Last year Red Bull were the team to beat.
But all too often they beat themselves through a combination of driver error and unreliability.
That didn’t stop them from clinching both championships. Can they do it again in 2011?
The RB7 continues the design philosophy of its predecessors: the double title-winning RB6 and, before that, the RB5. The latter was the fastest car at the end of 2009 and might have done even better had it not been for without the controversial double-diffuser ruling.
Technical director Adrian Newey has mastered the post-2008 overhaul of the aerodynamic rules better than anyone and that has been the foundation of the team’s recent success.
In Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber they have two of the fastest drivers over a single lap. Many times last year they were separated by just hundredths of a second in qualifying, often occupying the front row of the grid.
Although the world champion made some conspicuous mistakes last year he has youth on his side and the accumulation of experience will surely only make him a tougher competitor.
The team were tactically sharp throughout last season – remember Webber’s bold but effective strategies at Hungary and Singapore, and how the team got Vettel in front of Lewis Hamilton in Turkey.
That should stand them in good stead as they face up to hectic, three-stop (or more) races in 2011.
The early signs from testing are that the team have lost none of their pace over the winter.
All this makes for grim reading for their rivals. Where are the chinks in the champions’ armour?
Unreliability was a watchword for the team last year, costing Vettel at least three wins and an enormous amount of points. The team had their new car on the track earlier than usual this year and that may improve their early-season reliability.
Tension between their drivers spilled out onto the track in Turkey, costing them a potential one-two finish, and was plain to see at Britain and Brazil as well – although it didn’t stop them winning those two races.
At times the team plainly could have handled things better: switching front wings on the cars at Silverstone was guaranteed to foster resentment on Webber’s side of the garage.
This is still a young squad up against the likes of McLaren and Ferrari. The sense of resentment from the latter at being usurped by a soft drinks manufacturer was clear in some of their remarks to the media over the winter.
Can Red Bull continue to defy the establishment and keep a hold of their titles in 2011? Have your say in the comments.
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Images ?é?® Julien Leroy / firstlap.be, Pirelli