Latest Episode | Cut To The Race Podcast
As Red Bull enters its eighteenth season in F1, its impact on the sport has been immense. Winning Grand Prix from its fourth season and titles from its fifth, its cars have seen it become one of F1’s most influential powerhouses.
The team arrived aimed to disrupt from the moment it set foot in the F1 paddock. Red Bull developed into a team that pushes the boundaries of excellence. Only matched by its political prowess off the track, the team now has almost twenty years of racing at the pinnacle of motorsport.
Red Bull first appeared on the grid in 2005. From the start, the team had not only ambition but also the patience to become an ultra-competitive team. The story begins in 2004 when Jaguar team owner Ford announced the team would be put up for sale. Cosworth was also to be sold, Ford had bought the engine manufacturer when it raced under its original guise of Stewart Grand Prix.
Late Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz made a bid for the team in the off-season. After securing the team, Christian Horner was appointed Team Principal and prepared the team for the 2005 season. Horner remains in post as of the start of the 2023 season, giving him the record of the longest Team Principal in eighteen years. Ferrari by comparison is now on its sixth since 2005, and its fourth since 2014.
All of Red Bull’s cars contributed to its success, each car setting the team on the path to glory. In its early years, the going proved tough. Red Bull changed its approach from 2005 to 2008, before nailing the 2009 regulation changes.
The RB1 although Red Bull’s first car was actually the Jaguar-designed R6. David Coulthard had been lured away from McLaren to lead the driver lineup. The second seat would be occupied by Red Bull juniors Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi on a rota basis throughout the season. With Ford releasing Cosworth, an engine deal was struck for the team to race its V10. Unlike in previous years, when the engines were branded as Ford, the Cosworth name returned to the sport with Red Bull.
The RB1 proved to be a solid midfield car, with the best result of P4 at the season opener in Australia and again at the Nurburgring. Rotation drivers Klien and Luizzi lacked the consistency for regular points finishes, but both assisted Coulthard’s on-track efforts to bring home 34 points by the season’s end. This placed the team P7 in the standings at the end of the year. Not a stand-out debut, but it did not need to be, a solid foundation had been set.
The RB2 proved to be a step backwards for the team, despite a switch to Ferrari power. The car suffered from engine issues throughout testing, curtailing efforts ahead of the first race. Adrian Newey’s arrival steered the team’s efforts towards the 2007 design, the first Newey would pen.
A combination of the above led to a stagnant second season, with the team finishing P7 in the standings once again, with almost half of the points scored in 2005. Despite the challenges, a glimmer of hope shone through. A chaotic Monaco race played into David Coulthard’s hands, the Scott a previous Monaco winner.
Securing P3 at the legendary track, DC’s finish had an unexpected bonus. Team Principal Christian Horner made a bet that if the team finished on the podium, he would jump into the pool on the Red Bull floating motorhome naked. He kept his word, with only a Superman cape from a sponsorship deal for that race saving his blushes.
The rest of the year proved tough, with only two more points finishes all year for Coulthard, while Klien retired from 7 of the 15 rounds he contested. But with design genius, Adrain Newey now onboard, the focus within the team very much moved to 2007.
After the trials and tribulations of using Ferrari engines. Red Bull moved to Renault power for 2007. It would be the start of a highly successful long-term partnership that would sadly become sour. The experienced Mark Webber joined as a now a permanent teammate to David Coulthard.
Webber and Coulthard’s combined experience aided behind the scenes more than on-track results show. Webber would take Red Bull to its second podium in as many seasons at the European Grand Prix, with DC’s best result of P4 coming in Japan.
More points could and should have been on the cards if not for terrible reliability. Webber and Coulthard both suffered high retirement rates, gearbox failures being the main cause of problems. The team still managed a major improvement in pace, finishing 5th in the Constructor’s championship. Red Bull needed better reliability if it hoped to jump into the top four teams.
The focus on reliability paid off in 2008, with the RB4 a much more reliable car than its predecessor. Despite both cars retiring at the first round, Mark Webber was a regular points scorer all season. Out of the 15 races he finished, Webber bought the car home in the points nine times. Coulthard by comparison only scored twice all year but made it count with a podium at the chaotic Canadian Grand Prix.
The era of seemingly unlimited aerodynamic parts on cars was coming to an end, but that did not stop Red Bull from pushing the limits of progress. With Adrian Newey’s genius at the heart of the RB8’s design, the team turned heads when the sharkfin concept debuted on the car during the testing. Teams quick as ever to react, all adopted the concept. P7 in the standings would be the reward, but the team was making undeniable steps forward.
The 2009 regulation changes resulted in dramatic changes to the cars. The rear wings were now higher and narrow, with the front wings widened, and lowered. All aerodynamic aids on the cars had been stripped away. This resulted in cars looking like evolutionary counterparts from those seen in the early 1990s.
Adrian Newey nailed the regulations, as he had done with McLaren back in 1998. The RB5 was the result. Newey, keen as ever to remove excess weight, decided against running KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), a very basic version of ERS. Brawn GP’s (born from the ashes of Honda) advantage proved too much at the start of the season to win the title.
But in the hands of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, the car proved to be a rocket ship. Vettel took Red Bull’s first win at the Chinese Grand Prix. A total of six wins, 16 podiums and 5 poles now made Red Bull a genuine force within F1 in 2009. Overtaking Brawn as the fastest car mid-season, the team had laid down its marker. With Brawn sold to Mercedes ahead of 2010, Red Bull now had a real opportunity to win its first title.
Red Bull had come a long way in just four seasons. The next five would prove to be a combination of crushing domination and frustrations boiling over within the team.
Feature Image Credit: @redbullracing on Twitter