Two of the best drivers on the grid battled several times, each other for the title of the world champion. Fernando Alonso is a two time world champion currently racing for McLaren-Honda, before that he was a test driver for Benetton, joined Minardi in 2001, Renault was his next station from 2003 to 2006, then signed a contract with McLaren where he raced for only one season and returned back to Return in 2008. Fernando’s next step was Ferrari, from 2010 to 2014. In 2015, he returned to McLaren and he is racing there since now.
The Spaniard, while he was racing for Renault, finished first on the drivers’ championship for two consecutive years. Nando, won his first title in 2005 and the following season celebrated his second and final title.
Vettel born in Heppenheim on July 3rd, 1987, at his early steps as a Formula One driver, Sebastian joined BMW Sauber as a test driver and made his official debut at the United States Grand Prix in 2007, then he signed a contract with Toro Rosso and remained there until 2008. The next stop in his career was Red Bull Racing, during his period with the Bulls he celebrated four championships (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). In 2015, the German fulfilled his childhood dream, signed a contract with Scuderia Ferrari and he is still racing for Ferrari alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
David vs Goliath
Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel fought each other for the championship while they were racing for Ferrari and Red Bull respectively. Two times Fernando was very close to beat Vettel and win the championship with Ferrari, the first was in 2010 and the second was two years later in 2012. The Spaniard wished to become David and finish ahead of his opponent, but unfortunately Goliath was stronger, and Red Bull was unbeatable those years.
In 2010, Sebastian Vettel finished first in the drivers’ championship, the difference to his rival Alonso, was just four points. The German scored 256 points, whilst the Spaniard collected 252 points. In 19 races Vettel and Alonso were fighting wheel to wheel for the world title, during those races Sebastian retired three times and finished out of the points only in Belgian Grand Prix. Furthermore, Vettel won five races same number of victories with his opponent Fernando Alonso.
From the other hand, Fernando Alonso retired in Belgium, didn’t finish the Malaysian Grand Prix and finished out of the top ten at Silverstone. In the last six races of the 2010 season, Nando won three Grands Prix and finished twice third. Fernando played his final card for the championship in the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Vitaly Petrov the Russian title decider
A thrilling race took place in Yas Marina, before the race, Fernando Alonso was leading the drivers’ championship with 246 points, followed by Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel which collected 236 and 231 points respectively. Lewis Hamilton had also mathematical chances to win the title as he had 222 points and he was 24 points behind Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, had to secure the first two places in order to win the title without having to consider the other results.
On Saturday’s qualifying, Sebastian Vettel secured the pole-position, Lewis Hamilton was the second quickest driver on the grid and Fernando Alonso took the third position followed by Jenson Button and Mark Webber. At the first lap of the race, Sebastian Vettel was leading the race, followed by Hamilton and Jenson Button. Alonso had a slow start which cost him the third place and dropped him down to fourth. After the first pit-stops, Alonso re-joined behind Petrov. Fernando was on hard tyres and Petrov had already done his pit-stop, Alonso couldn’t overtake Vitaly. Even when the Spaniard tried to attack the Russian, Petrov was always in position to defend his position.
Sebastian Vettel led the race all the way, Lewis Hamilton finished second, Jenson Button third, and Fernando Alonso, after 40 laps of battling with Petrov, finished seventh. That result was enough for Sebastian Vettel to secure his first world title in his Formula One career.
Two years later…
In 2012, the two drivers crossed their swords once again. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso fought closely, but at the end the Germans always win. Vettel scored 281 points in 20 races, whilst Alonso scored 278 points. The German, finished five times on the top step of the podium, retired in the European Grand Prix and finished out of the points in two races, the first was in Malaysia and the second in Italy.
Fernando Alonso, won three races during the season and finished ten times on the podium. The Spaniard, retired in Belgium and in Japan, but despite those two retirements he finished in the top-10 in the rest races.
In Italy, Sebastian Vettel retired on lap 47 due to failed alternator, after that race the German won four consecutive races, finished third in Abu Dhabi, second in the USA and sixth in the final race of the season in Brazil. In Brazil, Sebastian Vettel needed to defend his 13 point lead in order to secure his third championship. The fourth position, would be enough for Sebastian to give him the title, even if Alonso won the race.
Fernando Alonso, qualified eighth whilst Sebastian Vettel set the fourth quickest lap on the grid and placed behind Hamilton, Button and Webber. The rain altered everything during the race, the teams were confused about which strategy would be correct for their drivers. On lap 23, the safety car deployed, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were fifth and fourth respectively. The damage on Vettel’s car didn’t allow him to set a quick dry laps, few laps later the rain forced all the drivers to pit for intermediates.
At the end of the race, Fernando Alonso finished second and Sebastian Vettel sixth, still Vettel collected enough points in order to celebrate his third world title.
Hopefully, one day we will see these top two drivers to fight, once again, each other for the title.
As we head into the the latter end of the 2017 season, one by one at Pit Crew we are looking into each individual team with specific weeks. This we look into the Austrian outfit Red Bull Racing. The drivers continued from the 2016 season with Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who always is a joy to watch with deep braking and has a cracking personality. Dutchman ‘Go big or go home’ Max Verstappen also stays, his first full season in the Red Bull after his halfway season swap with Danil Kyvat in 2016 from Toro Rosso. Many think that Red Bull have the best driving partnership on the grid.
Everyone was optimistic about Red Bull’s chances for the 2017 season. The regulation changes were based on aerodynamics for the season forthcoming and Red Bull always are known for their grear aerodynamics and chassis. It was hoping with that it would outweigh the deficit that the Renault has in terms of horsepower to Ferrari and Mercedes. In the original release of the Red Bull the car looked very basic unlike its rivals, which raised concern. It did have the unique hole in its nose. This did though made the car launch more popular.
In the pre-season tests pace did look promising as day by day additions were coming in from Milton Keynes to adapt onto their RB13. Their car was building well, but again reliability was something that was out of their control. Much like Renault and Toro Rosso their gearbox and engines had problems, so much so they had to revert to 2016 items for the first few races. These were heavier and less powerful which hindered them. The cars still looked very basic compared to the depth of sidepod changes that Ferrari had between 2016 & 2017. They also did not introduce a T-Wing till later in the season. Adrian Newey at this time was away so did not have his full say in the car’s full design.
This was where we first saw the order of the pack, and it showed that Red Bull were in No Mans Land, as per 2016, it seems Deja Vu for the Austrian team. They were too far behind to challenge Ferrari & Mercedes, but too far ahead to be challenged by Force India & Williams. Their race pace was promising but just lack outright qualifying speed. Ricciardo had a weekend to forget, in Q3 he ended up in the wall after a rare mistake. His car then failed twice on Sunday, on the way to the grid, missing the start, and then towards the end of the first sector halfway through the race on lap 25. Verstappen qualified 5th and then finished 5th. He ended much closer to Raikonnen than people expected. Seemed to set the trend that as per mentioned the race pace of the RB13 is strong but lacks outright speed on Saturday.
Driver Points: Verstappen 10 – Ricciardo 0
The Chinese Grand Prix was hindered significantly in its Friday running, when the weather restricted the medical helicopter to fly. Only 20 mins of practice was raced throughout weekend. Reliability gremlins were still in the Red Bull pit area following on from Austrailia but this time it was Verstappen that struggled. He suffered with power deficit and the Shanghai back straight is one of longest of the season, it resulted in him being knocked out in Q1. Ricciardo was best of the rest, qualifying 5th, very much a role reversal from Austrailia.
The weather had a say in the race on Sunday, the majority of the track was dry, but on the main straight and few areas it was still wet from overnight rain. 19/20 drivers started on intermediates. Verstappen due to penalties started 16th, his start was simply amazing! He was up in the top ten crossing the line into lap 2 through passing at the start and midpack collisions. Verstappen was coy and through use of his skill as per seen in Brazil last year and the early safety car he managed to finish an incredible 3rd. Ricciardo was hot on his heels finishing 4th. Great wheel to wheel action but it was kept clean. A much better weekend for the Austrian outfit with a double points finish. Verstappen moved to 3rd in the drivers championship, whilst Ricciardo scored his first points of the season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 12
The form of China carried on into the desert of Bahrain. The team looking closer again to the two in front of them. It was just once again, they couldn’t turn their engine up like them. Mercedes had on average a 2 second difference from their Q1 time to Q3 whilst Red Bull only found a second. They were edging closer though, Ricciardo managed to out qualify Raikonnen’s Ferrari. The car was looking better, new additions around the front end of the car was to blame.
They both started well in the Grand Prix, but then on lap 11 after a pit stop for Verstappen trouble happened, heading to the end of sector 1, the second heavy braking area around the track the car didn’t respond to him, it ground to halt in the gravel. He unfortunately retired due to a brake failure. Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll had an incident as well which brought out the safety car, Ricciardo was caugh among a controversial move by Hamilton. He ended at the end of the period ahead of the British driver. Hamilton turned up the engine and passed him easily along the main straight on the restart. Kimi Raikonnen also passed him later on, as a result he finished 5th. Verstappen due to his non-finish dropped to 5th in the overall standings.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 22
Sochi was moved for the 2017 season, swapping places with Maylasia. This track unlike Bahrain is much more focused on the power of the car rather than outright grip. Williams were much closer to Red Bull as a result, Ricciardo qualified 1.9 seconds behind the eventual pole sitter Sebastien Vettel. Felipe Massa in the Williams managed to split the Red Bull duo, a shade quicker than Verstappen.
The race start was clean, not much contact had occurred on the first lap so far this point of the season, with wider cars, everyone thought that it would be even more collisions. Ricciardo was challenging Raikonnen for 4th, but got caught in, as a result Verstappen got passed the Williams of Massa and Ricciardo into 5th place. The race was very lacklustre after the first lap, there wasn’t any overtakes, except if it does count when Ricciardo’s brake caught alight. It did end up with the Australian failing to finish, back to back brake failures, and their third mechanical retirement of the season. Verstappen finished 5th, a whole minute behind the winner Bottas, a very lonely race for the Dutchman.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 22
Much promise was made of Red Bull, with the supposed RB13B being introduced at Spain. As per mentioned with Russia swapping with Maylasia, Spain for the first time wasn’t the first European race of the season. Barcelona tends to be where the first big set of upgrades are brought. After a disapointing beginning of the season albeit podium places here and there they want to be fighting for the championship. They brought updates, the car looking much less basic than it was back in Australia. Renault importantly also did too, if you look back to this article we wrote earlier in the season about their MGU-K. The Red Bull had a new colour scheme in practice, quite a lot of flowviz paint was used.
The car was much more competitive but once more others could turn the wick on their engine up. It was much better though, Verstappen was only 0.6 seconds slower to the 1.2 seconds they were back in Sochi. Ricciardo didn’t have the best of days on the Saturday, a whopping 0.4 behind Verstappen.
Race day was upon us, Red Bull looked good in terms of matching on certain compounds Ferrari and Mercedes, it was all down to the start. The original launch was good for Verstappen, was making the most of the new settings they follow this year, got up alongside Raikonnen into turn 1, but a bang of wheels plush on resulted in terminal damage for both drivers. This resulting in the iconic small video clip of the boy in the stand crying his eyes out. Ricciardo as a result moved up into 4th following, the two Mercedes and Vettel, but this soon became 3rd as a rare failure on the Mercedes happened as Bottas car pulled to the side with engine failure. Ricciardo finished 75 seconds behind the two championship contagnists, being the only 1 besides them not to be lapped. Ricciardo overtook Verstappen in the championship for the first time this season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 37
The unique race amongst the principality of Monaco was round 6 in the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, much like Barcelona a less demanding power track, much hoped Red Bull could be in with the mix for the victory much like last year if it weren’t for the mishap that Ricciardo had in the race. From the offset they looked competitive with Verstappen 3rd quickest on the Thursday, Ricciardo was there abouts, albeit he didn’t get to do a full on lap in practice 3 due to another brake failure on his car so his true pace wasn’t seen until qualifying.
Qualifying did show a shock with Lewis Hamilton being eliminated in Q2, this did give the Bulls an opportunity to qualify higher than they have done this season. Verstappen was the closest Red Bull got to pole all season, the top four being himself, Bottas and the two Ferrari’s only 0.3 seconds between them. Ricciardo made a mistake on his fast lap, but was best of the rest in 5th.
For the first time since China both drivers finished the race, and much like China one of them ended up on the podium. This was once more Ricciardo, himself and Vettel both used the overcut to effect rather than at any other tracks more than likely the undercut being the best option. Monaco always a tough one to pass around, but through the sole pit stop phase Ricciardo went from behind Verstappen, to passing him and Bottas. A late safety car piled the pressure on Ricciardo from Bottas behind but it was a great drive from him once more. Verstappen not best pleased with the team as he missed out on that opportunity. They outscored the Mercedes team with Hamilton finishing 7th.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 52
Montreal is such a stunning track, the flow of the circuit and scenery that is surrounded by makes it one of the best on the calendar. The track does have many memorable moments, much like Ricciardo’s 2014 victory. Montreal is back to Russia, more a power themed track than out right downforce than the previous two races. Red Bull had a few more new developments here, and their race pace was promising compatable with the speeds of Hamilton and Vettel. They got close to Raikonnen in qualifying, but Hamilton and Vettel were in a league of their own on the Saturday.
Verstappen without a doubt thus far has the best start of the season award, starting on the 3rd row in 5th he managed to climb 3 places, going into the second corner in 2nd place just behind the gearbox of Hamilton. Ricciardo also managed to pass Raikonnen, at the end of the first lap, they were 2nd and 5th. Hamilton couldn’t get away but on to the start of lap 11 and Verstappen suffered another engine electrical failure, amazing from the teenager but once more with nothing to show for it. Ricciardo held onto 3rd, Raikonnen was nowhere in the race, whilst Vettel only finished 0.7 behind the Austrailian. A third podium in a row now for the Australian, he was closing in on 4th in the championship and pulling away from Verstappen.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 67
Red Bull are not where they are wanting to be at this current time. Adrian Newey, the greatest designer in the F1 world was appearing more often at the Grand Prix. His project with Aston Martin and the Americas Cup boat championship has been put aside. A few new boosts to power were showing from Renault and Newey began to adapt his thoughts on the RB13. Our second part of the Red Bull 2017 series will follow shortly, from Azerbaijan to Italy. Will Newey and Renault’s input make way for further success for the Red Bull team?
Red Bull currently have four constructors titles and four drivers titles, those four titles are all courtesy of one driver, Sebastian Vettel. The German’s relationship with the team begun in 1998 at the age of 11, when he signed to their junior team. His success in the junior formulae acted as a precursor to his career at the top table as he won the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2001.
He then went on to win the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship, with a whopping 18 wins from 20 victories. This opened up his door to F1 as he was rewarded with a test in the Williams FW27. While he was winning these cups in the junior categories, in Formula One another German was taking all the plaudits. As Vettel won 18 from 20 races in 2004, Michael Schumacher was taking his seventh world championship in his most dominant season. He took 13 wins from 18 races and took his final championship win.
Vettel begun testing for the BMW Sauber Formula One team in 2006, while participating in the F3 Euroseries, coming second to Paul Di Resta. 2007 saw him get his big break, while racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Following Robert Kubica’s horror smash at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel was called up to replace him for the US Grand Prix. He qualified seventh and finished eighth, taking his first point and becoming the youngest point scorer in history, aged 19 years and 349 days.
BMW released Vettel so that he could join the Scuderia Toro Rosso team for the remainder of the 2007 season, replacing Scott Speed. This is where his journey to Red Bull stardom began. Following a few impressive results, his big break came at the Italian Grand Prix in 2008. He qualified on pole in horrendous conditions, becoming the youngest polesitter, which he then masterfully translated into his and Toro Rosso’s first win. He broke Fernando Alonso’s record set at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix of youngest winner.
For 2009, Red Bull promoted Vettel to their team alongside Mark Webber, and the rest, as they say, is history. He took Red Bull’s first win at the Chinese Grand Prix, with team mate Mark Webber in second. He took four wins that season and finished second in the championship to Jenson Button in the dominant Brawn.
2010 however, was an interesting year for the team, at the Turkish Grand Prix, while challenging Webber for the lead, the pair collided, putting Vettel out of the race, and the relationship turned sour from that moment on. Both were fighting for the championship come the end of the season, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso joining them, in a winner takes all clash at Abu Dhabi. He took pole and won the race, taking his first championship, following in the footsteps of John Surtees in 1964 and James Hunt in 1976 in not leading the championship at any point during the season.
2011 was another story, he was dominant, taking 11 wins from 19 races, showing his driving prowess and the newly found power of Red Bull in Formula One. The Austrian team had beaten the heavyweights of McLaren and Ferrari in becoming the top team in the sport. Vettel was quickly becoming known as one of the best drivers in the sport, taking record after record. 2012 saw him take his third consecutive title, emulating Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher in the process.
He was in a battle with Fernando Alonso, again, and it went down to the final race in Brazil. After a first lap collision, Vettel was at the back of the grid, he battled back through the grid, taking sixth, while Alonso finished second, meaning there was nothing Alonso could do. A rather symbolic moment from the race however was Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher moving over for Vettel to take sixth place in Schumacher’s final race. It was almost like there was a changing of the guard between the two.
2013 saw Vettel take an impressive fourth title, not without its hairy moments, with the now infamous multi-21 incident in Malaysia. Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber, taking the win, the Australian was incandescent. Their relationship was already fragile following the incident in 2010, and this was the final straw, with Webber believing the team was against him, he decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season.
He was booed at some races and Vettel revealed it did have a negative impact on him, though it was widely condemned by many drivers. It didn’t appear to faze him too much as he ended the season with 13 wins from 19 races, including nine consecutive wins at the end of the season.
2014 was the beginning of the end for Red Bull and Vettel, with the rules being changed, Mercedes became the dominant force, with Vettel being overshadowed by new team mate Daniel Ricciardo. In Japan it was confirmed that Vettel would join Ferrari, ending a 16 year association with Red Bull. A German at Ferrari, sound familiar?
Vettel is currently fighting for the title with Lewis Hamilton, but it’s clear that without Red Bull, Vettel’s career could have been so different.
The year was 2005 and Red Bull Racing were looking to grow their brand in F1 for both the short and long term. As lady luck would have it, such an opportunity presented itself at the end of that season. Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR) was born, and the rest as they say, is history.
The struggling Minardi team was sold to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz at the end of 2005, when he entered into an equal ownership agreement with F1 legend Gerhard Berger, which lasted until 2008 when the Red Bull team took full ownership.
Designed to serve as a vehicle for the development of their junior drivers before they could be promoted to the RBR senior team, STR has nurtured the talent of the many young drivers, the most notable of which is 4-time champion, Sebastian Vettel.
It was in an STR that Vettel took the first win of his legendary career when he shook up the paddock with a pole to victory drive at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. He is, to this date, responsible for the only STR win in F1. His victory proved to be the catalyst for his amazing season, which earned him a promotion to the RBR senior team in 2009…. And we all know how that went!
Mateschitz’s vision of creating a sustainable future for his maverick brand in F1, had immediately paid dividends, which has again been repeated by the outstanding talent that is Max Verstappen.
Even though this season has been one to forget for the Dutch driver, his win soon after promotion to RBR again underlined the need for STR in keeping young talent in the paddock, especially given that tenure in F1 is uncertain to say the least. His efforts in the 2015 season resulted in RBR scoring the most points in their history in terms of the constructors rankings.
That’s not to say it has been all wine and roses for the team. Early on in their tenure, questions were raised of an unfair advantage that STR had gained as a result of their RBR link. The team had struggled with performance and handling issues, which had been alleviated to an extent during Vettel’s sterling 2008 season.
2016 saw STR find themselves inadvertently in the middle of a motorsport storm, when Daniil Kvyat, then driving for RBR was sent back to STR for further development, and replaced in the senior team by Verstappen, to the chagrin of a large contingent of F1 fans. The malcontent died down however, with Verstappen’s success at RBR.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN
There are lessons to learn in the RBR/STR journey, not the least of which is the value of a team that can act both as a developmental vehicle and retain some independence. STR also doesn’t follow a traditional “use the same engine as the parent team” model which is a departure from the usual in F1. But it is their treatment of younger drivers that stands out.
Teams often face the problem of developmental drivers, who usually run the odd FP1 session or in DTM/GP2, coming into the F1 team with little experience of the rigours associated with full time F1 driving. STR has allowed the younger drivers a way of developing their skills “on the job”, so as to speak, giving them a full shot at the F1 world and arguably a better chance when they are eventually promoted to the RBR team or even join another team on the grid.
Currently Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kyvat helm the machines at STR and while they have struggled a bit this season, the upcoming tracks should suit their style of driving and keep them in the mix for points.
Red Bull started their ever-successful F1 adventure in 2005 with David Coulthard and Christian Klien as its first ever driver pairing, while Vitantonio Liuzzi drove several races in Klien’s place. But what of their predecessors at the Milton Keynes base?
Ford took over the old Stewart team in time for the start of the 2000 season and renamed Sir Jackie’s outfit as Jaguar Racing and promised a lot during their five seasons. In Johnny Herbert and Eddie Irvine, they started out with two Grand Prix winners with Irvine himself fresh from a title challenge with Ferrari in 1999, missing out by two points to Mika Hakkinen.
The season fell way short of their predecessors though. Herbert retired from F1 to go and race in the US off the back of a pointless season, while in a car that clearly struggled Irvine managed to wrestle four points from it. With today’s points system in place, he would have scored 42.
2001 was little better amid turbulence behind the scenes, with successful American team manager drafted in by Ford to turn things around. Irvine was to make the podium in a chaotic Monaco Grand Prix but aside from that results were largely the same. Luciano Burti lasted just four races as Herbert’s replacement before he was himself replaced by Pedro De La Rosa, who would score two points in Italy. Jaguar would finish eighth in the Constructors’ Championship.
2002 saw fewer points but ultimately a higher position in the Constructors’, taking the last of their podium finishes at the Italian Grand Prix courtesy of Irvine once more. Irvine would retire at the end of the season, De La Rosa would go through it pointless and lose his seat as the promising Mark Webber and Brazil’s Antonio Pizzonia joined for 2003. In a similar pattern to Jaguar’s three years, Webber would dominate Pizzonia while he became the second Brazilian to leave Jaguar midway through a season. His replacement, Justin Wilson was on closer terms with Webber and would score a point. Webber would score 16.
A stronger performance in 2003 led many to believe Jaguar would be more regular scorers in 2004, but it didn’t materialise. Webber managed just seven before it was announced he’d be joining BMW Williams, while rookie Klien took just three. Before the end of the season Ford announced their intention to sell, their F1 project floundering.
It wasn’t until very late that Dietrich Mateschitz, whose Red Bull company had sponsored Jaguar as part of the deal to sign Klien, bought the team outright, before buying Minardi a year later and renaming that Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior team.
Red Bull were clearly the most dominant team of the early decade after years of building solid foundations in the midfield. The team formerly known as Jaguar began their F1 tenure with an excellent performance in what was their debut campaign.
David Coulthard showed on numerous occasions that the RB1 was quick as he twice just missed out on podium finishes on his way to 24 points and 12th place, in a renaissance for the Scot ousted at McLaren by Juan Pablo Montoya. Christian Klien took further eight points including 5th place in China, while Vitantonio Liuzzi scored his maiden point at the San Marino Grand Prix.
2006 was to be less fruitful for the team despite Coulthard scoring their first podium, and the first for the Milton Keynes factory since 2002, at the Monaco Grand Prix. Klien left three races before the end of the season to be replaced by Robert Doornbos as Red Bull scored just 14 points all season, with six of those in Monaco.
Mark Webber re-joined in 2007 and the team became more consistent as they began to move up the Constructors’ standings, while Coulthard remained as First Driver. On the pitwall, Red Bull pulled off a major coup by signing legendary designer Adrian Newey from McLaren on a long-term contract. Webber was to score a podium at the European Grand Prix in Germany but was dogged by the kind of reliability issues that plagued his two-year stint at Williams.
Coulthard was more of a consistent scorer, largely avoiding the poor luck that Webber endured. 24 points was enough for the team to finish fifth in the World Championship. More points did not herald forward movement in the Constructors’ Championship in 2008 as the influence of Newey began to show. Webber scored points in five of the first six races of 2008 while Coulthard, in what was to be his final season in F1, struggled to make an impact.
A chaotic Canadian Grand Prix saw the Scot take the final podium of an excellent career with third place behind the two BMW Saubers, but seventh in Singapore was his sole other points finish. His career ended with a first lap shunt at the now famous Brazilian Grand Prix. With Sebastian Vettel announced as his replacement after impressing at Toro Rosso, new regulations for 2009 promised a shake-up of the order. That promise came to fruition as Red Bull proved to have one of the quicker cars, although they started out well behind Brawn GP following Ross Brawn’s Honda-salvage operation.
It had been a slow start with just 1.5 points from the first two races as Vettel crashed out of the Australian Grand Prix while fighting Kubica for second while Webber finished sixth in a rain-shortened Malaysian Grand Prix. A rain-soaked Chinese Grand Prix was the scene for Vettel’s second Grand Prix victory but more importantly Red Bull’s first, as Webber made it a 1-2 ahead of Jenson Button’s Brawn.
Vettel would win again later in the year in Britain, Japan and Abu Dhabi while Webber took an emotional first-ever win at Nurburgring, with a second one in Brazil not enough to stop the Brawn pair of Button and Rubens Barrichello winning both the World Drivers’ Championship with Button and the Constructors’ Championship with a race to spare. Nevertheless, a precedent had been set as Red Bull comfortably outperformed their rivals in the second half of the season, while Ferrari and McLaren both had poor seasons. It was never a flash in the pan for Dietrich Mateschitz, and Red Bull Racing were here to stay.
Mark Webber made his debut at his home Grand Prix in 2002, driving for the now-defunct Minardi team. When the-then 26-year-old made his debut, no-one could’ve expected points but no-one would’ve thought that the unassuming Aussie would go on to be such a role-model and ambassador for F1. In this feature, I look back on Mark Webber’s stint at Red Bull – a car he became synonymous with from 2007 right up to his retirement in 2013.
Webber made a bold decision to join Red Bull in 2007. The team at the time had only one podium, which was a lucky one at that – at the 2006 Monaco GP, following the retirement of Jarno Trulli’s Toyota just a few laps from the end. Webber himself was also unproven, with just one podium to his name, at the same Grand Prix the year before.
The start to his Red Bull life was nothing spectacular. It took him until the United States Grand Prix to score points – the 7th race of the year. The next time he would score points would be at the European Grand Prix, hosted at the Nurburgring – which turned into be an iconic and memorable circuit for the effervescent Australian.
The race will be one that many of us remember for different reasons. For me, it was because, as an 8-year-old boy, I was listening to Murray Walker commentate for the first time in my life, on the radio in the UK. There was carnage at turn one, with a quarter of the field sliding off in the monsoon-like conditions – Webber was NOT one of them. Mark went on to finish a whole minute behind the winner but it was enough to secure him his first podium for Red Bull. There would be just one more points-finish in 2007, at the Belgian GP where he was 7th.
For 2008, he remained with Red Bull and finished eight races but this time, without a podium finish. His best result was 4th at the Monaco GP – a circuit that was quickly becoming one of his favourites. Just three retirements in the 2008 season also suggested that whilst Mark as a driver was becoming a more complete competitor, Red Bull as a team were making big steps forwards.
2009 beckoned and for once, the grid had been well and truly shaken up. McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari were both struggling, whilst the likes of Brawn and Red Bull took over as the top-two teams. Webber was undoubtedly outshone by his young teammate and Red Bull new-kid, Sabastian Vettel. Webebr’s first podium of the season came in China with 2nd – his best result ever at the time. This was followed by Spanish Grand Prix success and third place, two races later. From the Turkish GP to the Hungarian GP, Webber took four podiums – including his first ever victory, at the Nurburgring in Germany.
Years of doubt had plagued Webber. Journalists and TV pundits doubting him throughout his career.At the time, Australia was also coming good in other Motorsport areas. Casey Stoner was a regular race-winner in MotoGP whilst Troy Bayliss had become World Superbike champion for a third time in 2008. Josh Brookes was a revelation in British Superbikes and Cameron Donald was continuing to take the road racing scene and the Isle of Man TT by storm. Mark Webber had completed the set of Australia’s Motorsport achievements towards the end of the naughties. He became the first Australian to win a race in F1 since Alan Jones at the Caesar Palace Grand Prix, way back in 1981. The drought of Australian F1 success was over and Webber was now on his way. After the Hungarian GP of that year however, it all went wrong. Just two more podiums came his way, with a win in Brazil and 2nd in the Abu Dhabi GP placing him 4th overall in the standings – his highest at the time. However, in the words of the man himself, “It was nothing to what 2010 had in store”.
He was quite right too. 2010 was another stellar season. Wins came at the Spanish GP and Monaco GP before a controversial clash with teammate Sebastian Vettel in Turkey occurred. Brits adored him as one of their own and when he won at Silverstone, it was met with great delight. Once more, a win in Hungary proved that he had talent in a Formula 1 car and that he could be a regular threat.
Despite being his most successful season in F1, Mark would have to wait until the final race of the year to become a winner in 2011 – the Brazilian Grand Prix. He finished every race in the points with the exception of the Italian Grand Prix. A damaged front wing tucked under the car at the Parabolica, recording his and the team’s first retirement of the year. Webber finished 3rd in the championship on 258 points.
2012 was disappointing. His first win came in Monaco and his next at Silverstone. However, that was to be his last win in F1. Webber had a poor mid-season and by the time the championship had concluded in Brazil, he was 6th in the championship – his worst championship position since 2008. However, the gritty Wonder from Down Under wasn’t finished.
2013 would prove to be Webber’s last in Formula 1. However, it wasn’t a boring bow-out. He came to blows with teammate Vettel in the Malaysian Grand Prix, after the German ignored team orders and took the win away from Webber. In June, Mark Webber made the announcement that no-one wanted him to ever make. The humble Australian, who had gone from inconsistent driver to accomplished race winner in just a couple of seasons, was to leave the sport at the end of the season to pursue a new career in the World Endurance Series.
Webber finished his Formula One career with nine wins, forty-two podiums, thirteen pole positions and nineteen fastest laps from 215 race starts. An icon for Australians and an inspiration to any young driver. Webber’s defiance to continue in his early years despite mediocre results earned him a reputation as being one of the most determined and most calculated drivers in the modern era of F1. Whilst the world and F1 paddock has gone PC and Red Tape mad, Webber pushed the boundaries and that is what gave him so many fans worldwide. F1 misses Webber but he will be remembered for his success at Red Bull. A fixture and fitting of the team and by no-means forgotten about.
Webber continues with media duties for Channel 4, with their F1 coverage and also interviews the drivers on the podium after the racing.
What is most unique about Red Bull’s junior driver programme is that it predates the team itself. Founded in 2001, three years before the Austrian team would ever enter a grand prix, it is the second oldest programme in motorsport solely dedicated to grooming young drivers to become future stars of Formula 1. The team recruits promising drivers with the proviso of funding and sponsoring their fledgling motorsport careers in junior categories. Providing them with additional physical and mental training is an invaluable asset to their career progression. And the past dictates that it has been a worthwhile venture for Red Bull.
The Red Bull Junior Team has achieved remarkable success. One Sebastian Vettel, signed to the programme in 2002, won four world championships with Red Bull Racing, proving irrefutably that the programme works. It has also produced two more Formula 1 race winners, Red Bull’s current line-up; Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. What is most impressive about the programme is the amount of drivers it has managed to take all the way to Formula 1. Ten drivers have graduated to the top flight of single seater racing, though not all of them went on to win races or championships, it is an exceptionally high number of junior drivers to make it to F1.
Red Bull have been aided massively by their acquisition of the Minardi Formula 1 team in 2005, which they renamed ‘Scuderia Toro Rosso’ and rebranded the outfit into their sister team, run for the purpose of developing their young drivers further. Usually running in the midfield, the team offers young drivers Formula 1 race experience, with the view to eventually move them up to the Red Bull Racing team, if and when they feel they are ready. This is an asset that other teams have tried to replicate, but never to the same degree of success. A common problem for young racers is that often there isn’t the space for them, but Red Bull’s use of Toro Rosso circumvents this issue slightly, by giving Red Bull four seats they can place their drivers in, instead of the usual two.
The Red Bull Junior Team currently consists of five drivers, competing in four different series. The longest serving current member is Pierre Gasly, 2016 GP2 champion and recent race winner in Super Formula, has been a part fof the team since 2014. Gasly is also touted as a contender for a Toro Rosso seat in 2018. Finnish driver Niko Kari, currently competing in GP3, and Richard Verschoor, racing in both the Toyota Racing Series and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, are in their second year with the programme. While Dan Ticktum and Neil Verhagen are newcomers to the Red Bull Junior Team, both driving in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, alongside Verschoor. With the exception of Gasly, none of these young drivers have been with the programme for a significant amount of time, which is one of the striking things about the Red Bull Junior Team.
Whilst ten drivers might seem like a large number of drivers to take all the way to Formula 1, since its creation in 2001 the Red Bull Junior Team has had sixty-one different drivers on its books at even given time – not including the five currently part of the team. And most young drivers only stay with the team for a year or so before either leaving or being dropped. There are a few exceptions, but on the whole, there is an unusually high turnover of drivers entering and leaving the programme.
The mission statement of the Red Bull Junior Team states that their drivers are under ‘permanent pressure to perform’, and this is clearly the case. Often if a driver has an off-season, or fails to live up to the standards set by Red Bull, they are swiftly dropped. It is very clear that the young drivers in the programme are in a precarious position, with no guarantee of a secure place in the future.
Being dropped by a programme such as Red Bull’s can be detrimental to a young driver’s career. One of the reason why places on Formula 1 teams’ junior programmes are so sought after is because of the financial backing teams can provide. Something which is essential for drivers who do not come from wealthy backgrounds or have ample sponsorship deals. For drivers such as these, to suddenly lose their backing could spell the end of their Formula 1 dream, or even their racing career.
There are also cases where drivers who were dropped by Red Bull have gone on to have very successful motorsport careers outside of Formula 1, proving that Red Bull were perhaps too dismissive of their talents when they had them on their books. This is apparent in the case of New Zealand born driver Brendon Hartley who spent four seasons in the Red Bull Junior Team before being rather harshly dropped in the middle of the 2010 season. Most recently, Hartley was part of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans winning team with Porsche, an achievement contrary to Red Bull’s implications that he wasn’t up to racing at the highest level.
The junior single seater circuit is littered with ex-Red Bull backed drivers, F3 title contender Callum Ilott and F2 entrants Alexander Albon and Sergio Sette Camara being a few examples, which is a sign of their merciless attitude towards their junior programme. But this is an ethos firmly engrained within the wider Red Bull motorsport programme. One only has to look at the infamous promotion of Max Verstappen to Red Bull, at the price of Daniil Kvyat’s own Formula 1 career. It was a cut throat move, but it ultimately proved to be right one.
It should be no surprise that the Red Bull Junior Team has so many casualties, whilst it may seem unfair or even cruel, it is a technique that works perfectly for them. Ricciardo and Verstappen, both products of the Red Bull system, are widely considered the most competitive driver pairing on the grid and have the potential to bring the team any number of championships, if given the right machinery. There is no doubt that if Red Bull believe that their junior drivers have the ability then they will take them all the way.
When Red Bull first started in Formula One in 2005 they started out with a reputation for adding fun to the ever-more serious world of F1. Energy drinks tycoon Dietrich Mateschitz took over the ailing Jaguar team having harboured interest in F1 for some time. But for their first driver line-up they far from goofed around.
David Coulthard resurfaced there after losing his McLaren seat to Juan Pablo Montoya, while F300 Champion Vitantonio Liuzzi would share driving duties with Christian Klien. The season started well as a wet-dry-wet qualifying in Australia mixed the grid up. Coulthard took a solid fourth place while Klien also scored on Red Bull’s debut with seventh place. In Malaysia, Coulthard and Klien again scored a double-points finish by taking sixth and eighth respectively, while Coulthard scored a further point in Bahrain. Coulthard was to score again with an eighth place in Spain as Red Bull confirmed a solid start to their Formula One life, but the team were to go through a lean spell through the middle of the season.
Liuzzi scored his only point in San Marino while Coulthard rattled off a fourth and a seventh at the European Grand Prix and in Canada, before the team scored just two points from the next five races. In Turkey, the team scored three points as Coulthard took seventh while Klien followed his teammate home before another three-race scoreless streak to the chaotic Japanese Grand Prix. Another wet qualifying mixed up the grid, and despite Red Bull’s lack of pace relative to the beginning of the season Coulthard was seldom far away from the top three. The Flying Scotsman would eventually finish sixth. Klien would finish a strong fifth in China while Coulthard just missed out on the points at the final round of 2005.
Coulthard would end the season 12th in the World Drivers’ Championship with 24 points, with Klien 15th on 9 and Liuzzi 24th with one point from his four races. The team finished an impressive seventh in the Constructors’ Championship, just four points behind BAR Honda. For 2006, the team would struggle more on their way to 16 points and seventh in the Constructors’ Championship.
The signing of Coulthard added experience to a team entering a new dawn, while Klien showed flashes of speed. The solid performance of Red Bull’s first years inspired confidence of future success for Mateschitz.