Red Bull show their strength despite engine troubles

2014 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by


Red Bull team stats 2014

Best race result four years (number)1 (3)
Best grid position (number) 2 (5)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 6 (5/1)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,065 (88.7%)
Laps led (% of total) 73 (6.27%)
Championship position (2013)2 (1)
Championship points (2013)405 (596)
Pit stop performance ranking2

Red Bull’s incessant complaints about the direction Formula One took with its engine regulations in 2014 quickly began to grate. But there’s no doubt the root cause of the downfall the champion team of the last four years was F1’s new V6 turbo hybrids – and Renault’s sub-par response to the new challenge.

In order to appreciate just how impressive it was that they ended the year second in the championship with three wins, it’s worth recalling how dire the situation was for Red Bull in three tests prior to the first race of the season at Melbourne.

Mercedes covered a modest 79km on the first day of running in Jerez. But it took Red Bull all of the four-day Spanish test just to accumulate that much. By then Mercedes had logged over 1,300km – more than Red Bull managed until the final day of running in Bahrain. On seven of the twelve test days Red Bull failed to cover more than 100 kilometres.

The RB10 frequently coasted to a halt belching ominous smoke or with flames licking the bodywork. Even hasty modifications to its figure-hugging bodywork were unable to coax it into covering much ground.

Given that, it was truly astonishing how competitive they were from the first race of the year. Daniel Ricciardo brought his car home on the podium, though it was subsequently taken away from him on a technicality.

The disqualifications which bookended Red Bull’s season reveal how the team pushed the rules to their limit in the pursuit of performance. Ricciardo’s car exceeded the new 100kg/hour fuel flow rate limit on more than one occasion during the race, and Red Bull’s attempt to place the blame on the wandering readings given by the FIA’s approved rate meters was given short shrift. Their attempt to reduce the inherent disadvantages of the power unit had backfired.

Abu Dhabi looked like another case of pushing the rules too far. In this instance they had a strong incentive to try it on with the stewards: Red Bull were already locked in to second in the constructors’ championship, and likewise Ricciardo had already secured third in the drivers’ points.

With nothing to lose, why not try to sneak some extra-bendy front wings past the scrutineers? It could have served them very well for 2015 if they hadn’t been rumbled again and sent to the back of the grid.

As in previous seasons, Red Bull pushed the limits of acceptability harder than any other team. Mounting the onboard cameras within its nose was another example of this – an innovation they were ordered to change ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

For all their pre-season problems and the Renault Energy F1’s lack of grunt, Red Bull hit the ground running. They still looked every inch the strategically sharp, well-drilled team of their championship-winning years. It was no surprise at all that on the three occasions Mercedes dropped the ball it was caught by Red Bull every time.

But it was a surprise that Ricciardo, not Sebastian Vettel, claimed each of those victories. When Ricciardo was announced as Vettel’s new team mate last year, some who hadn’t paid attention to the quality of his driving and technical feedback in his Toro Rosso years suggested Red Bull had promoted an unthreatening number two who would give Vettel an easy time. How wrong they were.

The status quo was established early in the season. In Bahrain Vettel made way when told his team mate was coming up behind him, but a similar request at the next round was met with the curt response: “tough luck”. But Ricciardo didn’t need Vettel to get out of his way: two of his wins came in races where he made his way past Vettel, jumping ahead through the pits in Canada and benefiting from a mistake by his team mate in Belgium.

Vettel never looked as settled in the RB10 as Ricciardo did. However he could hang on for a single lap and usually qualified around the same position as his team mate. In Malaysia he came within a few hundredths of beating Lewis Hamilton to pole position in the rain. But over a race stint he often struggled to match Ricciardo’s ability to squeeze an extra few laps out of the tyres.

Vettel reverted to the chassis he had used during testing after the fly-away races, but it brought little in the way of improvements. And he bore the brunt of Red Bull’s reliability problems – dropping out in Australia, Monaco and Austria as well as experiencing several problems in qualifying.

One such fault in Spain left him fifteenth on the grid. He nonetheless fought his way back to finish fourth behind his team mate, a result which highlighted the quality of a chassis which was clearly being held back by its power unit. Red Bull repeated that result in the rain-hit Japanese race, both drivers making excellent passes on the Williams cars around Suzuka’s tricky curves.

Red Bull’s faith in its young driver programme clearly paid off with Ricciardo’s appointment this year. Their success in 2015 will depend partly on whether they’ve got it right again by promoting Daniil Kvyat – and how far Renault can close the gap to Mercedes.

2014 Red Bull race results

AustraliaMalaysiaBahrainChinaSpainMonacoCanadaAustriaBritainGermanyHungaryBelgiumItalySingaporeJapanRussiaUSABrazilAbu Dhabi
Sebastian Vettel3654354756238758
Daniel Ricciardo4433183611534734

2014 F1 season review

Browse all 2014 F1 season review articles

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

17 comments on “Red Bull show their strength despite engine troubles”

  1. Wow, such a – comparatively – huge performance drop towards the end of the season, I didn’t notice it live…

    1. I suspect that, unlike previous seasons where they continued with significant development right up to the final race, this year Red Bull gave up relatively early to devote more resources to next year’s car. Hence the drop off in performance, particularly relative to Williams who were fighting Ferrari for third all the way to Abu Dhabi.

      1. How much can they develope the car? it was fairly good already, the problem (and a big one wich they can’t do anything about it) it’s their PU! imagine if the Renault guys pulled off a good engine? then it will be a good fight with the Mercedes…

    2. I did. It was fairly apparent that the Red Bull was pretty much the second quickest car in the middle of the season but had fallen back behind the Williams by the end of it. Red Bull were somewhat fortunate – and I don’t at all agree with Keith’s attributing this to the skill of the team – that their peak in performance coincided with the majority of Mercedes’ reliability issues.

    3. @atticus-2 If you discard the results for Russia because it didn’t suit their car and Abu Dhabi because they started from the pit lane then their performance towards the end of the season is comparable to the rest of the year. Add in the fact that Massa had a lot better second half of the season and I think RBRs performance holds up pretty well.

    4. I would say Red Bulls performance was one of the most heavily track dependent in the field. On maximum downforce track they had the second quickest car (bar Singapore, where Ferrari had it), but as soon as the full throttle percentage of a circuit stepped over 55%-ish, Williams took them over. In this respect, @jimbo is right, the perceived slump towards the end of the year was indeed made bigger than it was by their complete inability to deal with Sochi. They were about as weak there as in Spielberg. Also, Ricciardo’s back-to-back victories mid-season enlargen this pseudo-slump too.

      So, all in all, I have to revert on my opinion, there was no significant slump, despite new bits coming increasingly rarely to the RB10 towards the end of the year, as @tdog pointed out.

      I have to somewhat counter @ilanin‘s opinion as well. It may have been part-luck with the Mercedes unreliability and intra-team fighting in Canada, Hungary and Belgium, but their Spa victory was nothing short of ‘phenomenal’ in that they countered their top speed deficit excellently by bringing their low downforce package to a track where everyone else (bar Williams) ran with medium downforce.

      1. *tracks and *made look bigger

  2. Didn’t Vettel finish fourth in Spain?

  3. @keithcollantine I think you’ll find that Vettel finished in 4th in Spain rather than 3rd!

  4. Great article! I reckon you were right about Red Bull opting for the illegal wings in Abu Dhabi because they had nothing to lose. Overall, as a Alonso/Ferrari fan, I’m so angry at Ferrari that they got so much testing, the third most, I believe, and yet were outclassed by Red Bull from Day 1 of the actual season

  5. One such fault in Spain left him fifteenth on the grid. He nonetheless fought his way back to finish third behind his team mate

    should that be fourth?

  6. How is Pit stop performance ranking calculated? Fastest overall time all season, mean or variance overall…?

  7. Does anyone else feel that Red Bull are in for a slump? After winning 4 consecutive championships, they’ve lost both Newey and Prodromou, two guys who were key to their fast cars from 2009-2013. Obviously the engine freeze and Renault’s deficit to Mercedes also isn’t helping them. I’d say that Vettel has left the team at the right time.

  8. mighty impressive that when they finished, they never dropped below the top 8 all season. Tell them that at the start of the season, they’d be sending you a strait jacket!

    1. Well, no– Red Bull, while not one of my favorite teams, is very well organized, very well run, and very, very good at seizing the moment (if not the alternator). They also took over the software aspect of the Renault engine, since apparently Renault decided to get the engine working right and *then* worry about the software– a reasonable attitude, unless you never get the engine working right.

      They’re certainly more organized than McLaren who had gained (and lost, and no one knows which hurt/helped more) Sam Michael and Martin Whitmarsh, and waaaay more organized and motivated than Ferrari, which seemed to resemble a scene from West Side Story most of the season. Add to that Lotus’s meltdown, and it’s easy to see how they finished second in the WCC.

      For all of Horner’s moaning and groaning, it’s obvious that while the RB10 wasn’t at the W05’s level of stability and grip, it wasn’t far off, especially once Mercedes lost their FRIC. I don’t believe Horner’s estimate of 75 horsepower differential either– when we had V8’s with KERS, 75 HP was worth about 2-3 seconds per lap, and the Red Bull isn’t THAT much slower.

  9. Wasn’t much to be happy about as a RBR fan near the start of the season but being in Montreal to see Dan take his first win was magical.

    Looking forward to next season!

  10. i’d suggest using more than one basic colour to differentiate two lines on a graph in future…seriously.

Comments are closed.