Red Bull Racing profile
Last Updated: 31/12/14 3:09pm
Red Bull’s winning run was brought to a shuddering halt by Mercedes last year and the challenge for the deposed world champions in 2015 is show that their era of success has simply been paused rather than come to a definitive end.
Four successive title doubles between 2010 and 2013 had not only set the standard for the team, but the grid as whole, and so the near-total level of domination enjoyed by Mercedes in the first year of F1’s new turbo regulations meant 2014 was inevitably one of major disappointment for Red Bull.
Still, given the all-conquering form of their rivals and the underperformance of their own Renault engine, Red Bull’s three race victories – all delivered by the team’s new hotshot Daniel Ricciardo – and second place in the Constructors’ Championship hardly represented a disastrous campaign and it’s arguable that they remain the sport’s slickest on-track operators.
But whether the Red Bull era is over or simply on hold for now, the sense that a significant chapter at the team has nonetheless closed was confirmed by two significant developments: the sudden departure of Sebastian Vettel to Ferrari and the decision of star designer Adrian Newey to take a step back from day-to-day involvement in F1.
As while Vettel may have been far from his best in 2014, the German four-time champion in tandem with Newey and team boss Christian Horner had proved the cornerstones of Red Bull’s rise to an F1 superpower.
Such a blinding combination of talent, inspiration and hard work obscures, and also contradicts, initial perceptions of Red Bull's F1 arrival, which came about after energy drinks magnate Dietrich Mateschitz took over the failed Jaguar project at the end of 2004. At that time, they seemed to be more interested in throwing lavish paddock parties than achieving on-track success.
It was a perception they heartily encouraged in the early days and success was slow at first, with Red Bull's first podium arriving courtesy of David Coulthard at Monaco in 2006. Yet behind the scenes, Mateschitz and team boss Christian Horner were surely putting all the pieces in place for their eventual domination. Newey was hired that year, while other recruits also made crucial contributions. For example, Geoff Willis, who served a two-year stint at the team between 2007 and 2009, was widely credited with overhauling manufacturing process and improving reliability.
Mark Webber joined the team at the same time and but it was when Vettel arrived in 2009 that everything clicked. That coincided with the introduction of Newey's RB5, which might not have had the double diffuser sported by Brawn's title-winning car, but proved more than a match as the season progressed.
Despite securing the team's first win in China, Vettel's title challenge always appeared likely to fall short that year but the disappointment was short-lived as he became the sport's youngest ever World Champion in 2010 instead. Yet a measure of Red Bull's newfound eminence was that Webber had been a title contender too; indeed, he appeared better-placed until his team-mate's opportunism (not to mention some poor strategy calls) prevailed in Abu Dhabi.
To say that their partnership flourished is clearly an understatement but what gave Vettel wings was the way he could adapt his driving technique to squeeze all the performance he could from his car's blown exhaust and diffuser. It was a trick Webber could never manage and with the technology developing rapidly in 2011, the young German easily retained the title with 12 wins and a record number of pole positions.
Webber hit back for a time in 2012 when new rules blunted the power of blown exhausts but as Red Bull started to claw their advantage back, it was Vettel who once again made hay as a late surge saw him overtake Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and take a third straight title.
He and Red Bull were even more dominant in 2013 - not that the season was without its dramas. Horner's authority was undermined by Vettel's decision to ignore team orders and pass Webber on his way to victory in Malaysia, with the Australian announcing his retirement from F1 by mid-season. An unbroken run of success after that with nine successive wins for Vettel told its own story.
However, the dawn of F1’s new hybrid engine era for 2014 would usher in a new player at F1’s top table, Mercedes. While the German manufacturer's big engine advantage was apparent from the early miles of pre-season testing, Red Bull found themselves in all sorts of trouble with their undercooked and underpowered Renault turbo amid repeated breakdowns with their RB10.
It was therefore a minor miracle which saw new boy Ricciardo qualify and finish second at the season opener in Australia – although his runner-up finish was later overturned after the team were found to have contravened fuel-flow rules. However, for a team that measures themselves on race and championship wins, the narrative of the opening months of the year was a depressing one as the first six victories all went Mercedes’ way.
An unlikely, if fortunate, maiden F1 win for the increasingly impressive Ricciardo in Canada was followed by similarly opportunistic victories for the Aussie in Belgium and Monza, giving the team a glimmer of hope that they could yet snatch the drivers’ crown from under the noses of the duelling Mercedes pair.
Such a dream never materialised and so Red Bull’s quest to topple Mercedes goes on to 2015, with Daniil Kvyat joining Ricciardo in the team’s new youthful line-up.