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Archive for the ‘Red Bull’ Category

The new Red Bull hit the track today, for all of 14 laps before being halted by a gearbox problem. Uh-oh. The gearbox was the Achilles Heel in 2007. Let’s hope that this is just a small teething problem.

The car looks pretty cool, I like the long think nose and the experts seem to think that there is a lot of tidy detail there, showing that the extra time in the wind-tunnel has been well spent.

56680652The fact that Adrian Newey has been pushed into the foreground on this launch is interesting and tells me two things; first that he thinks the car is a real winner and is happy to be strongly identified with its design and second that as (surely) Red Bull’s highest paid employee they are keen to get as much value out of him as possible.

Rumours have him being paid in the £8 million a year range. If the FIA gets it’s €50 million a year budget plan through, it’ll be very interesting to see how he and RBR deal with that!

It’s not uncommon for Newey cars to come out a little later that others, but with so little testing they have to hope that the reliability is there.

Mark Webber drives the car on Wednesday. I’m told that he is well ahead of schedule on his rehab because he’s very fit and because he’s done all the right things to get it to heal as well as possible. It’s the right leg, so not the load bearing leg for braking. If he was doing a load bearing sport, like soccer he’d be out for another three months.

Team principal Christian Horner mentioned in his Q&A that the team will slim down a little because there is no test team. The figure I hear is that there will be 70 redundancies.

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Red Bull launches the new car on Monday in Jerez and they seem to be getting quite excited about it in the build up to the event. We’ve had Mark Webber saying that it’s the best looking of the 2009 cars so far and their website is pretty gushing about it. It talks about the car being a creation from the drawing board (literally because he still uses one) of Adrian Newey.

He’s overdue a real winner of a car and this year is a pretty vital one for the team as they have to take a serious step closer to the front-runners to justify the massive investment. They have been threatening to do it for some time, but it’s not materialised.

They had reliability issues with the 2007 car, while last year, although the car was reliable, they went the wrong way on development just as the car was starting to show some real speed. After Webber qualified on the front row in Silverstone and then spun on the opening lap, it never returned to those giddy heights and scored just five points after that, sliding to seventh in the championship. It didn’t help that the Renault engine was down on power compared to everyone else’s, not least Toro Rosso’s Ferrari unit. But that wasn’t the whole story.

The technical team under Newey and Geoff Willis has been given the time and space to bed in and now it’s time to deliver. A major set of rule changes gives the well funded midfield teams a chance to get it right and take a leap forward. You’d still expect Ferrari and McLaren to outdevelop them over a season, but it’s possible that a Red Bull could be on the front row in Melbourne if Newey and team have got their sums right.

I mentioned here before that his track record in his heyday was very good on rule changes, if you think of the 1996 Williams with the high cockpit sides and the 1998 McLaren, the first of the narrow track cars. So let’s see if he’s rediscovered his Muse. He and Willis form an impressive unit, as they did at Williams and I just sense from the confident noises coming out of the team that they feel they might have a shot at that elusive win this year.

Webber deserves a year in a really good car to show what he can do. I rate him highly for his speed, be just needs to show he can turn in consistent race performances week after week. He had a run of strong results in the first half of last season race, but then it frustratingly got away from them.

He’s been taking the rehabilitation from his broken leg, sustained in a cycling accident, very seriously. Apparently he uses a cryogenic chamber to speed up blood flow around the break. It sounds scary.

“I’ve been doing it for three weeks now,” says Mark on the Red Bull website. “You go from a normal, ambient room temperature into a chamber of -50ºC for about 30 seconds and then for another three minutes into -130ºC.

“It’s very good for your general well-being, your immune system, and apparently for cellulite. Not much of a worry for me … but it’s very good for the whole body.”

Maybe he’s taking in a little botox and a tummy tuck while he’s at it! Anyway, he’s really going to be up against it this year because in Sebastien Vettel, RBR have a superb talent. His ability in the wet and in changeable conditions is well known, but then Rubens Barrichello excelled in those conditions too. The question is does he have all the other tricks in his locker?

What we started to see from Vettel in the final part of the season was sustained, consistent speed and an ability to make things happen, two of the most vital components for a Grand Prix front-runner. If he also has a strong mentality, which we’ll find out this year, then he could be the real deal, as Bernie believes him to be.

Anyway, this morning those cunning boys and girls from Red Bull marketing posted this animated film of the new car, with a voice over from Vettel. It’s a great explanation of the 2009 rule changes, a sneak peak at what the new car will look like (or so they make out) and a brilliant animation of how KERS works. Take a look:

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Get well soon, Mark

I was shocked to hear about Mark Webber’s savage accident today. On a fast descent on his bicycle, he collided head on with a 4WD vehicle while competing in his Tasmania Challenge. It sounds like a really nasty shunt and it left his right leg badly broken. He has had surgery to repair it, a metal pin inserted and it will be a lengthy rehabilitation. It’s probably along the lines of the surgery Barry Sheene had and although there is no bright side to an accident like this, it’s probably just very fortunate that it was not his left leg, which is the braking leg for an F1 driver. There are many corners in F1 where the driver needs to put 90kg of pressure into the brake pedal, so the left leg needs to be very strong and it would take more to rehabilitate that one, I’d imagine.

Mark is a very keen cyclist, he rides road and mountain bikes as part of his training for F1 and this event in Tasmania is a really stiff physical challenge. He’s the kind of bloke who likes to push himself to the limit physically and doesn’t hide from a challenge. He’s relentessly self critical too. Earlier this year he went riding with Lance Armstrong in the hills around Monaco and related how Lance said to him, ‘Right, now it’s time to go into the hurt box,” at which point he took off up a steep incline, pushing his body to the limit. Webber went after him and said later he knew exactly what “the hurtbox’ was that day!

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