Why Red Bull's Start Could Cost Them the Fomula 1 Title

Daniel ChalmersSenior Analyst IMay 4, 2010

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 18:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing drives during the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2010 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

So far in 2010 Red Bull are the team that have appeared to be the pacesetters. With the RB6 Adrian Newey has done it again and created another piece of machinery that all their rivals are petrified of.

At the start of the season Lewis Hamilton said: "They have both got the fastest cars by quite a big step. They should be quite a lot further ahead in general."

However, despite their pace Red Bull have only won one race out of four. Furthermore they have only chalked up 73 points out of the 172 available so far (42.4 percent).

Whilst you have the fastest car on the grid you must capitalise on it and take as many points as possible.

Red Bull have had an opportunity to potentially win all four 2010 races so far.

In Bahrain and Australia, Sebastien Vettel suffered a mechanical gremlin whilst leading both races. In China, Red Bull wasted their front row lockout. They took the wrong option to change to intermediates and slipped down the field.

Throughout F1’s history there have been many examples of teams who have been quick out of the blocks, and made the most of their initially quick machinery.

Here is a comparison of Red Bull’s first four races in 2010 with previous championship winners who started the season with the fastest car.

Team/YearWinsPodiums% of available points scored
Red Bull - 20101242.4
Brawn – 20093469.4
Renault – 20063570.7
Renault - 20054563.9
McLaren - 19983676.6
McLaren - 19914678.1

As you can see from this table Red Bull simply haven’t done well enough. In 1991 the percentage of available points McLaren scored, is almost double what Red Bull have achieved in the first four outings this year.

Plus McLaren managed to win all of the opening four races that year, as did Renault in 2005. In all these examples nobody dropped more than one race victory in the first four races of the season, whereas Red Bull have already dropped three.

The similarity that links these championships together (and the reason they have been used here as examples) are the events later on in those respective years. Despite the team making a getaway at the start of those seasons, the opposition soon caught up and took the championship fight to them.

Despite McLaren taking a gigantic lead after the first four races in 1991 Williams came back very strongly in the second half of the season. After joining the team in 1990 Adrian Newey was starting to wave his magic wand.  Williams were 38 points behind McLaren after four races, but they took the constructors championship to the final round. If it wasn’t for that extraordinary start McLaren wouldn’t have been champions.

This is a recurring theme in the other examples. The points scored at the start have been the platform that these championship successes were built on. When times got tougher later on in the year, the points scored at the start of the year were enough to see them crawl over the finish line at the end.

In 2005 despite Renault winning the first four races, McLaren spent the rest of the season with the quickest car, and took Renault down to the final round in China. Renault hung on.

2006 was a similar story but this time with Ferrari breathing down their necks. Renault were dominant in the first half of the season. Ferrari became the dominant force in the second half of the season as Bridgestone took the lead over Michelin in the tyre war. The fact that mass dampers were banned also helped Ferrari. Ferrari took the lead in both championships before the two final rounds but Renault clawed it back.

Back to this year and Red Bull are in very dangerous territory. They face a big risk of regretting not making more of their pace from the first four races. The Spanish GP is always the race where teams bring huge upgrades. Many teams will be taking what is likely to resemble a completely different car.

With 2010 being such a competitive season with so many strong teams, Red Bull face an uphill battle to keep their noses in front. It could be that they fall back behind the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes.

If that happens then winning the championship is going to be a very tall order, especially as they are chasing, rather than defending a lead.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso says: “Now in Europe it's the moment of truth to show who is going to be in the title fight, and also for the teams to prove they can develop faster than their rivals.”

The problem for the leading team in any season is that their rivals have more scope for finding more performance. The leading team will have already extracted more of the potential that their car has to offer.  Therefore they will find it more difficult to find more gains.

This theory was certainly proved last season with Brawn and McLaren. From the start to the finish of the season Brawn GP only found another one second’s worth of performance. McLaren started with a complete dog so there was much more performance to be found.

Going back to Red Bull, one of their main problems has to be their lack of experience of competing in a championship battle. This inexperience was clearly exposed last year when the team made wasted opportunities through reliability and tactical errors. The same appears to be happening this season

The team could do with some added experience to help their currently flawed title challenge.

They need someone who has been involved in title challenges and has come out on top. After the crashgate scandal of 2009 Pat Symonds is now allowed to work in a consultancy role. Thanks to Adrian Newey clearly pace isn’t the issue for Red Bull. However it has to be remembered that Newey isn’t a strategist, one of the areas where Red Bull are lacking.

After Ross Brawn, Symonds is one of the best strategists in F1, and he has come up with winning race strategies on many occasions.

He could also work behind the scenes and help the quality control aspect of the team, making sure that new parts on the car are 100 percent reliable. Therefore potential wins that were lost in Bahrain and Australia can be avoided.

Dave Greenwood who worked alongside Symonds at Renault said to his local press: "Pat Symonds obviously had his problems last year but he is still one of the best engineers in the pit lane. I learned a lot from him."

Most fans will argue that Symonds doesn’t deserve another job in F1, and it would be very hard to disagree.

However if Red Bull could look past “crashgate” then Pat Symonds is potentially the last ingredient Red Bull need to become a championship winning team.

Red Bull are already getting closer to that goal, but as the first four races have demonstrated there are still too many chinks in their armour. Chances are unless Newey waves his magic wand again in Spain, then 2010 could end up being another missed opportunity.

You can find more Daniel Chalmers content and other F1 news/features on www.Yallaf1.com


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