5 Areas in Which Red Bull Could Actually Improve in 2014
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Since Red Bull Racing shot to the sharp end of the Formula One grid in 2009, a result of the sport's latest big regulation shake-up, this is its statistical trophy cabinet.
In 86 Grands Prix since the start of the '09 season, they've racked up 39 wins, 49 pole positions and 88 podiums, all culminating in three consecutive Drivers' and Constructors' titles from 2010 to 2012.
So, slightly cheeky then to suggest there is room for improvement?
In Formula One, perfection is a goal never fully achieved and a destination never quite reached. Even after its utterly dominant 2011 campaign, team boss Christian Horner told Jonathan Noble of Autosport that Red Bull could still improve.
With that in mind, surely it stands to reason that as the challenge from its rivals has become greater this year and last, so too Red Bull can improve again.
Here's a look at five ways the team can up its game for 2014.
5: Maximise All Regulations
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Red Bull has been one of Formula One's more impressive teams when it came to reliability during the current cycle of regulations.
That's meant, under Adrian Newey, its focus has been about maximising the aerodynamic package, because the confidence in the engine/gearbox/technical side has been ever-present.
However, as 2014 rolls around it brings with it a new kind of reliability challenge.
Engine numbers over the course of the campaign will be reduced from eight to five, there's a return of the turbocharger and a freeze on engine homologation from 2014 to 2020.
This means Red Bull needs to make sure the side of its operation that isn't about keeping the car glued to the tarmac is absolutely on-point for 2014.
Couple that with the suggestion that "works" teams like Mercedes and Ferrari will have an advantage with the new power units, Red Bull might find it difficult to catch up if it loses ground early on the power/reliability side as it is a Renault customer team.
4: Straight-Line Speed
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Any success for the next few seasons, for any team, will be defined by how well they adjust to these new regulations, and one thing Red Bull may need to address more than most is its speed in a straight line.
As Formula One prepares to usher in its 1.6-litre, V6 turbo era next season, attentions are shifting more and more toward how to get the best out of them.
Lap times are expected to be slower—by two to three seconds according to FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting on F1Fanatic—but because of the Energy Recovery bells and whistles (more on that later) and turbo, it is expected that the total power output will be around the same.
Fuel efficiency is going to play a big role, with the amount of fuel used reducing from 150kg to 100kg. Basically, Red Bull's high-drag tendencies (a side-effect of Adrian Newey's never-ending quest for maximum downforce) means it naturally has a high fuel consumption.
Per the new regulations, that means it will be on maximum power for less time. Which means the not-particularly-fast-through-the-speed-traps Red Bulls might struggle on power circuits.
It could also be a huge double whammy if rumours, reported by Crash.net, regarding Mercedes' power units' 100bhp advantage prove to be true...
3: Improving Its No.2
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It's going to be very, very difficult in his maiden season with the team for Daniel Ricciardo to produce the sort of 2010-esque title-challenging season Mark Webber provided.
Since Webber announced his move to sportscar racing in 2014, he's looked a different driver. In fact, all season he's toiled considerably behind teammate Vettel.
The 82-point gap between the two would not sit well with Red Bull hierarchy if Ricciardo is replicating that next year. It wouldn't be a bad return for the youngster by any stretch of the imagination, but in a likely race-winning car, Christian Horner wants him challenging Vettel by midseason.
That means an improvement from the team is necessary, because even now the experienced Webber is struggling to get near the German.
The mechanical gremlins that have often struck Webber down might resurface next year, but what Red Bull must do better is assure Ricciardo of equality and make sure he gets support from the right places and in the right way.
Can Ricciardo beat Vettel next year? In races yes, over the season, probably not. But Red Bull needs to make sure that doesn't lead to any ill-feeling within the team. Which brings us to the next point...
2: Reining in Vettel
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It may seem odd that trying to control a driver who will likely be a four-time world champion next season would be for the good of the team.
But regardless of Vettel’s success so far with Red Bull, and regardless of any success in the future, one man is not bigger than a team.
That may seem like a fantastical rhetoric to spout, but it is one that Red Bull boss Christian Horner is a steadfast believer in, according to Autosport.
In which case, for the sake of both the team and its new driver, Daniel Ricciardo, Horner must impose discipline on its potentially quadruple world champion when this season’s over.
Vettel’s relationship with teammate Mark Webber should never have soured to the point where Malaysia was possible. The German’s potentially at a tipping point with how people view him not just outside of the team but within the team as well.
Another Civil War within Red Bull could create new factions which Horner deems to be the final straw. Particularly if Ricciardo equips himself admirably and Red Bull see its future in his hands.
But whether or not the two get on well at first, Vettel cannot be afforded the sort of luxuries he is at the moment in terms of respect.
He's not infallible, and when (not if) Red Bull starts to slip and its dominance ends, will the team dynamic be such that it can recover if his attitude does not change?
1: Eletronic Reliability
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At some point or another, most teams have had trouble with their Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems. But Red Bull’s KERS units seem to be more problematic than most. And it’s not just Mark Webber, despite the Aussie suffering the lion’s share of failures. Sebastian Vettel’s had his issues too.
Webber, per ABC Australia, challenged Red Bull post-Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying to up their game after more electronic issues blighted his efforts.
That consigned him to 10th on the grid, ruining his race, while Vettel’s own KERS issues could have robbed him of a win only weeks earlier having suffered a failure with the unit during the German Grand Prix.
Fortunately, as he told Sky Sports, the system rebooted and was fine. But anything more serious could have seen the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen pounce and take the win.
While the technical side of Red Bull is, to its rivals, maddeningly near-flawless, it not completely perfect. With the new regulations coming in for next year requiring a much greater emphasis placed on the new Energy Recovery System, they’ll need to get these issues fixed quickly.
From 2014, ERS will provide the driver with 160bhp extra, rather than 80bhp, and they will be able to use that for 33 seconds per lap rather than just six.
Bottom line is repeat failures next year, even minor ones for a lap or two, could be the difference between winning and finishing off the podium.
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