Posts Tagged ‘Red Bull’

Form is temporary, class is permanent.

That is the great adage of the sporting world. So what are we to make of what’s happening at the moment in F1? Is this the start of a change of order, with great names like McLaren, Renault and Ferrari in decline and new teams like Red Bull and Brawn the new top dogs?

Anyone who says that would be guilty of serious short term thinking or buying hype. Those three teams deserve great respect for their record of success spanning many years, they are not to be written off so easily.

You look at the first three races of the season, with two wins for Brawn and one for Red Bull and glance across at the constructors’ championship, where those two teams top the table with McLaren a distant fourth, Renault creeping along in 6th and Ferrari yet to get of the mark and you say to yourself, “Double diffusers.”

Except that you remember that Red Bull doesn’t have one of those, so then you say to yourself, “Ah well, the top teams were pushing to the end of last season, Brawn and Red Bull were on 2009 by then.” And you would have a point.

But does this mean that the old order will be returned once the top teams get their clever aero parts? Can Brawn and Red Bull stay out front all season and if they do, will they be able to do it again next year?

In my live twitter feed of today’s race, one of my final postings was to suggest that Sebastien Vettel has now done enough to show the ‘top teams’ what he has to offer and to speculate how long Red Bull would be able to hold on to him.

I’ve had plenty of responses on that and I imagine there will be more following this post. Many took me to be implying that Red Bull are not a top team, despite their current championship position. Others suggested that being up there now means that they have already ‘made it’ and are now de facto a top team, heck they might even run away with it once they get their double diffuser, so why would Vettel move elsewhere?

I don’t think even Red Bull’s management believes that. But they have been building up to this for some time now, they have a talented technical staff led by the great Adrian Newey and they have a billionaire owner who can spends bonkers money on whatever he wants in life and who may just have rediscovered his passion for F1 today.

Then you contemplate the main item on the agenda when FOTA next meets the FIA; the £30 million budget cap. This is like the time bomb which was planted in F1 a few weeks ago and has since been fogotten in all the hype about the McLaren liar-gate scandal and the three crazy races we’ve been enjoying.

Not many people in F1 believe that the budget cap will happen as billed, but it’s looking like a budget cap of some kind will come in and that will limit the ways in which the old ‘top teams’ can beat the new ‘top teams’.

Brawn is a good example of a team which, as Honda, was guilty of the spending excesses of all the F1 manufacturers. Now with a smaller staff, a leaner budget and a customer engine, it is the shining example of what the old ‘top teams’ must emulate if they are to limbo under the budget cap bar next season. It’s been painful for the staff who have been laid off, but it’s given Max Mosley an example to point at and say, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Red Bull is built on the same model… a pattern is starting to emerge here. If we think like Darwin about this, the survival of he fittest and the most fitting and all that, then the teams at the front now are already equipped for the evolution F1 is to go into next year. Of course their weakness is that those customer engines have to come from manufacturers and that could all get quite political…

This season is far from over and I’m sure we all expect Ferrari, Renault and McLaren to win before the final race. And we find it hard to imagine that they won’t be back fighting for the title in 2010.

But they have a lot on their plate at the moment and if the financial playing field is levelled next year, we could end up with a lot of ‘top teams’.

So maybe Vettel will stay put after all….

PS – one of my readers, Andy Fov made this observation on the Form vs Class debate..

“And the class of Brawn and Newey is permanent. All this talk of “a new order in F1″, there’s not. It was a case of Brawn Vs Newey today. It might as well have been 1998.”

Very good point Andy. It’s amazing how some things never change in F1.

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In an intensely feverish atmosphere here in Sepang, as the situation around McLaren and Lewis Hamilton ramps up and threatens to spiral out of McLaren’s control, a bit of light relief has been offered by Sebastien Vettel.

The German driver says in the Red Bull press release reviewing today’s track action,
” It’s very hot and no matter how much you prepare, the first outing is a bad surprise. Fortunately I’ve got a bag with dry ice in it, which I put next to my balls, so at least they stay nice and cool.”

Two questions, Seb.
1. What happens if you have a shunt and the bag bursts?
2. Does this reveal which part of your anatomy really does the thinking?

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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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