Winning is always a priority for every Formula 1 team that competes in the sport. Millions of dollars are spent by the teams every year, so that they can propel themselves up the ladder; called the Formula 1 Championship. And, the hard-work doesn’t stop when a team reaches the summit; the fight then transits to make the Everest top, a permanent destination. The Infinity Red Bull Team is no strangers to this notion of domination, as the squad, in their relatively short F1 career, has already seen the riches of winning races and championships.
From 2010 to 2013, the team had continuously won the Formula 1 Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship titles, and created a dynasty for themselves in the sport’s hall of fame. Red Bull, along with engine partners Renault, and German Wonder Boy Sebastian Vettel, created history and legacy in these 4 years.
However, the domination did not last, and the legacy was hard to replicate, thereafter. That’s because, as soon as the new 1.6L V6 Turbo era was introduced in 2014, all the shine from the Red Bull diamond had faded away. The team, with this set of regulations, has only managed 3 race wins, against the 41 wins in 4 years, and are not looking close enough to challenge the V6 Turbo era kings, Mercedes. However, those 3 wins were last season, and this year, the team looks even further off the pace, with Ferrari looking like the only team to challenge Mercedes this time around.
But, let bygones be bygones. The drinks company now has to look forward to what they can do next season, and what they can salvage from this one. So, let us learn what exactly the current Red Bull team is missing. Or, what they need to do divergently so that they at least challenge the teams up front, rather than scrape for points at the back.
Does the team need a more experienced driver in the squad?
If we believe Red Bull, and see the lap-times, we have to assume that, at least Daniel Ricciardo is getting the maximum out of the package. Hence we can safely understand that the team is making the most of what they have created during the winter. Putting in a new driver is never a long term solution, although, in place of young Danill Kvyat, maybe the team would have preferred a driver with an older head over the shoulders. However, that’s hypothetical; but it is true to a certain extent because Kvyat was only promoted because Vettel sudden departure to Ferrari.
But, putting in an experienced racer will not yield ‘ultimate pace’ from the package. That’s because, the core faults at Red Bull lies in the engine department, as Renault power units are down, on both horse power and also reliability. However, drive ability issues (particularly at the rear of the car) and chassis performance, are also the key areas which the team has to rectify and work upon.
Blaming the Renault package, or even thinking that there is a lack of ‘experienced hands on deck’, is a short cut which the team is taking. But, ultimately Red Bull also has to accept that their RB11 is not best chassis on the gird.
It’s too late to make a new car for this season
Considering all facts and practicalities, this season might just be a write off for the Austrian squad, in terms of winning the championship at least. The team is quite far away from the top. Their qualifying and race pace suggests; beating Ferrari and Mercedes, day in day out, will be difficult even if they bring in few new parts for the RB 11 package this season, every race-week.
Of course, they can always develop and build a new car altogether, but that will take time and more importantly money. Also, that will not guarantee pace and race-wins. Hence, crafting a B-spec RB11 for this year is not a logical option for the team to explore.
But that doesn’t mean they cannot improve the existing chassis on various fronts. Red Bull has a decent team of engineers and drivers. Accurate feedbacks and some work on the wind tunnel can give the team a decent enough boost in terms of competent lap times. Yes, we are talking only about a few tenths, but even that is vital when the competition is so tight and congested.
So, in order to salvage some extra points, pace, and good lap times; Red Bull and Renault, together, have to devote time and work upon whatever data they are obtaining from these unsuccessful race outings. The individual factories back in United Kingdom and France, has to work overnight and rigorously to rectify the issues.
Red Bull need complete overhaul of their design and chassis development department
It is known fact that design Guru Adrian Newey had a very limited hand in the creation of the RB 11, the team’s 2015 car. Newey has taken a sabbatical of sorts to pursue other challenges in life, and that has meant this year’s Red Bull was overseen by other individuals in the team.
Red Bull had to elevate Rob Marshall to the role of Chief Engineer at the end of last season to take over the core departments of Newey. And, after Peter Prodromou’s departure to McLaren, Dan Fallows, promoted internally, had to take up the key position of Aerodynamics head within the squad. Both Prodromou and Newey were the key men behind Red Bull’s four consecutive titles from 2010 to 2014, and their absence has been felt by the Drinks Company, badly.
Taking about the RB 11; if you take notes, as per the chassis, Red Bull has not created a rocket ship, at least not for this year. The team’s car has not lit the world on fire this year, and chances are, even if Renault can rectify their issues, still the whole package won’t be a Mercedes, or even a Ferrari, beater. That’s why, if Newey does not come back for next season, then the team has to think about a total overhaul in the aero and design department. This would mean, sacking or rightsizing few internal jobs and creating positions for new faces. With new people, new ideas can come out, and novelty is the key to success in F1 these days.
Red Bull can also go for Ferrari ‘way’
Red Bull can also take the leaf out of Ferrari’s transition of shifting from a ‘dog of a car’ in 2014, to a race winner one in 2015. The Prancing Horses reshaped their whole hierarchy and liberalized their engineers, which allowed them to think out of the box. And, the fruit of it was; quick and substantial results.
Ferrari had roped in the very talented James Allison, their current Technical Director, in the middle of 2013; however it was in 2014 that the Brit had got total authority over the Scuderia’s technical team. This meant; he was free to work his magic on the current 2015 car. Even Red Bull should apply the same mantra. However, if they cannot find another Newey or Allison internally, then they have to go shopping in the winter for a bunch of engineers.
Of course, Red Bull is also a team which always catered an open ideology theory within all their departments. In fact, the Austrian squad might be one of the best teams in terms of ‘internal freedom’ and ‘free thinking’ across all departments and positions, in F1. This has been one of the key elements of Red Bull’s success over the years. But, maybe now, it is time to think differently and more rationally with by the text book way, just for the sake of a change.
Red Bull has to put faith in Renault and hope they come up with a quick solution
Renault has failed to develop their troubled V6 Turbo during the winter period. But, they still have some upgrade tokens left (12 in total) to change and improve certain parts of the unit for this season. However, total overhaul of the MGUK, Power Unit, Battery parts and the Engine on a short term basis with only 12 token, is impossible.
That’s why, Renault has to be clever on this end with the tokens. They cannot make changes just because Red Bull is pressurising them to make. They should use the tokens very wisely and take their time to read the situation well, rather acting on a knee-jerk reaction. Developing engines is not that easy, and Red Bull has to keep patience with their engine providers and long term supporters.
On the short term, all Renault can hope is if they can rectify some significant issues with the Power Units, reliability being one. That’s because; a reliable engine will be a good start for the Austrian team in terms of getting back to pace.
But, remember; Renault is the only hope of Red Bull, and they have to work together to find a proper and a palpable remedy. And, for that, Renault and Red Bull first have to stop their internal skirmishes, which are just getting out of hands, day by day.
There is a serious need of attitude change in the team
No disrespect to current boss Christian Horner, however, sometimes it feels like the team is not willing to take up challenges in front of them. For example; Dr. Helmut Marko, the motorsport advisor of Red Bull, at various points this season, has issued threats that the team could quit F1, if engine rules are not changed. And, this week, the Red Bull Corporation owner (the place where the bucks stops) Dietrich Mateschitz also echoed Marko’s words. Albeit, at the same time when the team was just securing a “long term partner/sponsor”. Hypocrisy at its best, from the team – Maybe
We understand F1 is the not the core business of the company, however, F1 has given them a marketing boost which no other platform could have given them. So that’s why, rather than talking about sour grapes and issuing hollow quit threats, coming from the team’s hierarchy, we need something substantial from the squad. But, sadly, there is only negative and pessimistic aura from the whole of Red Bull facets. In fact, there is a very eerie feeling about what the team actually wants to do in order to come out of this slump.
But, for a start; Red Bull and Renault have to sit, talk, kiss, and then make up; because, they need each other’s help to flourish again. Also, Red Bull has to understand that they cannot win them all, and even if they want to, then they have to stop the cribbing and tantrums, and get their heads down again. Once more, they can take inspiration from Ferrari, which has worked hard during the winter to ensure they are closer to the paramount this year.
Red Bull has to stop treating F1 as a Marketing Tool
We understand Red Bull is brand which needs to win frequently, so that it can attract the right, read youthful, customers for their core business. Their whole marketing strategy requires them reach the top of the podium so that the drink’s “awesomeness” is portrayed in the “coolest” possible way. However, the Bulls have to understand that this is a sport, not a marketing tool or platform, and they are a team, not a franchisee to promote their sales-causes. That might be a hard pill to swallow, but the Austrian team has to accept, with victories, defeat also knocks the door. That’s the beauty of the sport.
Maybe they did initially enter F1 to market their Drinks, but with their stunning work ethic, they revolutionized the whole F1 grid. However, the team now has to pick up the fallen chips from the floor, rather than vacuuming the whole ground.
Red Bull has to believe that it is not impossible to beat Mercedes; just as Mercedes felt from 2010 to 2014. They just have to utilize their resources efficiently, and change few fractions, and if possible, most of all, their own demeanor.