

Image : Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz

Today, as they limp along, recovering from their survival, Red Bull’s success will hit Ford hard – and hurt badly. Dietrich Mateschitz owns an energy drink corporation – not a prestigious automotive group – and yet, all he did was give his racing team a good manager (Christian Horner) and a respectable budget to go racing – something that doesn’t require four decades of motorsport experience to do – and the team has delivered.

Image : Red Bull celebrate winning the 2010 Constructors Championship

Tony Purnell, one of the heads of Jaguar Racing when it was sold, said in an interview that time : “I’m not concerned for my own future – I’ll be okay. But I’ve read about Jean Todt’s description of his Ferrari boys as a ‘dream team’ – and yes, I think they’ve achieved a hell of a lot. But our team are a dream team, too – and I’d love to see whether Jean’s lot could’ve achieved what we’ve achieved with our comparatively meagre resources. Believe me, the engineering management and know-how at Jaguar Racing are fantastic. And, for that reason, any buyer who can add the financial wherewithal to that, is onto a winner.”

Purnell’s faith in his boys has been vindicated in style. Hats off to the Red Bull Racing team.


39 Responses to “Red Bull Racing – Birth of a new F1 Champion”

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