Red Bull rage throughout worst season since 2008

2015 F1 season review

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Red Bull team stats 2015

Best race result (number)2 (2)
Best grid position (number) 2 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 5 (3/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,107 (97.82%)
Laps led (% of total) 7 (0.65%)
Championship position (2014)4 (2)
Championship points (2014)187 (405)
Pit stop performance ranking3

“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” seemed to be Red Bull’s team motto in 2015.

There had been no mystery about why Red Bull’s championship run came to an end last year. The team’s Renault power unit was neither as powerful nor as reliable as as Mercedes, and although they poached three victories from their silver rivals the team fell to second in standings.

In 2015 Red Bull team principal Christian Horner publicly slated Renault and made preparations to sever ties with the manufacturer despite holding a contract for 2016. If this all seemed a touch excessive, the team’s performance on the track offered some justification: they were even less competitive in year two of F1’s new hybrid engine regulations.

The team left Abu Dhabi with less than half of its 2014 points total having slumped to fourth in the championship – its lowest position since 2008.

Things had looked more promising eight months early when pre-season testing came to an end. The RB11 had run more reliably than its predecessor, partly because Renault were yet to start chasing performance. Once they did, things started to unravel.

“Melbourne from start to finish didn’t go in any way to plan,” reflected Horner in Malaysia. New driver Daniil Kvyat failed to start the race due to a gearbox problem and power delivery problems hampered Daniel Ricciardo from the start – he followed Felipe Nasr’s Sauber home.

Renault made slow progress, not least because it wasn’t sure whether it was going to stick around. For this Red Bull partly had themselves to blame – despite having won four championships with them, Renault believed they had received too little of the credit and had been immediately blamed as the cause for all the team’s ills once the titles went elsewhere.

They had a point, at least early in the season as Red Bull got to grips with a revision to the nose regulations which had forced some rethinking. But even with Adrian Newey no longer masterminding every aspect of the car’s design, their formidable aerodynamic department soon had a solution in place which raised the drivers’ confidence in the car – especially Ricciardo’s.

It quickly became clear that Red Bull would have to focus their efforts on the slowest tracks to maximise their chances of success. In Monaco an error with Ricciardo’s power unit settings in qualifying potentially cost him a much better result, but fourth and fifth was their best so far.

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In Hungary, one of three tracks they won at last year, Ricciardo was again looking competitive but contact from Nico Rosberg ended his hopes of going after eventual winner Sebastian Vettel. He still recovered to third, however, while Kvyat also reached the podium. Ricciardo was strong again in Singapore but with the Safety Car appearing twice Red Bull were never able to play the RB11’s strongest card – its superb downforce aided its drivers in managing the tyres for much longer than its rivals.

Relations between Red Bull and Renault were strained
In the meantime Horner appeared to be conducting his search for an alternative engine supplier as publicly as possible, at least once discussions with the Volkswagen Group were torpedoed when astonishing revelations emerged about how the manufacturer had cheated on emissions tests for its road cars.

Red Bull demand Mercedes or Ferrari supply them with a competitive engine and were declined by both – but this all seemed a bit contrived. Long before the season began Horner had admitted neither would give them an engine to begin with but going through the motions of asking them anyway created a sideshow which arguably suited Horner’s agenda and that of key ally Bernie Ecclestone: claiming the current engine regulations prevent all but the top manufacturer teams from being competitive. Little wonder Horner later backed Ecclestone’s push for an alternative engine formula.

And yet Red Bull had a legitimate grievance about the quality of the job Renault had done. After much to-ing and fro-ing with consultants Ilmor, Renault finally invested the majority of their development tokens in an upgrade which appeared at the penultimate race of the year. It left the one driver who used it 0.4kph slower on the straight than his team mate.

By now it was becoming clear Red Bull had no option other than to stick with Renault for at least another year. A deal to continue using their engines, albeit branded by Tag Heuer, was announced after the final race.

Red Bulls’s repeated threats to quit F1 had always run rather hollow given their previous commitment to remain until 2020, though of course that wasn’t the way Horner explained it. “I think it’s no secret that during the summer that Dietrich Mateschitz became fairly disillusioned with Formula One, with the direction that things were heading,” he said.

“He is probably the most committed supporter of Formula One over the last ten years, if you look at two Grand Prix teams, a Grand Prix on the calendar, the amount of promotion that Red Bull worldwide puts into Formula One, the young driver programmes, investing in youth and young talent, more than probably 1500 employees across the different teams and markets, regarding the two Formula One projects,” he continued.

“I think that having sat and thought about it, he’s decided that there’s too much at stake, that Red Bull have invested so much into the sport that he wants to see the team get back to its former glory.”

By the end of 2015 Red Bull looked a match for anything else in every respect bar their power unit: the team had been strategically sharp as usual (particularly when juggling its drivers in Monaco) and Ricciardo had driven another excellent season. However much their shrill sense of entitlement grated in 2015, there’s no denying the heart of their problem at present is the lump in the back.

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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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12 comments on “Red Bull rage throughout worst season since 2008”

  1. Out of the four power unit manufacturers taking part in this season, Renault seemed to make by far the least progress across the calendar year. We are going to need to see something remarkable from Renault across the winter for Red Bull (and the Renault works team) to realistically stand any chance next year, which seems very unlikely.

    I’m not a gambling person, but even if I was, I wouldn’t put any money on Red Bull returning to championship glory in 2016.

    1. Has anyone stated one way or the other on whether RBR would be upgrading/developing their TAG badged engines separately from the works factory Renault?

  2. Whilst we can hope fora miracle, I agree that there’s not a lot of promise for RBR in 2016.
    They can’t even realistically design their chassis because they have no idea what the PU performance will be like.
    The only certainty is that the PU they get will not be quite as good as the one Renaults work team gets.

    1. You forgot the air quotes around “good”. Renault are utterly hopeless, and with the rules as they stand there is literally nothing Red Bull can do to improve their lot other than persuading a new engine manufacturer to join F1 (near-impossible) or making their own engine from scratch.

      Bad rule-making and an incompetent engine manufacturer were always the problem here, despite the F1Fanatic Authorized Talking Point that it was all Red Bull’s fault for complaining. The anti-Red Bull agenda here is unbelievably petty.

  3. I disagree with the “lack of power” comments, my observation, based on viewing on viewing on board camera video, is the Renault hybrid engine has a similar power capability to the Mercedes and Ferrari engines. This is based on the absolute top straight line speed achieved during a lap. The top straight line speeds achieved by Renault engined cars are similar to those achieved by Mercedes and Ferrari.
    It is probably true the “horsepower” produced by the Renault engine is slightly less than those others, but it isn’t a lot less.
    Since F1 has fuel flow restriction standards, that means when a driver’s foot is “flat to the floor”, all engines are actually running at less than their full power capability because the engine management software “throttles back” the engine to stay within the fuel flow requirements, so all out top speeds and top accelerations are all about the efficiency to produce power of the hybrid engine system.
    It may be this is why Renault engined cars are achieving similar straight line top speeds as their Mercedes and Ferrari counterparts, because when the fuel flow restrictions kick in, then the top speed achieved is really a function of fuel efficiency, meaning Mercedes and Ferrari have similar fuel efficiencies to Renault.
    For Red Bull, this means the hybrid part of the engine is as important as the actual engine. An engine that produces more power by burning more fuel might get you a bit faster, but not a lot faster because you aren’t allowed to burn more fuel, so your car is carrying extra power capability, but not able to use it. You have to get more power by improving the fuel efficiency of the engine-hybrid system.
    As a hypothetical example, you might actually gain “more power” by reducing the unrestricted fuel flow full power capability of the engine, because the gain in power achieved by increased fuel efficiency happened to result in a reduced unrestricted fuel flow full power capability.

    1. @drycrust, I’m amazed you do not see the reality of the power deficit Renault currently has on Mercedes and Ferrari. The disadvantage is real. Sainz was recently quoted saying the Renault is 50-60 bhp down on the Mercedes PU.

      Going by the top speeds, and viewing onboard video’s isn’t going to help you much. Top speed is determined by drag and power, and you can’t see either of them on video.

      1. @me4me: The top speed happens when the drag equals the maximum output from the engine and hybrid unit. If the drag was less than what the hybrid engine produced then the car would go faster, if the drag was more than what the propelling power of the car is, then the car would have to slow down. If two cars have the same top speed then that means at that speed the amount of drag equaled the amount of propelling power for both cars. Maybe one car has slightly more drag than the other, but the one with more drag has to have more propelling power otherwise to compensate for the extra drag, otherwise their top speeds would be different.
        Top straight line speed is the only measurement that I have access to that allows me to compare different cars and engines. It isn’t perfect, but it is enough for me to make some sort of judgment, especially if the top speeds are similar. If they are similar, then that leads me to believe there is more similarity than difference in the power output from the hybrid engine.
        I took some screen shots of the onboard camera video from a GP, I had forgotten to file these in a folder named after the GP concerned, but the photos are dated from 27th August to 29th August, 2015, which leads me to believe they were from the Belgian GP at Spa. I sifted through them and found a Red Bull Racing-Renault doing 340 km/h. It was driven by Daniil Kvyat (DRS enabled), and the engine was rotating at 12067 rpm. At the same race the top speed I recorded for a Mercedes engined car was Romain Grosjean driving for Lotus-Mercedes doing 341 km/h (DRS enabled), and the engine was rotating at 11,881 RPM at the time. I recorded Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen doing 336 km/h and using 11769 RPM to do it.
        I’m not sure if this is the top speed of a Ferrari that I had recorded, since my objective has already been achieved: namely that my claim of a top speed similarity between Renault engined cars and Mercedes and Ferrari powered cars has been substantiated.
        I don’t know enough about aerodynamics to say whether the 1 km/h difference (+ or – a bit for speedometer error) at those speeds would be caused by a 50 hp deficiency or not, but I do know there must be a lot more similarity in total power outputs from all these hybrid engines than differences to have achieved that small difference in top speed.
        I believe my statement made earlier, namely that the power output from a Renault engined cars is similar to that of Mercedes engined cars is correct, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible for a Renault engined car to have a speed deficit of just 1 km/h compared to a 341 km/h Mercedes powered car.
        I don’t know why the Red Bull Racing and STR cars didn’t perform as well as the Mercedes powered cars do, but that is a question for them to answer, not me.

        1. @drycrust, You can’t ignore the fact that all Renault as well as Honda powered cars were much more competitive on circuits were less time was spend on straights, and more in corners.

          Red Bull, STR and also Mclaren have to reduce wing angle to minimize drag and therefor downforce, in order to match the Ferrari and Mercedes powered cars on the straights. Otherwise they would be sitting ducks. This mean they lose time in high and medium speed corners, because they are down on downforce.

          I don’t understand the logic in denying it, it’s a well known fact Renault and Honda are down on power. Even Merdeces powered teams acknowledge that The argument is rather about how much, and if there is any chance for them to catch up over the winter.

  4. shrill sense of entitlement

    is so perfect @keithcollantine.

    Renault really were terrible though. It shows how F1 requires organisations to be perfectly run, too.

    Who is going to be doing Red Bull’s ICE development? Ilmor? I suppose it’s just machining and a big dyno. I’m betting they’ll be allowed LOTS.

  5. I do agree, this season was very wrong for them.

  6. I personally enjoyed Red Bull’s frank and open assessment of the Renault engines. The truth is often shrouded behind no talk clauses and PR spin so when it does slip out I revel in it. For example when the experienced drivers discuss how they really feel about Pirelli or the current engines and the hybrid power performance, so I applaud Horner and Mateschitz for being so vocal in the public eye.

    I’m really hoping that they either sell to a manufacturer or attract a new manufacturer in, but since the FIA/FOM can’t even agree on what the next engines will be and these power units are complete failures, particularly from tthe standpoint of attracting new manufacturers to the sport, it sadly seems unlikely.

  7. I’ve been an RBR fan since they arrived but I fear that next year will be as rough on me as this year was.

    Here’s hoping though.

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