Red Bull start 2011 season as the team to beat

2011 F1 season preview

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Red Bull

Car: RB7
#1 Sebastian Vettel
#2 Mark Webber
2006-2010 form: 7th, 5th, 7th, 2nd, 1st
2010 points: 498

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.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2011

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 © Julien Leroy /, Pirelli

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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47 comments on “Red Bull start 2011 season as the team to beat”

  1. I don’t mind Red Bull being ahead, but if it’s by the margins of last season we are in for a boring season if they have the reliability sorted and Mark and Seb don’t crash into each other. (Or slam into the side of McLaren radiators).

  2. Close racing between as much teams and drivers as possible, that’s my wish for every season.
    Along came Adrian Newey…

    1. Many sports have had game changers who aren’t in the game. Nick Bollettieri has nurtured many stars of tennis. José Mourinho has guided several football teams to trophies. Phil Jackson coached Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers to more than ten titles in basketball. Freddie Roach has coached more than two dozen champions in boxing. And seemingly, we will soon be adding Adrian Newey to this list.

      The crucial difference is that all of the others have coached their protégés/teams to better equipped to face their opponents whereas Newey’s genius puts Red Bull on a level where their opponents become irrelevant. Many times last year, the Red Bull’s were simply untouchable.

      In all of the other sports, you have at least a punchers chance; but in Formula One, at times last season, it seemed like Hamilton and Alonso weren’t even standing in the same ring as the Red Bull drivers, despite their valiant attemps to defeat the Austrian outfit.

      1. Whats the fuss about, they were not so dominant. Mclaren and Ferrari have each had seasons with enormous advantage, till very recently really. With all the technical changes into this season, should they win, don’t expect it to be by any bigger margin than 2010.

  3. luckily for us, we have brave lads from Woking that will drink up that Red Bull and kick that empty can to the trash!

    Such quotes will definitely not come from Woking again….

    But I do think the RB7 will not have all the advantages the RB6 had. Remember most teams have opted for Pull-rod-packaging and their lack of experience with the KERS might be a disadvantage…. who knows? ….

    1. Isn’t Renault making the KERS for both RBR and LRGP? I assume that would be the easier way to go for Red Bull, start with a known package even if it wasn’t the best in ’09 and then improve it.

      1. But the Renault system was reworked to be good and the actual experience of setting it up quit right is something Red Bull are still learning.

  4. thatscienceguy
    4th March 2011, 12:42

    Red Bull made some cracking tactical decisions last year, but man they completely buggered some up too.

    Not pulling Webber in at the safety car in Abu Dhabi was a season-changing decision. They could easily have timed it to get Webber in without Alonso being able to cover and then jumping plenty of cars in front. Rosberg nad Petrov showed how effective of a move it was. Its not hindsight saying that, I commented to the people I was watching with at the time that it was a mistake and would probably cost Webber the season.

    Fact is that the position Webber was in was absolutely useless to him. They had the chance to completely change the game, and didn’t take it. They could have brought Webber in and Alonso and the cars in front couldn’t have done anything about it.

    I don’t they’re aggressive enough when they need to be. Its easy to be conservative, but they have missed several chances by not taking a risk worth taking.

    People talk about how Button is a good tactician, it is because he realises when it is time to take risks with his strategy, and having that nous gained him many more points last year than it has lost. Red Bull need to think more aggressively when one of their drivers is outside the top 5 or 6.

    1. It’s interesting that they didn’t do in Abu Dhabi what they did do in Singapore (with Webber).

      1. QuadQuantum
        4th March 2011, 14:31

        A deliberate ploy to distract Ferrari from covering Vettel?

        Won them the championship :)

    2. I agree with you, that Red Bull certainly has a bit to learn with strategy.

      In the earlier races in 2010 they rather messed it up, especially for Webber. There were some good decisions/gambles but this still is a weaker area for the team.

  5. I expect them to be very very strong again this year, which is a shame in terms of the battle being close. Providing the car holds together and the drivers do too, they’ll be ahead of the trailing 4 teams making up the front half of the grid.

    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.

    Yeah… but Ferrari, they’re not a soft drinks manufacturer, are they? The money comes from there, but the team lead by a former F3000 driver, GP2 owner, multi-championship winning designer, and a group of talented individuals with roots dating back to the winter of 1996.

    If the Red Bull Racing F1 team are a drinks manufacturer, then Ferrari are a packet of cigarettes.

    1. Well, Ferrari’s F1 squad is a packet of cigs. It’s there in the team’s name!

      It’s kinda the same situation with Brawn winning in ’09. People only think of BAR and Honda even though the team’s roots go back to the ’60s.

    2. Aren’t they?

  6. They have one of the strongest driver line up next to Mclaren,the question remains whether they will be able to work together as team-mates like the Mclaren boys? If they can & the car is good which I think is then there will be no stopping them.

    1. Really? I’d rate Vettel and Webber as above average at best. There’s quite a few drivers who could have utilised the RB6 more efficiently than these two in my opinion.

      I think 2010 was interesting because Red Bull made mistakes everywhere. Had the drivers been better we’d have seen a repeat of 2004. The truth is Red Bull was miles ahead of the competition. A one second advantage in Hungary and being able to grab pole on a track that wasn’t meant to suit them (Spa) just shows how badly Red Bull really performed.

      1. Yea, I agree. I think McLaren, Ferrari, and Mercedes have ‘lineups’ that trump RedBull

    2. Strongest line up next to mclaren, oh come on dude, be realistic. ferrari’s drivers have more experinece than them both combined + they’re faster than any other pair on the grid
      i almost forgot, ”mclaren boys” get along so well cause hamilton knows button’s not a threat to him

  7. Someone has to be on top. I honestly can’t see if it will be closer competition this year or not…who knows…I don’t! But that’s why we have races ;)

    I would hope that tensions have relaxed over the winter and that RBR are back to pre-Istanbul sentiments.

  8. somerandomguy
    4th March 2011, 13:40

    Would be great if Mark Webber won hes the best

    1. Afraid I disagree, though I respect he’s a good driver – I think Vettel is vastly better. If Webber had the same unreliability as Vettel last year you can be certain Webber would have been 5th in the WDC.

      1. To be fair, he rode in enough unreliable cars to be due a reliable run last season. It had to happen eventually.

    2. Id like to see him win it if not for the McLaren boys.

      But I suspect Mr Alonso will fancy his chances.

      The main threat to redbull could be the two drivers. Through various circumstances they often found themselves running apart last year. It would be interesting to see events unfold if they are very close in the first few races, and reliable.

      I still think Seb has to mature as a driver, his racecraft is not in the top echelon yet, but there is little doubt hes quick.

  9. How many teams other teams have made such a rapid leap from mediocrity to brilliance as Red Bull have done? After 4 years mired in the midfield (longer if you count the Jaguar/ Stewart era) all of a sudden they had a rocket. Incredible

    Obviously Brawn GP made a very similar leap forward in 2009, but they did of course exploit a rather huge loophole, and besides since mid ’09 they’ve been nothing special. McLaren too in both 1998 and 2005 sort of popped up from nowhere with the quickest car. And I suppose Ferrari’s amazing F2004 was quite unexpected following their average (by their standards) 2003 season

    1. 1997 McLaren end of year was also a fast car.
      I think you’re right when you underline the sudden increase of RB speed.

    2. I suppose it’s a reflection of how much the 2009 regs shook things up. Plus, Red Bull weren’t half bad before 2009. After all, a Newey design did win in Monza in 2008.

    3. Red Bull is not so special. williams won both titles in their third year.

  10. Vettel in my opinion is favourite no. 1 of next championship.
    Alonso follows, I’m afraid Webber lost some of his momentum at the end of last season.

    1. Maybe this year he manages not to have some accident while training, and shows just how much actually was affected by that though. Would be good to at least have Vettel and Webber competing each other if RBR is really so far ahead again.

  11. I still have an inkling that Jenson and Lewis are pulling the wool over our eyes and that McLaren is a rocket. Low km or not.

    And I’m wondering a lot about that new Merc., too.

    The Toro Rosso’s have looked fast so far but so did the Saubers this time last year.

    I think Renault may have a fast car but they will be hurting with the loss of Kubica.

    Well, I’m not going to go through all the teams… :Op

    Webber will be really fired up. More than anytime else, I think. I think he’ll grab the title this year from his colleague ont’other side of garage.

    But who do I want to win it? Kobayashi!!

    1. Totally with you on Kobayashi – what a legend! I’d love to see him on the podium!

    2. bleeps_and_tweaks
      4th March 2011, 15:03

      I’ve watched the interviews from recent PR events with Mclaren, I got the impression that LH and Button are genuinely concerned about the cars pace, not quite as bad as ’09, but not far off.

      I don’t think that they would be making statements about the cars lack of grip and downforce if it wasn’t a problem. Hamilton said that the car is similar in downforce levels to ’09, Martin Brundle said it looked like it was constantly running on cold tyres and wouldn’t turn in properly, and Button admitted when he first ran the car he was immediately underwhelmed.

      I think the promising thing about the MP4-26 is that there may be scope to improve it quite a lot. The sidepods, exhaust and new front wing may all offer performance if things are refined.

      I’ve written this before, and it is only my opinion, but I think Mclaren had no choice but to be aggressive with this years design as the MP4-25 was flawed enough for them to not consider merely evolving it.

      On RBR – it’ll be disappointing on several levels if they start the season 0.5-1.0 seconds ahead of everyone else, but unfortunately it looks that way at the moment. Maybe Barcelona will offer some more insight.

      1. 0.5 to 1 second ahead. And where would that leave the Ferrari?
        This Red Bull fear-fest is really getting tedious.

  12. Yup sure Redbull are the team must beat.. the r champion. weird things about RB6 r its fast on every track.. fast even monaco.. so from my point as engineer mr.A Newey already find formula to integrate aero pack, chassis balance distribution, part arrangment n buit car that react for setup as it design.. im bloody sick want to see that car drawing on my desk haha.. but part of their material engineer on reability issue.. my hat for mr.Newey .. hope their arent fly away..

    1. I agree that the RBR looks impressive. I just wish others were at the same level.

      I still hope that at least Ferrari will be a lot quicker when they finally put on the leftover new bits that were left off until now; and that Merc do find that second they are looking for. Still not sure about what McLaren can do, but it seems to be a recurring pattern with them, so I’m not ruling out some good speed coming from that car – maybe they will look better when they finally use KERS and get areal setup.

      1. yup i hope merc do find that sec.with all that extra button hope mr.schu got it. i do amaze to see him driving likes A.Davidson said, mr.schu not just driving.. he always adjust car on almost every corner.. even on gokart ..

        his hand always busy setting something.. looks similarity on ferrari and merc steerig wheel, a lots of SETUP BUTTONS. he have extra corner in his brain..

        remember Nico struggling remember to push KERS button?

  13. Martin Hondareyte
    4th March 2011, 16:30

    From Argentina, I think RedBull has one of the best drivers and the best department of engineering. I hope Vettel win the championship again.Let’s see!

  14. Hopefully mclaren would stop themselves from moaning and whining about rbr this year ,when they are a second behind at melbourne. Last year it was embarrasing to see them scratching their heads and firing blind “CHEAP” shots at red bull. Ride height,flexi body, flexi wing bla bla bla….Mclaren were just out thought by a better was Ferrari. But atleast ferrari remained silent. Mclaren’s constant bickering was very very annoying and unwanted from a team of their calibre . MW admitted that their engineers werent able to get around the heads n tail of the flexi wing concept. Their constant demands to change rules made them seem like a group of headless chicken knowing none about their whereabouts.

  15. I’m very interested also to see how Rosberg is going to fare this year. If there is a marked drop in performance compared to his teammate compared to last year* then that will be because they’ve built the car around Schumi this year. Rosberg must have been absolutely gutted when he heard who his teammate was going to be pre-’10; not because he couldn’t beat him on-track; but because he knew what would happen with the team’s dynamics. Rosberg’s going to be well fired-up too.

    * I really can’t work out how to write that nicely! Where are all the journalists when you need them! Keith?!

    1. Sorry it’s five o’clock on a Friday and I just can’t write any more :-)

    2. How about “…If performance against his team mate drops significantly compared to last year…”?


  16. Red Bull are the team to beat. But each of their drivers have to master the new tyres. I’d put money on Webber to do that better than Vettel.

  17. Red Bull have proven that they are the perfect team for running one-two. I say this because the points that other teams gained on Red Bull came from when they were compromised from the start. The aero of last year’s car did not like to follow and the tactics on the pitwall did not help win that many races, even lost Singapore in many opinions.

    However, I agree that they are the team to beat judging on testing. But how will Vettel deal with the tyres and increased overtaking. If the tyres don’t work when it’s hot in qualifying for example but are perfect in the race, where does that leave them? Webber also is in a position of definite number 2 driver in my opinion and how he will deal with that pressure is a key aspect of the early season for me. Remember last year when, desperate to impress, he collided with Hamilton in Australia? The pressure got to him then and other times and I think that his mental state could be key to decide how the championship plays out.

  18. If RBR turns out superior again this year, FIA will try even harder to develop a set of rules making life even more difficult for Newey. Maybe they must go back to F1 cars relying much more on mechanical grip and even less on aero to level out Neweys genius? Even though I’m a fan of RBR and Newey, I don’t think or hope that we are looking forward to a period of total RBR dominance for several years.
    What is important to get success in F1?
    Constructor (Car design, development over the season): 50%
    Team (quality, testing, strategy): 25%
    Driver lineup (Assisting in development, pole positions, aggressiveness, will to win): 25%
    This is just a basic shot at a very simplistic way of seeing it. You would put other percentages here of course – which and why?

    1. There are a lot of regulation changes in the pipeline for the next couple of years. New engines, a paradigm shift in aero.

      Regulation changes favour Red Bull more than they do McLaren and Ferrari. Those two teams tend to be top performers when the regulations are reasonably static. They have massive resources to throw at improving and refining the car to a point where it’s fast.
      They just aren’t as good as Red Bull when starting with a new set of rules and working out the best way of building the fast car.

      The dominant Ferraris and McLarens haven’t been radical designs, just simply the most refined and sorted cars on the grid.

  19. “The team were tactically sharp throughout last season”

    except for the miserable failures in Australia and China. and don’t forget webber’s stupid pit stop timing in hockenheim. but on the whole, they weren’t too bad i suppose

  20. John Cousins
    5th March 2011, 0:50

    First of all, as most people know I am a HUGE Webber fan so this might just be me getting my hopes up….

    On a couple of recent Webber interviews Mark has mentioned how a couple of car modifications over the the last season were “possibly” suited toward the other driver in the team. There has also been a mention of the new regulations (something to do with weight distribution within the car) making lighter drivers have less of a advantage than last year… If anyone has ever seen Mark stand next to Seb they will see how completely different their frames are. With often just 1/100th of a second between the two drivers last season, it will be interesting how things pan out.

    My impression of Mark is that he doesn’t like to make excuses and that if he mentions something it must be really playing with his mind. I think there is evidence to support that he got his head around the different driving style rquired for red bull’s aggressive “blown diffuser” quicker than Seb last season.

    It is all these little factors which makes F1 so interesting.

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