As the 2011 Australian Grand Prix winner, Sebastian Vettel, drove the victory lap around Melbourne’s Albert Park Street Circuit, he exclaimed to his team over the radio, “Excellent car! Excellent stops!”
It’s that simple, or that complicated!
Red Bull stuck to the basics and continued with their formula that won them the 2010 Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships. Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey designed another world-beater in the RB7 that excelled during pre-season testing, and even led other teams to admit that it was half of a second faster than the second-best.
Red Bull got enough mileage under the RB7, and topped the timesheets in most of the rounds of testing. While other teams tested with low fuel loads, Red Bull continued with their policy of testing with medium-to-high fuel load. And they still came out on top.
This itself would have been enough to worry the opposition.
One of the sizeable kinks in the armour of the RB7’s predecessor—the RB6—was its reliability. Last season saw Red Bull lose out on valuable points due to its inability to match the consistency of rivals like Ferrari. Glimpses of that were seen in Melbourne in Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber’s car. The Australian underperformed during qualifying, and had a mediocre race. It became evident that something was wrong with the car after Webber immediately parked it after crossing the finish line in fifth.
However, an area where Ferrari clearly lost out to Red Bull is strategy.
Yes, we’ve had the Hockenheims and the Austrias where Ferrari has manipulated race results. But when it comes to pure strategy in terms of pit stops, tires, etc., Red Bull clearly has outperformed their rival lately. The season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year is a fitting example where Red Bull clinched the championship from Ferrari due to their optimized strategy.
Red Bull began the new season as they ended the last.
Sebastian Vettel zoomed to pole position in qualifying before getting off to the perfect start on raceday. Vettel coolly ensured he kept his lead in the first lap before building a distance between himself and the rest of the pack.
Vettel, who started on Pirelli’s soft option tire, went in for his first change on Lap 12 when he was two seconds in front of second-placed Lewis Hamilton. Vettel came out behind Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button. The Brit could have ruined the race for Vettel, but the German made a pass around the outside of Button in Turn 4 and pulled away.
Hamilton pitted two laps later, and saw himself come out five seconds behind Vettel—a clear indicator of the drop in tire performance.
Vettel saw his lead increase to 12 seconds, and comfortably made his second stop on Lap 36 to switch to the prime tires. There was no looking back from thereon. Vettel controlled the pace, and preserved the tires of his Kinky Kylie as it crossed the chequered flag to win the inaugural race of the 2011 season by a whopping 22 seconds.
What makes this victory even more remarkable is the fact that Red Bull did not use the KERS at all—a factor that clearly influenced their tire strategy as KERS is known to be hard on tires.
The sheer pace of the car is unbelievable. If Red Bull does exercise the use of KERS in the future, the RB7 could very well become a speck in the horizon for its competitors.
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