Vettel and Newey have formed a formidable partnership
This time just eight short years ago something happened that would change the fortunes of a team forever.
On 8 November 2005 a design genius by the name of Adrian Newey left then-employers McLaren for a new challenge, to transform the fortunes of Red Bull Racing.
At the time, Red Bull had recently completed their first season in F1, finishing a lowly 7th in the constructors’ standings behind BAR Honda with David Coulthard scoring the majority of the team’s points.
Although it seems a poor return, it was hardly a surprise. Dietrich Mateschitz’s energy drinks company had little time to evolve the dog of a car that they had inherited from Jaguar Racing after buying out the team from owners Ford. But all that was about to change and Red Bull’s millions had the means to go about it by not only totally re-structuring the company and its factory from top to bottom but also by hiring the best designer in the world bar none.
Newey had actually signed a contract with Jaguar Racing back in 2001 but team boss Bobby Rahal was unable to complete the deal and Ron Dennis convinced him to stay at McLaren. Newey had already added a constructors’ title with the Woking team in 1998 to add to his five at Williams but four years later it was announced that Newey would join the new Red Bull outfit with The Guardian reporting at the time that he would be paid $10 million a year.
Whether the move was motivated by money or not, Newey set about transforming the fortunes of Red Bull but things would not happen overnight. Well, not quite anyway.
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Coulthard’s podium finish at the Monaco Grand Prix was the highlight of a season that garnered just 16 points and seventh in the constructors’ standings but with Mark Webber joining Coulthard at the team in 2007 and a switch from Ferrari to Renault power, the future looked bright.
At the same time, a certain driver by the name of Sebastian Vettel was being carefully monitored. Vettel had been accepted into the Red Bull Junior Team at the age of 11 back in 1998 and as well as finishing second in the 2006 Formula 3 Euro Series, he was promoted to the role of test driver for the Sauber F1 team.
The fast but unreliable RB3 and RB4 machines could muster just two podiums in successive seasons but the good news was that in Red Bull’s sister team, Toro Rosso, young Vettel was gaining a reputation as one of the future stars of the sport after a stunning victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
All the pieces of the jigsaw seemed to be coming together nicely and, with Vettel moving to join Webber for the 2009 season, the team had its most competitive season to date with Vettel pushing eventual champion Jenson Button all the way in the second half of the season as they caught up on the technical advantage Brawn had gained with its controversial double diffuser.
But it was through Newey’s work on Red Bull’s own blown diffuser in 2010 that gave them an advantage over the field with the exhaust gasses to control the airflow over the double diffuser and around the tyre and improve downforce.
In winning the constructors’ championship with a round to spare, Newey became the first designer to win constructors’ titles with three different teams and Vettel secured a team and driver double a round later by winning in Abu Dhabi.
Since then, Red Bull has become the dominant team in the sport with three more constructors’ and drivers’ doubles in the bag and records tumbling in the process.
Much of this success can be traced back to the day when Red Bull decided to hire arguably the greatest designer the sport has ever seen. That and signing a talented young driver to their junior books.