Vettel, RBR Will Be Haunted by Reliability Problems

Daniel ZylberkanCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2010

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing is pushed back into his team garage during qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 27, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

In Sebastian Vettel's short career, we have learned thing about the young German, he's fast-blisteringly so as a matter of fact. During the weekend he broke Michael Schumacher's fast lap record while setting pole at the Albert Park circuit, by more than half a second. What's so amazing about that is that  Schumacher set his lap record in a car that had a three liter V-10, stickier tires and more downforce.

Vettel proved his pace from day one in a Formula One car by scoring in the points in the 2007 US Grand Prix in his first grand prix in replacement of the injured Robert Kubica. The following year, while driving for Toro Rosso. Vettel outpaced both his teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the sister STR3 and both Webber and Coulthard in the senior Red Bull team's RB4.

Most people cited the Ferrari engine in the STR3's engine bay as being superior to the Renault unit in the RB4 as the reason for young Vettel's success over the more experienced Webber and Coulthard.

Sebastian Vettel's most impressive accomplishment in 2008 was during the Italian Grand Prix. The race in Monza was plagued by rain the entire weekend, even during the qualifying session. Vettel was able to qualify in the pole position with an impressive show of car control.  Then going all to win his first race from the pole position.

In 2009 with Vettel moving to the senior Red Bull team and the regulation changes which promised to shake up the Ferrari/McLaren domination at the top of the grid. Many people expected the Red Bull team to play a major role in both championship races.

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Vettel was able to win four races and finish consistently in the points, finishing second in the World Driver's Championship classification. But what stood out the most about Red Bull's and Vettel's, 2009 campaigns was the string of reliability problems and other retirements that plagued the young German.

Vettel ran most of the last quarter of 2009 with has last two remaining engines of the eight engine maximum allowed to every driver. Which once again led to a rash of accusations by both  Formula One pundits and people in the team that the Renault engine was not up to competing with Ferrari and Mercedes powerplants.

Another complaint which many people cited for the unreliability of the RB5 chassis was its designer Adrian Newey. Newey tends to concentrate mainly on the aerodynamic characteristics of a car and shaping the entire design around aerodynamic performance instead of focusing on the reliability of the car. The RB5 was particularly plagued by suspension issues, which hurt Vettel.

After the first two races of 2010, Vettel has been hurt twice by reliability troubles. At the season opener in Bahrain, Red Bull claimed a bad spark plug was the reason that the Renault engne lost power nearing the end of the race in the desert.

Once again bringing about questions if Red Bull should have re-upped its partnership with Renault for the 2010 season. The past three seasons have shown that the Renault engine is considerably behind both the Ferrari and Mercedes units in both power and "driveability."

On Sunday at Albert Park, though Vettel qualified on the pole position and had a firm grip on  the race he was forced to retire when one of the tires separated from the wheel partway through the race.

This has become somewhat of a pattern for Vettel and the Red Bull team in 2009 and so far in 2010.  If the reliability issues persist Vettel will not be able to triumph and win a championship.

If there's anything to be learned from the history of Formula One is that it is more important to finish consistently in the points than win every single race in order to a win a championship and at this pace Red Bull with not be able to take either "Luscious Liz" or Sebastian Vettel to a championship in 2010.