Now that the 2012 Formula One season has concluded it’s time to reflect and analyse the successes and failures of the drivers and their respective teams.
In this weeks part of the review, it’s the turn of the championship winning team of Red Bull and their drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
It was back down to earth for 2011 championship winners Red Bull at the start of the 2012 season.
After winning 12 out of the previous season’s 19 races and clinching 18 of the pole positions the team struggled initially for pace in the first few flyaway races.
This wasn’t accidental. The FIA enforced stricter regulations surrounding the exhaust blowing technology which the team’s past two championship winning cars were designed around. The exhaust was now in a set position at a set angle and Adrian Newey and his technical department had to set about trying to get the effect back.
As we all know, he eventually did figure it out but for the first half of the season the Red Bull RB8 was unbalanced and only showed flashes of 2011-esque pace.
One such occasion was the European GP where Vettel was truly on song, building up a mega 25 second lead, before having it cruelly snatched by Red Bull’s haunting Achilles heel, the alternator failure.
This loss of exhaust blowing technology and the loss of rear stability that ensued had a negative effect on Sebastian Vettel’s driving. In 2011 he had mastered the counter-intuitive art of applying more throttle to correct oversteer and thereby fully embracing the exhaust blowing effects; and now this was taken away so was his advantage over Mark Webber and Vettel struggled with adapting his driving.
Behind the scenes however Vettel was pushing and working with Newey to get the exhaust blowing effects working properly again, and with the sidepod and exhaust updates Red Bull brought to the Singapore GP and the further updates at the Japanese GP the RB8 suddenly became unstoppable in Vettel’s hands.
Four successive wins in Asia flipped the unpredictable and wide-open nature of the championship into a game of wait-and-hope for the rest of the grid, so powerless they were to take the fight to Vettel on pure pace.
It was also in these races that Vettel put any doubts about whether Webber had his match firmly to bed.
Webber had all the bad luck, including an alternator failure at Austin and being punted innocently out by Romain Grosjean at Suzuka, but it was soon clear that Vettel was the team’s worthy number one and in the superior equipment he was driving was storming straight to his third championship, unforeseen circumstances and faulty alternators notwithstanding.
However in the final pair of races Vettel did get his hand of bad luck, firstly being slowed by a backmarker which cost him the GP victory at Austin and then the shocking shunt at Turn 4 at Interlagos which nearly totalled his car.
Yet despite these, he kept his head – remarkably strong at the age of 25 – and managed to cross the line champion, again.