Red Bull retain constructors' crown in style 16 Oct 2011
It seems hard to believe that Red Bull have been on the grid for just seven seasons. By wrapping up their second successive constructors' championship on Sunday, they have already joined an elite club, as only the eighth team in F1 history to win more than one title.
Their fellow club members are Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, Lotus, Cooper, Brabham and Renault - pretty illustrious company for a team once casually dismissed as only a drinks company. Long gone is the reputation for paddock partying over performance. With 25 wins, 1312.5 points and counting, Red Bull are now taken very seriously indeed.
Admittedly their dominance this year has been far from total - McLaren and Ferrari have won six races between them - but their consistency has been stunning. 2011 drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel has finished on the podium (usually the top step) at every Grand Prix bar one, and team mate Mark Webber could yet finish second in the standings. And they have recorded just one DNF between them.
Much of that consistency has been down to the sheer flexibility of the Adrian Newey-penned RB7, which has been able to apply more of its performance more of the time than any of its rivals, even if those rivals have at times had more outright speed. That, combined with some excellent strategy calls from the pit wall - and, of course, two highly capable drivers - has made Red Bull the force to be reckoned with.
Their 2010 campaign was more hard fought and they carried the lessons from that into 2011. They also carried their winning momentum. Despite some major rule changes - DRS, KERS, Pirelli tyres, no more double diffusers - Newey had the RB7 ready early and it was quick, straight out of the box, at the very first test. More importantly, unlike its somewhat fragile predecessor, it was also reliable.
Reliable, apart from its KERS that is, which proved particularly troublesome in the first few races. But such was the intrinsic pace of the car that even without it Vettel took victory in five of the opening six rounds, giving the German a near perfect start to his own title defence. Webber had a tougher time of it, hamstrung by poor starts and his inability to adapt as quickly to the Pirelli tyres, but some sterling drives meant he too kept adding valuable points to the Red Bull pile.
By mid-season, the team had a healthy lead, but the opposition was fighting back. A botched pit stop at Silverstone effectively cost Vettel victory, but Red Bull were then beaten fair and square by McLaren in both Germany and Hungary. Heading into the summer break it looked like the defending champions were firmly on the back foot - and with two of their least favourite circuits awaiting them.
But Red Bull were determined to conquer the high-speed, low-downforce arenas of Spa and Monza, and with development of the RB7 continuing unabated, conquer they did. It meant a gamble on tyre strategy in Belgium after some extreme set-up choices led to blistering, but Vettel and Webber came home one-two, despite another poor getaway from the Australian. It also took an inspired choice of low gearing for Vettel in Italy, allowing him to punch his way past a fast-starting Alonso en route to victory.
It was those two unexpected and emphatic wins that sucked the wind from McLarens and Ferraris sails and all but cemented Red Bull's second title, and Vettel's dominant victory at Yeongam on Sunday finally sealed the deal with three races still to run.
"It is not about me, or Adrian, but about the team and everything coming together perfectly," team principal Christian Horner recently said of Red Bulls success. "I am talking about the whole team because that is the most significant thing we have achieved since Red Bull purchased Jaguar. The objectives have been to create a team environment and I am very proud to lead this team."
Red Bull are most certainly on a roll and with the teams line-up set to remain essentially untouched for 2012, and with no major regulation changes due for next season, it looks like their rivals could be playing catch-up for some time to come. Congratulations to them on another well-deserved double!
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