F1 2007: Red Bull Racing

F1 2007: Red Bull Racing

Two years in Formula One have seen Red Bull Racing grow at quite a rate. Starting off with the Jaguar team, Red Bull injected cash and enthusiasm in equal measure in a bid to lift the beleaguered team to new heights. This drive hasn’t stopped, and although some expectations were dashed in 2006, the team appear strong and able on paper. 2007 will an important year for the team as they enter their third season, but can they deliver the goods that look so good from a distance? Let’s get a little closer and see if it’s possible.

Red Bull Racing is a team owned by the energy drinks giant and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, a company that presents an image of fun and frivolity with their whacky ad campaigns and sponsorship of bizarre sports. However, Formula One isn’t always about larking around, and the dedication of some key personnel can make the RBR reach dizzy heights, particularly as they appear to have the balls of, well, a bull.

Christian Horner is a man with great ambition. Under his leadership, the team have acquired not just Ferrari engines (which were used last year), but also Renault power and expertise. The team have also gained an Adrian Newey signature on a contract as well as Mark Webber’s and an extension to David Coulthard’s, who will enter his thirteenth season in Formula One this year. With all these resources, it seems the goal of winning the title should be easy, but last year the team faced difficulties that they will need to overcome if they are start running well again.

A podium in Monaco was uplifting and certainly helped the morale of Red Bull. The antics that followed certainly confirmed this with Horner jumping into the swimming pool with little covering his delicates. But often the team appear to be concentrating on the good life rather than on the hard work that it takes to reach the top. However, the acquisition of Adrian Newey should help the team to knuckle down, and already the effects of his hardline approach to car development have been felt.

It was rumoured that Newey was the key person who pushed for Renault engines. Adrian’s knowledge of the Anglo-French power unit is immense, as it was he who designed the Williams that won so many titles with the engine in the back. This enabled Red Bull to pass off the still contracted Ferrari engines to the sister team, Toro Rosso. The Renault engine should do well for Red Bull, as it seems reliable and capable enough to keep up with the best. However, the engine isn’t everything in F1, as Spyker found out last year with the almighty Toyota pushing them forward – unfortunately, they didn’t further much than the midfield.

Adrian Newey is considered to be the best aerodynamicist on the grid, and his approach to designing cars is second to none as his credentials will show. A title win in 1992 with Nigel Mansell, and a second in 1993 with Alain Prost put Newey in the spotlight, and more championships came; 1994, 1996 and 1997 with Williams, and 1998 and 1999 with McLaren and Mika Hakkinen. Surely the Newey-effect will be good for the team. However, his uncompromising drive for aerodynamic perfection came at a cost as Mark Webber struggled initially with the tight confines of the new RBR3 cockpit. Webber is an exceptionally tall driver, and it wasn’t until changes were made that he felt comfortable in the car.

Speaking of drivers, Red Bull will run David Coulthard again, but this year they have partnered the Scot with Australian Mark Webber. Coulthard’s career was revived by Red Bull after a couple of poor seasons at McLaren. Although many suggested that David was at the end of his Formula One life, the square-jawed racer changed these perceptions by driving well in 2005 at the helm of the new Red Bull car. This new lease of life has done Coulthard the power of good, and his tenacity at the wheel of a racing car has never looked better. 2006 would have been a sore point so far though, and despite claiming that podium in Monaco, the car didn’t drive as well and David often complained of grip issues.

Partnering the aging Scot will be another driver who has been in the wars recently. Mark Webber thought his lot had come good when he was signed to Williams for 2005. However, with relationships to then engine partner BMW failing, and reliability issues with replacement Cosworth, the problems mounted for Webber at Team Willy and the two parted ways at the end of 2006. Webber has stated to the press that he didn’t really enjoy his time at Williams, even though the two should have gone together like cake and cream. Mark has insisted that he feels refreshed at Red Bull though, and has remarked how he enjoys the way the team work. Following a similar route as Coulthard, Webber should be driving well this year, but the pace and reliability of the car will ultimately decide the results that come.

Testing in the RBR3 has, so far, not been so good. Expectations are high for the Austrian team this year, but in the final two days of development in Bahrain, Red Bull saw their sister outfit Toro Rosso beat them on both occasions. I’m sure this isn’t the actual relative pace of the two cars, but I think it is clear that the speed of the RBR3 isn’t what everyone is expecting.

The team has two experienced drivers that are still hungry for wins. While David must accept his chances of winning the title are almost zero now, he wants to leave a legacy behind, and Red Bull is just that. Mark is still looking for that win, and the Australian still has many years in him. Coupled together with Newey and Renault, it really does look like a winner on paper. But only time will tell if the ink on the paper can be transformed to rubber on the tarmac.

2007 Constructors Prediction: 8th

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