Dominant Red Bull join F1’s top teams

2011 F1 season review

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Vettel won 11 out of 19 races, the last coming in India

Red Bull dominated the 2011 season in a manner not seen since the days of Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel broke records as the wins and pole positions piled up.

The RB7 differed from its rivals in several key areas and these innovations added up to give Red Bull a decisive edge.

It made superior use of exhaust gases to generate downforce in its diffuser. This, allied to a more raked profile allowing its front wing to move closer to the ground under pressure, made for a formidably fast machine.

Red Bull team stats 2011

Best race result (number)1st (12)
Best grid position (number) 1st (18)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 2 (1/1)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,163 (95.45%)
Laps led (% of total) 798 (70.43%)
Championship position (2010) 1st (1st)
Championship points (2010) 650 (498)
Pit stop performance ranking1st

Speculation surrounded other tricks Red Bull might be using to gain an edge on their rival, such as the use of pre-heated components to increase tyre temperatures to higher levels than those attained by their rivals, particularly at the start of races.

They were even rumoured to be using exhaust gasses to heat the tyres at the start of races, which was linked to Vettel’s first-lap tyre failure at Abu Dhabi.

Adrian Newey’s reluctance to compromise chassis dimensions led to the team using a smaller and less powerful Kinetic Energy Recovery System than their rivals. While this gave them some problems, particularly early in the season, no-one would claim the RB7 was deficient because of it.

The result was a car optimised to qualifying at and leading from the front. In Vettel, the team had the perfect driver to pilot such a creation.

He enjoyed a near-monopoly on pole position, starting from the front 15 times, a new record. From there he regularly scampered off into a large lead on the first lap, keeping him safe from DRS-armed pursuers.

This generally freed Vettel from the demands of racing in traffic, which had been a weakness of his previously. But that seemed to be a thing of the past in 2011, as he pulled off high-speed, high-risk passes on Nico Rosberg at Spa and Fernando Alonso at Monza to name two.

More often Vettel was the one receiving pressure rather than applying it and he handled it brilliantly at Spain and Monaco. This served to highlight the fact that, once again, Red Bull’s performance advantage over a single lap was far greater than it was over a stint.

In Spain the Red Bulls were almost a second quicker than their closest rivals in qualifying, yet Vettel ended the race with Hamilton climbing all over the back of his RB7.

Vettel withstood Hamilton’s onslaught but Canada was a different matter. Preoccupied with keeping a one-second lead over Jenson Button at the DRS zone on the final lap, Vettel slipped up, and Button was through.

After another win in the following race at Valencia Vettel had a remarkable six wins and two second places from eight races. He had an off-colour race at home, spinning and finishing fourth. But he returned from the summer break back at the peak of his form, winning the next three races from pole position to put the championship virtually beyond doubt.

Webber won the final round when Vettel's gearbox failed

In 2010, Vettel and Mark Webber traded blows throughout the season and went into the final round fighting for the championship. But in 2011 we saw a much more subdued performance from Webber – it wasn’t until the final race that Webber scored a win – and only then because of a rare glitch on Vettel’s car.

Webber was one of several drivers to have trouble adjusting to the new tyres at the beginning of the season. On top of that, his starts were a considerable weakness – he gave away a net 22 places on lap one over the course of the year (Vettel actually lost more, but the data is skewed by his puncture on lap one in Abu Dhabi).

Curiously, Webber enjoyed one of his best weekends of the year at Silverstone, when the teams had to adhere to tighter restrictions on exhaust-blown diffusers. He fought Vettel at the end despite the team’s efforts to call off the battle.

The team’s persistent search for every advantage was illustrated at Spa, where they more than any of their rivals pushed the envelope on tyre camber. Red Bull weren’t the only team to get caught out by blistering caused by running greater camber angles than those recommended by Pirelli, but they went further and suffered more, having to pit both their cars within the first five laps. It didn’t keep them from finishing one-two, though.

They backed up their car’s performance on the track by being the quickest crew in the pits. Eight times this year they performed the fastest stop of the race.

Red Bull have achieved remarkable success in a comparatively short space of time. The team has only been on the grid in its current size since 2005, yet they are now tied in seventh place with Benetton among the teams that have won the most races in F1 history.

Sebastian Vettel, Helmut Marko, Jonathan Wheatley, Christian Horner and Mark Webber celebrate in Korea

Before the season began Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo fired a shot at his rivals, saying “when others have won 10% of what Ferrari has won, then they can also have their say.” Red Bull passed that threshold halfway through the season, and now have 27 wins and two constructors’ championships.

Adrian Newey is mining a rich seam of potential from his RB5/6/7 series and it’s hard to envisage that coming to an end any time soon. With Vettel on board until at least 2014, they have every chance of continuing their domination of Formula 1.

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Image © Red Bull/Getty images

Author information

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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54 comments on “Dominant Red Bull join F1’s top teams”

  1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    23rd December 2011, 13:08

    You said it all Keith. Vettel has grown up and is showing it race after race. An dNewey keeps us amazed with his designs

    1. the problem is that even with the ban of the exhaust blown diffusers the red bull will be competitive next year i have no doubt about that Newey said that the RB8 will be a surprise (i’m praying to be a negative surprise for him lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

      1. I’m nitpicking here, but Newey said the car will amaze, not surprise :P

    2. Indeed @keithcollantine, said it all there.

      I especially like this line Preoccupied with keeping a one-season lead over Jenson Button at the DRS zone on the final lap, Vettel slipped up, and Button was through.

      although its probably a slip up (should be one-second, i guess) its quite fitting to how Vettel had the lead all season long!

  2. I have sneaking suspicion that Vettel’s advantage over Mark will be cut with the restrictions on the exhausts.

    when others have won 10% of what Ferrari has won, then they can also have their say.

    I wonder how Luca would react if it was mentioned back to him.

    1. If anything I’d think it would widen

      1. Mark is a great braker. He had that advantage taken away with the OTEBD. With it being cut back, it’s possible he may regain a tenth or two back. Every bit helps.

    2. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      23rd December 2011, 14:44

      He’d probably change his speech for something like “when a team EQUALS us then they can state something”, but at this pace Red Bull is getting into the “historic big ones”

      1. Are they? They have had two great years.

        I suspect that they will be pulled out of the sport a long time before they become great.

        1. Red Bull have been in F1 since the mid 90’s, pretty much since they started selling drinks in the first world, the’re not going anywhere soon.

  3. I still think that RB’s basic aero package was already king in 2009. They had to adapt it for double diffuser, but were fighting Brawn (à bit).
    This probably means that they will continue to dominate, because their base is so good – and they have Newey and Vettel.

    Unless some other team invents new revolutionary parts / car…

    1. i totally agree with you
      Fernando Alonso said that the RB7 is so good that the red bull team don’t have a big margin of ameliorating it (aerodynamically speaking )
      maybe this would give them the advantage of finding new revolutionary ideas in other areas while the other teams are only focusing on their aerodynamic packages

      1. Im sorry, what does ameliorating mean? Is that an english word?

        1. to ameliorate=to improve

          1. Aha. Cheers. That’s a double edged sword in a way. On the one hand, in the same time other teams Take to catch up with RBR’s pace, RBR willuse to make rhemselves even faster. On the other, the faster teams will reach an asymptotic point of performance limit quicker.

          2. Ameliorate is not really an appropriate word in this case as it means making a bad situation or thing better.

            Verb: Make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better.

          3. It’s correct. As the aerodinamics are good there is no big marging to ameliorate, aerodinamics should be bad so there’s room to ameliorate. Indeed I find it a very smart way to use this verb instead of to improve.

    2. There is no doubt the RB5 was a stonking car. Were it not for a very lightly fuelled JB at Barcelona 2009, Vettel would have had pole. Barcelona qualifying is just about the best test of a car’s speed

  4. I too am interested to see how Webber stacks up against Vettel now without the exhaust, and indeed, the others. Limit the complexity of designs and innovation on the cars and the advantage of Adrien Newey becomes obsolete! I can’t stand Red Bull anymore since the two Silverstone affairs.

  5. They’re certainly at the top right now… as were Benneton and Brawn in their respective glory seasons.

    However they have a long way to go to join the ranks of the sports all-time greatest teams. Even with the greater number of races per season now they are still only joint 7th in race wins after:

    Another good season would move them above Brabaham and Renault but they have quite a long way to go to reach Lotus and Williams in the “most wins” records.

    Among current teams (ignoring Mercedes and Lotus) they are still behind Ferrari and McLaren in both “all time wins” and “all time win ratio”. And behind Ferrari, McLaren and Williams in the “most wins in a season”, “ratio of wins in a season”, “consequetive race wins”, “podiums”, etc.

    The only all-time record they hold is most poles in a season.

    In other words they have some work to do over an extended period to catch up and overtake Ferrari, McLaren and Williams in the records. However there is a clear sign that they’ll be pushing up their stats next year as well as this.

    1. Yeah, but Ferrari has been around for 61 years, McLaren for 45, Williams for 36 and Lotus ran for 40 years and Brabham for 30. The fact that Red Bull is already catching Brabham and Renault in terms of wins in only it’s seventh year is nothing but amazing.

      And while you can argue that their win ratio is not as good as Ferrari’s or McLaren’s, we have to remember that the first four cars they’ve raced were not race-winning material, whereas other teams enjoyed many years in the top.

      I believe that if Newey stays on the team for the years ahead, they have realistic chances of breaking into the Top 5 or Top 4 of all-time greatest teams in many categories.

      1. Don’t get me wrong…. they’ve made a fantastic start and are really making waves… Benneton was probably the last ‘new’ team to make such a great initial impression…

        All I’m saying is that it will only really be in another 5 years that we’ll be able to tell if they are one of the all-time top teams or whether they are a flash in the pan.

    2. OmarR-Pepper (@)
      23rd December 2011, 14:50

      Yeah but noone can ignore the fact they are a “new” team, it’s not something a person can really consider as if they are just Blue Jaguars. I wonder how Toyota, with that HUGE budget at their disposal, couldn’t even win a F1 race… here it’s not all about money right? It’s more about EFFICIENT usage of it. (Well you can’t do anything with a HRT budget but that’s a different story)

      1. they are a “new” team

        Are they? Not really.

        Virgin, HRT and Caterham (and coincidentally Toyota) are “new” teams.

        And for the record, Red Bull have a huge budget.

  6. I never saw 2011 as a year of renaissance for Ferrari (and to a lesser extent, McLaren) against Red Bull, but I’ve done so for 2012. With more restrictions coming, they have a chance to beat RBR, but it’s hard to imagine the Austrian team suddenly loosing performance having seen their domination this year. I ultimately think they’ll go on to dominate, maybe by a narrower margin, in future seasons.

  7. When stricter rules were put in place about blown diffusser at British GP; Ferrari won the race. so we dunno how it will play out next season.

  8. The true tale of their place in history is about to unfold. If the 2012 car gets the kind of results that the 2011 car did, then the pundents will be silenced and the lore of their tale will become what future generations will talk of.

  9. Typo Keith?

    Preoccupied with keeping a one-season lead over Jenson Button at the DRS zone on the final lap […]

    A one-season lead would be amazing, but I think it’s one second ;)

    1. Well now he does have a one (championship) season lead over Button. ;)

      1. Short memory? remember 2009?

        1. @hohum – Yes, and Button has one less championship.


    @kieth “Vettel withstood Hamilton’s onslaught but Canada was a different matter. Preoccupied with keeping a one-SEASON lead over Jenson Button at the DRS zone on the final lap, Vettel slipped up, and Button was through.

    one second?

  11. Compairing Vettel to Senna is Balderdash, as for this rake angle giving the front wing the ability to flex is also codswallop.

    1. This article doesn’t mention either of the things you talk about.

      And of course comparing Vettel to Senna or Schumacher isn’t valid yet- he’s only had 4 full seasons in the sport.

      1. Though Autosport has an article asking if Vettel is now better than Senna!

        1. @mvi – Well, I haven’t read it, but if they are asking that, I’d say it’s premature but understandable. SV is already greater than a lot of drivers ever will be.

  12. themagicofspeed (@)
    23rd December 2011, 22:42

    It’s important to remember that Red Bull would be nothing without Vettel and Newey. They are a one trick pony. Take those two people out, and they would be scrapping with Sauber and Williams to outrun Caterhams, Marussias and HRTs.

    They were nothing before Vettel arrived, their best WCC finish was 7th. When he and Newey go, they will return there. Webber isnt capable of bringing a team to the top. Vettel is, and has, much to the annoyance of his rivals. However, if you put him in any other car, i doubt he would do any better than the next guy. He isnt on the same league as the Schumachers, Buttons and Alonsos of the world. In a straight test of racecraft, speed, consistency and skill, those three drivers would pee all over him.

    And, it really riles me when people say ‘Seb reminds me of Ayrton’ – he is not and will never be an eighth of the driver Ayrton Senna was. Same with Lewis. The only similarity is the yellow paint on his helmet.

    1. Firstly, Seb and Adrian attract most of the column inches, but you can be sure other people at the team are doing an excellent job as well. Their pit stops are amongst the best in the business and their engineers seem to produce a couple of amazing repair jobs each season. Their staff in general seem highly motivated whatever the conditions, for which their various managers (and Chris Horner at the top) have to take a lot of credit.

      As to whether Webber can bring a car to the top – that’s just what he and Coulthard did. Webber joined when Red Bull was a low midfield team… four years later he’d come within a whisker of being world champion.

      But finally, your criticism of Vettel just doesn’t fit with your other claims. You say that he and Newey have single-handedly created Red Bull’s domination… but then that Vettel isn’t really that good a driver. You can’t have it both ways.

      Seb is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable racers. Red Bull is one of the most committed and dedicated teams. And together they’ve achieved the kind of success that makes people excited about Formula One – just like Ferrari have done in the past. We should respect that.

      1. Agreed. Webber had a lot of experience at pretty ordinary teams and I think was instrumental in getting RBR to where they are today. Sure, he’s probably past his best driving but you cannot discount the feedback experienced drivers like Coulthard and Webber can provide when given to a team who know what they are hearing and can act on it. Webbers Le Mans experiences with Merc probably helped on the aero side “please keep the shiny side up for me boys”. ;)

    2. And, it really riles me when people say ‘Seb reminds me of Ayrton’ – he is not and will never be an eighth of the driver Ayrton Senna was. Same with Lewis. The only similarity is the yellow paint on his helmet.

      Seb reminds me of Aryton because of his consistent ability to pull out the fastest lap when it counts.

      Vettel and Hamilton are amazing drivers, and depending on what happens in the next few years could be considered to be as good as the very best. Your criticism of them never being “one eighth” the driver Senna was is baseless.

      1. And I forgot add “and disrespectful” to the end of that comment.

      2. Yeah, I know that Senna has something approaching deity status in the sport (and did even before he died), but I’ll never understand why many people are offended to so much as hear a current driver’s name mentioned in the same breath as his. More and more lately it’s Vettel people get upset about, and before that it was Hamilton. Why? They are both likely to be considered among the all-time great F1 drivers, and although we have yet to see how far each will go during the course of their careers, I don’t see how it’s such sacrilege to compare the achievements of either to those of Senna at a comparable point in his career. Yet even Vettel merely mentioning that his situation in the Brazil GP this year had similarities to Senna’s in 1991 was enough to enrage people.

        I haven’t read (and can’t access) that article on the Autosport site, but the moment I saw a headline that included both “Senna” and “Vettel,” I knew trouble would be brewing. It looks like Edd Straw is almost going out of his way to rile people up (and get people to pay to read!) with the way he starts that article, but it doesn’t really take anything that provocative to get people upset. Apparently, just saying “Seb reminds me of Ayrton” is sometimes enough.

        1. because f1 is not the same. The risk is gone. And that’s just enough to make the comparason imposible. How can you compare a guy like vettel with someone like steward for instance. A person who was risking his life every weekend.
          That vettel is a true champion i dont have any doubt, but he had a dominant car, and he knew nothing would happen in the case of an accident. That gives you a confort to be able to push. I said it when he had that accident in the rain in practice i think it was in china. that accident was comparable with the one lauda had at the nurburgring, but the consecuences were not.

          1. I do not believe it is fair to judge today’s drivers as less great just because modern F1 is less dangerous.

          2. themagicofspeed (@)
            24th December 2011, 21:02

            Indeed. The thing with Senna, is that he just had this unexplainable thing about him, it seems to have been his born destiny to be a racing driver and he had the ability to sink far below his concious level, a process that literally drained everything from him, he claimed he could drive the car while not thinking, such was the level of superhuman ability he posessed. I doubt any other racing driver, anywhere, can drive a racing car while in a subconcious ‘second world’. The main event that sticks in the mind is of course Monaco 1988. The Senna film explains all this much better than I ever can – if you havent seen it, you really are missing out.

            Regarding the risk, i must admit that i beleive F1 takes far less skill in 2011 than in say, 1961, when one slight error could result in you dying in a mangled car engulfed in burning fuel.

          3. thnks for agreeing with me themagicofspeed, david a didn’t but didn’t elaborate why.
            Nowadays the cars are faster, but if you david had seen the cars of the 80’s, you would know straight away they were harder to control. More power, less grip. As simple as that, with the added diffiulty of the old race tracks.

          4. These guys can only compete in the cars that are around now, and it doesn’t seem quite reasonable to me to say their skills can never even be considered in relation to those of drivers in the past just because those cars are safer. If what you’re saying is that we’ll simply never know for sure how skillfully or fearlessly Vettel would have raced in a car as dangerous and difficult to handle as Senna’s MP4/6, then yeah — I suppose that might be true. (Although I don’t think it’s the case that today’s F1 drivers “know nothing would happen in the case of an accident.”)

            However, to say it’s useless to make any comparison at all, as though none of the same skills are involved? Not to mention acting like it’s some sort of personal insult to Senna to even consider that another driver’s skills might compare favorably to his? That’s the sort of thing I have trouble swallowing.

          5. @christmas – It isn’t fair to rate today’s drivers down because today’s drivers can only drive what they are given, like the drivers from the 80’s or any other era.

            Even in the 80’s, car designs were somewhat refined to have more aerodynamic grip than say, the wingless F1 cars from the 50s and early 60s. And before the likes of Senna and Prost’s time tracks were being modified for safety reasons or being removed from the calendar. Monza had its chicanes in the 70’s. Rouen was removed in the 60’s. Jarama was deemed too narrow in ’81. Watkins Glen was gone after 1980. I could go on.

            If we keep applying the logic that lower risk = lesser drivers, we certainly wouldn’t talk of Senna as the greatest Grand Prix driver, we would have go back to the pre-F1 era to find him. If you simply appreciate drivers from the past, fine, but it’s unfair (and pretty useless) to automatically consider them greater than today’s drivers because of factors that aren’t even in their control.

          6. good points, david a.
            I consider vettel a true champion, and i said it clear in my first post. But i just don’t consider him at senna’s level.
            I am not judgeing skills here, because if you focus on skills, then peterson, rosberg, gilles and drivers like this, are the ones that will win the price. I am talking the best in every aspect. Prost senna schumacher steward fangio. And not neccesarely in that order. The ones that had everything, and lived in an era when sex was safe and racing was dangerous.

          7. the reasons why some people consider a sin to compare today’s drivers with the legends like senna, it’s because f1 is seen by many as a sorry shadow of what it was in that era, and have a memory of something that was so good, that don’t want to be tainted. Anybody outthere thinks the same?

  13. It was an impressive 2011 fot RBR and Vettel, but for the sake of the sport, I hope a performance like that doesnt happen again anytime soon!

    1. The closest racing happens when the rules stay untouched for several seasons and the teams are not restrained from developing their cars, blame Bernie and the FIA for the inability of the midfield to catch up, not RBR.

  14. Typo Keith:
    ‘Vettel won 12 our of 19 races, the last coming in India’

    He didn’t win 12 races, he won 11.

  15. An amazing year for Red Bull.

    In the past two years we have witnessed complete polar opposites as far as the story of a season goes. Red Bull have been fundamental in that so thank you to them for the wonderful level of entertainment.

    It’s a shame that Webber couldn’t capitalise as much as Vettel, but then again, I’ve enjoyed Vettel’s domination so much. Their reliability could not really be faulted apart from the odd KERS issue, most obvious in Brazil.

    Vettel’s ability to capitalise on the quality and strength of the RB7 demands respect and he certainly has mine. The ability to make the right start and pull out that all important 1s gap is both a testament to man and machine, sheer confidence at the start on relatively cool tyres.

    A year like this may not happen again for a long time so that’s the reason you never found me complaining about it.

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