2011 Season Preview – Red Bull

Team Name : Red Bull Racing

Location : Milton Keynes, UK

Team Principal : Christian Horner

Technical Director : Adrian Newey

Drivers : Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber

Chassis : RB7

Engine : Renault

First Season : 2005

Races Entered : 107

Pole Positions : 20

Race wins : 15

Points scored in 2010 : 498

World Championships : 1

Red Bull Racing are the current World Champions of Formula 1. A simple statement that has a fairytale story hidden under it. For who would’ve thought that an Austrian drinks manufacturer could emerge as a superpower in the pinnacle of motorsport and stand shoulder to shoulder with Ferrari and McLaren, legends in their own right. For all their resources and experience and whatever you get with decades of dominating Formula 1, these two teams were simply blown away by an energy drinks corporation. It could be argued that Red Bull was not formed from scratch, and the team has it’s roots in the highly capable Stewart GP team of the late nineties.

Steward GP was formed by legendary racer Sir Jackie Stewart in 1997 with plenty of support from Ford. And Ford, as we know, had over three decades of motorsport experience at that time and were in good health as far as finances were concerned. Even when Stewart sold his team to the American car maker three years later, you would expect a team formed by a man of Jackie’s reputation and experience to perform rather well. More so when the team is owned by one of the big names in motor racing history. And yet Stewart and Jaguar were always a midfield team occasionally making use of exceptional circumstances to snatch a podium or two.

Today, under the ownership of Dietrich Mateschitz, led by Christian Horner, the team are starting out just their seventh season and the most common question being asked is “Can anyone beat them this year?” How is this possible? How did an energy drink manufacturer take essentially the same group of people and transform it into a juggernaut in just 6 years? The answer is very simple. You see, being a successful racing team is never about bigger budgets and bigger team size. It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest car manufacturer on the planet or a four-time world champion. Building a winning Formula 1 team is about having the right people for the right jobs, organising the whole into a group with team spirit and clear direction, extracting every last bit from the resources available and provide a stable management at the top.

Red Bull did just that. They signed a number of talented engineers, the biggest one being design genius Adrian Newey from McLaren. They gave their team a solid budget, a capable leader in Horner and hired drivers based on merit rather than sponsorship. The results are here for all of us to see. It is astonishing that a “drinks company” as Lewis Hamilton referred to them recently, could accomplish something that proved impossible for one of the biggest names in automotive and motorsport history. The most impressive aspect of Red Bull’s rise to the top is the rock hard foundation at the bottom. The ex-Jaguar team has been honed relentlessly to the point where it is now a well-oiled racing machine that is far too competent to step down into the midfield.

Last year, the RB6 was the quickest car by a country mile. What prevented Red Bull from wrapping up the titles halfway into the season  was mechanical unreliability and driver errors. But all the contenders made some silly errors at some time or the other, so RBR’s real problem was going the full race distance. This year, the signs are ominous. The Milton-Keynes team has racked up around 7000 miles, second only to Ferrari. That the RB7 will be the quickest car in the field can almost be taken for granted. The question is, will that be enough this year? Don’t forget, Ferrari displayed impressive pace and supernatural reliability in the test sessions. Mercedes have made a giant step forwards with its latest update. Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher are some of the most cunning racers on the track. Initial signs indicate clever, flexible strategy calls and tyre management as the biggest factors to decide the winners this year in F1.

Red Bull have two immensely quick drivers – Vettel and Webber are both qualifying specialists. Equally, both can be a bit erratic at crucial moments in the championship. And since the 2011 season will call for presence of mind, cunning and consistency, rather than outright pace, Red Bull’s primary advantage could well be negated by the experience and tactical nous of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren. But the reigning champions and its drivers will have learnt a lot in 2010 – the first time they were involved in such a close championship fight. It remains to be seen if the team puts all that to use this year and improve their performance under pressure. The strategy game is the only window of opportunity for the old guard now. On pure pace, the RB7 will walk it – and if the team can match their rivals’ prowess in pitstop poker, Red Bull and it’s drivers will be near impossible to stop this year.


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