This is a post that I should have written at the end of last season, but didn’t get round to before deciding to go on hiatus. Many of these points will have been made before, and it may be a bit past its sell-by date — but here it is anyway.
I am in awe of what Red Bull Racing achieved last season. In one sense, it should all be so easy. They have the best designer in Adrian Newey. And they have one of the best drivers in Sebastian Vettel — and Mark Webber is pretty handy too.
But those elements were in place in previous years too. Plus, it is easy to forget that Adrian Newey has not been involved in a championship victory since 1999.
Vettel, too, was by no means a shoo-in for the championship. It took a fairly bizarre set of circumstances for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to go his way. And it was a tall order for him to become the youngest ever world champion.
The truth is that the achievements of Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel are massive. Red Bull is a soft drink company. Yet they have shown world-class car manufacturers and experienced grand prix teams how to do it.
When I grew up watching Formula 1 in the 1990s, the talk was of F1’s “big four”. These were the dominant teams: Benetton, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. Between 1979 and 2008, no-one outside of the big four won the Constructors’ Championship (if you account for the fact that Benetton became Renault).
In the past two years, there has been a breakthrough. The stranglehold was broken, first by the Brawn team in its first — and only — year in F1; an unprecedented achievement. But, impressive though its achievements were, the Brawn team could trace its history in F1 back to Tyrrell’s first grand prix in 1968.
In a way, therefore, Red Bull’s achievements are even more extraordinary. Although Red Bull (much like the Brackley-based Tyrrell-BAR-Honda-Brawn-Mercedes squad), bought an existing team, this team in much younger. Originally set up as Stewart Grand Prix in 1997, it took 14 years for this team to win a Championship having been set up from scratch.
Red Bull truly is part of a new generation of championship winners. The next-youngest championship-winning team is Benetton / Renault, originally set up as Toleman in 1981.
A hat must go off to Paul and Jackie Stewart for their roles in this. I have heard it mentioned in passing once or twice, but I am surprised that more has not been made of it.
The Stewarts expended great efforts to set up their grand prix team, and against all the odds they achieved great things in the short three year lifespan of the team. Despite the best efforts of Ford to run the team into the ground with its misguided Jaguar Racing venture, the team has since gone on to achieve even greater things as Red Bull.
So hats off to Paul and Jackie Stewart. And hats off to Dietrich Mateschitz, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner, Sebastian Vettel and everyone else inolved in Red Bull Racing’s amazing achievement.