Red Bull’s evolution – can it continue?

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PRE SEASON BUILD UP – DAY 6

“If it stops now, it’s still a lifetime achievement”

THE BEGINNING

When Red Bull emerged onto the racing scene in 2005, following the exit of Jaguar, few took them and their championship hopes seriously. Often regarded as the ‘party team’ of Formula 1; Red Bull came into the sport with a point to prove.

A relative unknown in the F1 world, Christian Horner was chosen by Red Bull boss Helmut Marko to become team principal.

“Red Bull wanted to break the boundaries…do things differently”, Horner explained almost eight years later. Alongside the intrinsically corporate nature of McLaren and Ferrari, this was an anomaly.  Or was it? If you remove factors such as funding and politics, it is the passion that fuels a team. You cannot deny that Red Bull, even at the start, possessed this one important trait.

The pressure of a first season, and all the doubt that comes with it, requires experience. Alas David Coulthard was called up to partner both, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klein (the latter two shared driving duties). One target for their drivers – gain more points than Jaguar. This was materialised in their debut year as the Cosworth-powered RB1 achieved more in one than their predecessors could in two. In 2005, the team finished sixth overall.

Perhaps the signs of future dominance were evident, if only in smaller quantities?

ON TO THE PODIUM

2006 for Red Bull summed up exactly what many teams face year on year, the struggles of having an underperforming car and the jubilation of taking it that one step further, to the racing podium.

In early testing, Red Bull were plagued with cooling problems and overheating of car components. The start of the season was hampered by retirements. By Monaco, the team had only a handful of points to show for their hard work.

However, the Austrian outfit did also gain some credibility after, that year, successfully luring a man held responsible for many modern day championships – Adrian Newey. The change in team personnel was only prominent in Monaco when David Coulthard finished third. Incidentally, both their predecessors, Jaguar and Stewart Grand Prix claimed their maiden podiums in the principality.

Monte Carlo would become a hunting ground for the team in years to come.

Robert Doornbos replaced Klein but failed to score any points.

THE TRIAL PERIOD

In 2007, Mark Webber joined Coulthard at the Milton Keynes based team. Webber will  be the first to admit that this was his last chance after a difficult and deflating year at Williams.

Poor performances in testing and at the beginning of the season seem to be typical for Red Bull. Once again, their start was hampered. Only upon the arrival of Technical Director, Geoff Willis, did their fortunes change. Webber gained the second podium of his career at the 2007 European Grand Prix.

Ferrari engines were out and Renault engines were in as the Italian suppliers switched allegiance to sister team, Toro Rosso, for 2008.

That year was the probably the most challenging. Coulthard announced his retirement, bringing a whole new dynamic to the future foundations of the team and Sebastian Vettel’s rain-drenched Monza win was enough to put them ahead of the Bulls by the end of the season – this was the first win for a Red Bull owned team.

THE RISE OF THE MIGHTY BULL

RB6, meet your new driver, Sebastian Vettel. 2009 was the year the German emerged. This was the first year that the team felt truly dominant; the Chinese Grand Prix was the backdrop for celebrations as Red Bull celebrated their first win.

At the British Grand Prix, and with an upgraded car, and Sebastian Vettel won again ending eventual champion, Jenson Button’s four win run. The team scored another 1–2 in Germany and Abu Dhabi. Webber also secured his first win in Brazil.

Vettel finished second in the Drivers’ Championship with 84 points, 11 behind Jenson Button. The dominance of the Bulls began.

I’m sure you know the rest of the story, three consecutive Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships for Vettel. Whether you rate him or not, the German will go down in the history books as a legend; he joins Fangio and Schumacher in the championship winning record books.

THE FUTURE

I dare not predict the future. I have tried and have proven to myself that it is virtually impossible. But can Red Bull sustain these victories?

With a prestigious team around them you would have to say yes. Never has Adrian Newey designed a car that has not at least been competitive nor has Sebastian Vettel ever been fazed by doubters.

However, the pressure is on them, not their rivals, to achieve the ultimate success of another championship. A norm has been set and anything less than that will equal failure in the eyes of their boss.

With their young driver programme breeding a new generation of drivers, the future looks bright whether it remains in the hands of their current incumbent.

This is the sixth in this year’s pre season build up. For the next eight days, ‘stoodonthepodium’ will be bringing you exclusive interviews, stories, analysis and more from the world of Motorsport.

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