Tag Archives: Red Bull

Pit Stop – Turbo is back with a bang – By Lewis Brearley

Formula One testing gets underway only next week but until then there’s nothing really to except speculate. Who’s going to surprise? Who’s going to fail? How ugly exactly are the new cars?

However, all this is just an exercise in futility so until testing actually happens it’s worth looking back to Formula One’s previous turbo era: 1978 – 1988.

Renault was the very first team to race with a turbocharged engine, a 1.5 litre V6. While at first it was unanimously seen as a joke, slow and extremely unreliable, but by the end of the season the first signs of promise were visible.

The lack of reliability would plague the Renault throughout their span in the sport. Alain Prost had runs at the title in 1981, 1982 and 1983 but was always hampered by his car’s inability to finish.

All this disappointment and the loss of Prost to McLaren, caused Renault to withdraw from the sport at the end of 1985. However their turbo technology had revolutionised the sport.

By 1984 all the teams were using 1.5l turbocharged engines and the McLaren-TAG combination began to dominate despite impressive competition from Williams-Honda, taking three successive drivers’ championships from 1984-1986.

1987 saw the Williams-Honda finally take a driver’s championship with Nelson Piquet after his team mate, Nigel Mansell, severely injured his back which forced him to miss the final two races.

The year after was the final year for the turbos as they were banned for 1989 in a bid to slow the car’s down. But it was the final turbo year – 1988 – which came to define the era that preceded it.

McLaren procured the awesome Honda engine thanks to signing Ayrton Senna, who had built up a close relationship with the Japanese company in his time at Lotus. When combined with Alain Prost, then a double world champion, it delivered a championship double after winning an unprecedented and unbeaten 15 race wins out of 16 races.

The only thing that stopped McLaren taking a 100% sweep was the infamous incident at Monza, where Jean-Louis Schlesser turned in on Senna while being lapped, which cost McLaren the victory.

Despite the fact that the 2014 engines use turbos, the new and upcoming turbo era is going to be very different from the eighties. Whereas the old era was all about pure, awesome power with engines giving out more than 1000bhp when on maximum boost. This new era will be much more focused towards efficiency and refined power.

The turbo itself has a system where a large proportion of the waste heat from inside the turbo is stored and then utilised by the engine.

The style of racing will change for next year and whether it’s popular or not the technology inside the cars is an interesting and impressive step  up from the past few years.

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Pit Stop – Part One of 2014 Season – By Lewis Brearley

It’s scary to think that by the end of this month, pre-season testing in Formula One will already be underway. It gives you a sense of the work rate needed by the teams to get their new cars made and transported to Spain just two months after they packed up their 2013 cars in Sao Paulo.

But this year the turnaround is even more complex than usual. The 2014 cars are designed to brand new technical regulations: new engines, new KERS, new exhausts and new aerodynamics.
When the teams turn up and unveil their new cars on 28 January down at Jerez, Spain a new era of Formula One will begin.

The biggest change will be the introduction of 1.6 litre, turbocharged engines – or “power units” as they are being termed – with much more powerful energy recovery systems than the 2013 cars.

The power unit will contain both a kinetic energy recovery system similar to the ones used in 2013, only more powerful, and a second system which will utilise waste power from the turbo. However, unlike 2013 this energy will be used automatically and not at the press of a button.

Furthermore this system will be restricted to using only 100kg for the entire race with a maximum flow rate of 100kg per hour meaning fuel efficiency may be almost as important as outright power.

Next, the requirement of a single exhaust exiting the centre of the car at an upright angle, eradicating practically all of the downforce derived from blowing the exhaust gases towards the diffuser – Red Bull’s specialty.

The other changes are aerodynamic such as a front wing 75mm narrower and, for safety reasons, a much lower nose. These will affect the flow of air around the entire car and therefore are perhaps much more important than they may first appear.

The decrease in engine power combined with the loss of aerodynamic downforce means the 2014 cars are almost certainly going to be slower than the 2013 cars, as was intended by the regulations. How much slower they will be is unknown however, but the pessimistic predictions of silent cars circling six seconds slower is probably rubbish.

Even if the pace of the cars is much slower, such is the pace of development at the top teams that they will soon close in on the speed of the V8 machines.

The truth is that no one, not even Adrian Newey at Red Bull or Pat Fry at Ferrari, knows what next season will bring and that’s why 2014 is so highly anticipated. By the end of this month the first piece of the puzzle will be in place.

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Pit Stop – F1 changes – By Lewis Brearley

Almost all Formula One fans have ideas about how the sport should be improved. From less prescriptive technical regulations to more prescriptive technical regulations, more durable tyres, less durable tyres, bringing back refuelling, fewer teams, more teams, a budget cap, stopping racing on the newer and less romantic Tilke-designed circuits, there’s myriad ideas, some more worthy than others.

This week, the newly established “Strategy Working Group,” which comprises six team principals and six representatives from both the FOM and the FIA, had their first meeting and agreed on some changes which they believe will improve Formula One.

Firstly they decided to bring in, with immediate effect, permanent numbers for all the drivers. Sebastian Vettel will get the first choice, including the option to use the #1 earned by winning the drivers’ championship, with the others getting their choice in championship order.

This is a pure marketing tool and has been very well received among the fans and drivers alike. Formula One bosses will be hoping that sometime in the future they will be able to match the image and income of Valentino Rossi’s iconic #46 in MotoGP.

However, it’s unclear how the system will be implemented. If a driver retires only to return a couple of years later such as Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher, will their number be kept “on ice” for a couple of years or will they have to pick a new one?

Also, how will the numbers be visible? At the moment the numbers on the cars are too small to even be seen in slow motion close ups, and the teams are unwilling to increase this size for fear of reducing space for paying sponsors.

A number which is therefore only really visible on the driver’s caps and t-shirts before and after races is hardly going to have the same impact as the clear numbers used in MotoGP.

Secondly, a tentative plan to have a workable budget cap for 2015 was announced. Due to Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes’ current blasé and selfish attitudes to the ridiculous current financial situation in Formula One, it’s very unclear how this system will be properly enforced.

It’s certainly very unlikely to be set as low as the $40 million cap pushed by Max Mosley in 2009. The lack of information in the press release itself shows just how early into negotiations this decision is.

A more immediate change to the rules, and the one which has gained the most headlines, is the decision to award double points in next season’s final race.

This means the winner of next year’s Abu Dhabi grand prix, a race seen as one of the least challenging on the calendar, will receive 50 points.

As of now, Vettel is the only man to share his opinion on the issue, calling the whole idea “absurd and unfair,” and he is completely right. Never in the history of Formula One has one race been worth more than others.

This is a purely business-driven move, just like the permanent numbers, as it almost guarantees a final race championship decider, yet this is different as it affects the racing itself.

In football, the goalposts aren’t widened in stoppage time and in a 19-race championship, one race should not outweigh any of the others.

It’s also a sign of Formula One taking a worrying direction towards gimmickry and entertainment and away from sport. What’s to stop a circuit organiser deciding to pay double the hosting fees to get their race billed as a “50 points super-race?” Or giving points for overtaking in the final few laps?

This sort of gimmickry is not what Formula One needs to be entertaining and it’s concerning that the very owners of the sport think it is. They need to have more confidence in their product and remember that when Mika Hakkinen overtook Schumacher at Spa in 2000, or when Raikkonen overtook Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap of the 2005 Japanese grand prix, there were no gimmicks, no double points and no overtaking aids.

Pure racing, rivalries and personalities is what makes Formula One the second most watched sport in the world. There’s no need to dilute that.

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Pit Stop – Webber bows out- By Lewis Brearley

Mark Webber’s gesture of taking off his helmet after the Brazilian grand prix was a perfect summary of his reputation in his sport.

He stated the intention of the gesture was to show to human side to his sport. And of all the Formula One drivers of recent times, Webber has always seemed one of the most human; honest, direct and charming. Always putting the individual over the corporate, while also remaining popular and likeable.

Ever since his debut at his home grand prix in 2002, Webber has stuck to these values and the respect for his talent from his peers has only increased as his career has progressed.

His career began with a three race contract for perennial strugglers Minardi. With minimal backing and without a sparkling junior career, Webber’s prospects for a future in Formula One weren’t strong. So it’s arguable that his extraordinary fifth place finish in his debut race, helped by a heap of good fortune with at least eight faster cars retiring early, was the sole reason Webber lasted more than a season in the sport.

Yet, however fortuitous Webber got in that debut race, for the rest of his career he had to work for every single thing he achieved. From qualifying third at the 2003 Hungarian grand prix for the poor Jaguar team, getting his first win after a drive through penalty at the Nurburgring in 2009; to finishing third in the drivers’ championship three times – 2010, 2011 and 2013.

For his first seven seasons, Webber toiled in the midfield for Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull. Occasionally, his unique blend of hard graft and raw talent allowed him to shine. Times such as the 2006 Monaco grand prix where a probable podium finish was snatched away by a mechanical failure. Or the 2007 Japanese grand prix at the sodden Fuji racetrack, when another likely podium slipped away when a young rookie in another midfield car smashed into him.

It was unknown to everyone at the time, but this rookie would end up becoming an integral part of the Webber story, for it was Sebastian Vettel.

From 2009-2013 Webber had five seasons in a car capable of regularly winning races. And for those five seasons he was partnered in the Red Bull team by Vettel.

In 2009 and 2010 Webber and Vettel were quite even over the course of the seasons with Vettel taking eight wins to Webber’s six. Vettel seemed faster but was prone to crashes and rookie mistakes.

The record from 2011 onwards is less kind to Webber, as Vettel began to dominate the whole sport by utilising the unique aerodynamics of the Red Bull much more effectively, with the win ratio for 2011-2013 ending up as 28 for Vettel and only three for Webber.

This makes the first conclusion of Webber’s career as a good but not great driver. Yet, if Vettel really is as good as some claim, then Webber must go down as one of the best “B-level” drivers along with Rubens Barrichello, Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese. And that’s something that a poor kid from the middle of New South Wales should be very, very proud of.

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Pit Stop – Vettel makes it nine in a row – By Lewis Brearley

So the 2013 Formula One season is now over. Sebastian Vettel equalled the ancient record of nine consecutive grand prix wins set by Alberto Ascari in his Ferrari across the 1952 and 1953 seasons.

The seasons themselves only contained six races back then and the fact it took 60 years for it to be repeated emphasizes just how big of an achievement it is.

Formula One has changed so much in between the ages of Ascari and Vettel. From races where half the grid would fail to reach the chequered flag due to mechanical gremlins and the racetracks were lined with unprotected trees and walls, to almost impeccable reliability and cars and tracks which have to pass strict safety tests before they see any action; yet one thing is constant – the fastest driver and car combination always wins.

The fastest combination by far this season has been Vettel and his Red Bull RB9. Using his superb feel for the delicate Pirelli tyres and the aerodynamic characteristics of 2013 Formula One cars, he has managed to harness phenomenal speed from Adrian Newey’s genius design.

The RB9 was the pick of the field in 2013, especially in the second half of the season post-Hungary. Newey and the Renault engineers managed to smooth the flow of the exhaust gases so that the diffuser was ‘sealed’ more often and more effectively.

This sealing means the disruptive wake caused by the rear wheels does not invade the air flowing through the diffuser, thereby decreasing the air pressure within it. The lower the air pressure, the faster the air can flow through the diffuser and the greater the downforce level produced.

However, harnessing the full benefits of this technology required a certain driving style. As the effect was lost when the driver took his foot of the accelerator, the driver had to cope with oversteer on corner entry. As the car got loose through the middle of the corner, the driver would have to have the confidence and balanced feel of the throttle, to re apply just the right amount of throttle to get the read end working fully again.

If the driver could react to this oversteer and had superb feel, then this combination of an early, sharp turn in and early acceleration led to amazing speed. As the season’s results show, Sebastian Vettel was much more adept at driving in this style than his team mate, Mark Webber.

Yet these characteristics are all gone now. Next year’s cars have a set place for their single exhausts, angled up towards the rear wing. It’s accepted that it will be impossible to redirect the flow towards the diffuser this time.

This all means Vettel’s advantage from the past three years will be wiped out. How he copes with this and how he adapts to the new cars will be his chance to get the last of those pesky critics of his back.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Mark Webber’s illustrious, 215 race long, career.

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Pit Stop – Season Finale – By Lewis Brearley

This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be a historic affair even if Sebastian Vettel doesn’t win and equal both Michael Schumacher’s season win record of 13 and the nine race long consecutive win streak set by Alberto Ascari.

Not only is it the final race of 2013, it is also the final race with the current aerodynamic regulations, the last hurrah for the glorious V8 engines Formula One has used since 2006, Mark Webber’s final grand prix before he moves to the World Endurance Championship and Felipe Massa’s last race in his storied time at Ferrari.

A Webber win with Felipe Massa on the podium would therefore be a perfect way for the 2013 season to sign off. The likelihood of such is low however with Vettel having such a strong advantage over Webber and Ferrari being far off the pace set by both Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes.

No driver has ever won their retirement grand prix and Webber has probably the best chance anyone has ever had to do so and the Aussie is always at his best at the classic racetracks like Interlagos. So for a full Webber appraisal it would be wise to wait until after his 217th grand prix.

While watching this weekend’s Formula One, take a moment to admire the machinery. The current cars with their exhaust blown diffuser technology mastered so brilliantly by Adrian Newey and his Red Bull team have been evolving ever since the regulations were altered in 2009.

The five seasons with the rules have been dominated by Red Bull and their lead driver, Sebastian Vettel who has managed to harness the technology to levels beyond any if his rivals. It has brought him four straight championships and 37 of his 38 career wins – one being before the 2009 changes.

The era of the V8 is longer. The rasping roar of these engines has provided the background noise for eight seasons and will be given a fond farewell at the atmospheric racetrack in the middle of Sao Paulo.

Fernando Alonso took the first win in the V8 era with a Renault engine and with Red Bull so strong and Lotus second best, Renault is very likely to bookend the era with another win.

With this history in mind, the race between the two Red Bulls and the battle for second in the constructors’ championship could be gripping.

While Lotus have the best race car at the moment, Mercedes have a 33 point advantage over the Enstone team. With Ferrari dead in the middle and on a weak run of form, Lotus could nick third from the mighty Scuderia, which for a team having financial difficulties would be a huge boost.

Tune in this weekend, it won’t be “just another Vettel win.”

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Pit Stop -Vettel takes fourth title – By Lewis Brearley

The Buddh circuit pit straight, a Red Bull RB9 and a four time world champion. A series of donuts followed by a bow from driver to car. An exuberant celebration after a flawless and sublime victory in which Sebastian Vettel made the legendary appear easy.

It was an iconic moment on a day when Vettel seemed to finally get the respect he, his team and his fans felt he deserved a long time ago.

Lewis Hamilton, who a few months ago claimed that Vettel was not even in the same class as himself and Fernando Alonso, admitted he might just have got it wrong.

Hamilton was talking after a poor race in which he had been outpaced by his team mate, Nico Rosberg. It’s the frequency of these subdued races that stops Hamilton from putting up any sort of championship challenge against Vettel who himself has worked to make sure every single race is a show of excellence.

Alonso also had a poor race by his own high standards. Outqualified by Felipe Massa, contact on the first lap and a race long struggle to overtake slower cars combined to damage his claim that Vettel is only beating him because he drives a faster car.

This isn’t criticism of Hamilton and Alonso as not even the greatest drivers are perfect. But Vettel is currently the closest of any of the current grid to that perfection. Sure, he does have the fastest car but his team mate – a highly rated race winner and championship challenger – lies fifth in the championship with zero wins in 2013.

Vettel took his sixth consecutive win – becoming only the third man to do so – and his tenth win this season with a perfect performance.

Starting from pole position he pulled out a comfortable gap before he pitted on only the second lap, the extremely short first stint necessitated by the fragility of the Pirelli softs.

This early stop put him right in the centre of the midfield and here was where many expected Mark Webber, on the alternative strategy of starting on the longer lasting hard compound, to gain time.
However, as with so many things this season, Vettel showed his class by pulling off a series of clean and precise overtakes, and also setting fastest laps in the meantime.

Vettel made sure he encountered his victims at the DRS zone and backed off during the fast corners, minimising time spent in a car’s dirty air and therefore minimising tyre wear and lost time.

Towards the final few laps, after Vettel had relentlessly gained a 20 second lead and Webber had retired, the team began to worry that they wouldn’t make the finish with their number one car either.

So paranoid were Red Bull that even Vettel’s KERS and drinks bottle were purposely disabled. Yet Vettel reached the chequered flag and became only the fourth, four time world champion.

A sub plot to all this was Kimi Raikkonen’s spat with his Lotus team. After stupidly getting in the way of team mate Romain Grosjean, Raikkonen was profanely told to move aside. Kimi responded with his own strong words and unsurprisingly is rumoured to have fallen out with the team over the affair to such an extent that on Thursday he hadn’t yet arrived at the Abu Dhabi circuit.
Whether he turns up or not, Vettel will be there. And he’ll probably be leading too.

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It’snowheaven – The Energy Debate – By Jess Softley

With the increased popularity and publicity of snowboarding, riders now have the added pressure of being a good role model for the keen snowboarding followers who look up to them.

For professional snowboarders, it is essential that they gain sponsorship in order to compete at the highest level and progress as athletes.

Recently, sponsorship has been dominated by energy drink brands such as Monster, Red Bull and Relentless, promoting their products through brand visibility and heightened awareness, aligning themselves with adrenaline sports.

For some riders, this kind of sponsorship didn’t sit well with them. This disagreement then lead to the formation of Drink Water, as Bryan Fox and Austin Smith decided to take a moral stand against the promotion of these, arguably unhealthy, substitute drinks.

They first began their movement by writing Drink Water on their snowboards to try and encourage others to do the same. From then, they brought out their own range of jumpers, Tshirts and other merchandise to spread the word of the benefits of drinking pure water.

In order to bring their movement to a wider audience, they set up an annual competition (Rat Race) to increase their publicity and allow riders to compete in an informal laid back environment.

As part of their movement to push the advantages of drinking water, they vouch to pledge 10% of their profits to the charity water.org, to give as much as they can to ensure that fresh water is brought to those living without it.

Don’t take it for granted!

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Pit Stop – Kimi in Demand – By Lewis Brearley

This week Kimi Raikkonen’s management are having a series of meeting with the Lotus team owners, ostensibly to discuss Kimi’s contract extension, but in reality in order to hear persuasions for Kimi to stay.

The timing of the meeting is fine for Lotus, having just powered Kimi to second place in the German grand prix, finishing less than a second behind Sebastian Vettel driving for Kimi’s other prospective employers, Red Bull.

Kimi, as is the case for probably all the drivers on the grid, is enamoured by the promise of driving a Newey-machine; the title-winning Red Bull team having openly sounded out the Finn as a replacement for Mark Webber.

That combined with the challenge of going head to head with a triple world champion is sure to entice one of the best competitors in the history of modern F1.

However, the plusses of being a Lotus driver mean the decision isn’t so straightforward. Less media and corporate days than not just Red Bull, but all of the big teams, give the laconic Finn plenty of space and it’s a relationship he highly enjoys.

Add in the obvious pace of the Lotus E21, as demonstrated on Sunday, and it means plenty of sleepless nights for Kimi.

Kimi’s main doubt about staying with Lotus is that he isn’t convinced that the team can remain as title contenders on a consistent basis.

Indeed it is true that Lotus have a smaller budget than other title contending teams Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes and that they have rarely shown Red Bull rivalling pace this season, with one win to Red Bull’s four.

Lotus though will be eager to point out that they have performed well enough for Kimi to take one win and that he currently lies third in the championship, above Mark Webber – a Red Bull driver – and both Mercedes drivers. This, in addition to the fact that they developed well enough last season that they were the same delta behind Red Bull at the final race in Brazil as they were at the start of the season.

But this is why Kimi’s pure racing instinct leaves him still a distance away from putting pen to paper. “Behind Red Bull.” Not level. Not at the very front where he wants to be.

Events on Sunday perhaps made Kimi’s decision even more difficult. For the first time since Australia Lotus showed pace which was probably just a tad quicker than Red Bull, but still a Red Bull won. Sebastian Vettel’s classy victory, in which he defended impeccably from both Lotus cars and aced the fast laps when needed, takes him to 30 wins, one behind Nigel Mansell who took ten years to achieve such a number.

And perhaps more ominously for his championship rivals, 157 points, 47 more than he had at the same point last year; and 41 ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

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Pit Stop – Team Orders – By Lewis Brearley

It’s the paradox of Formula One. Each car is driven by one person, all aiming for the big prize – the driver’s world champion. Yet they are employed and are responsible for the success of a team spending millions of pounds a year to compete.

Finding the right balance between these two aims has caused problems all the way through the history of F1. In fact, with the extreme determination and hunger for success inherent within an F1 driver, it’s surprising that so few teams currently have issues.

A quick analysis of the current intra-team relationships shows how many teams are managing the situation successfully, while at the same time a couple are having to deal with slight tensions.

The highest profile relationship is the one between the world champion himself and his team mate. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber fell out when they clashed while battling for the lead at the 2010 Turkish grand prix. There’s been a number of other incidents since such as Silverstone 2011 when Webber attacked Vettel for the lead despite being told not to, and most recently the furore at the Malaysian grand prix this year, but despite all this somehow the relationship has managed to remain professional.

Vettel may not have turned up for Webber’s 200th grand prix celebration but the team-mates reportedly still share data and work together behind the scenes.

McLaren may have a brand new driver pairing but already there have been tensions between the two. The events of the Bahrain grand prix, where Sergio Perez hit Jenson Button during an aggressive battle, strained relations between the two.

Button, as the veteran with 12 seasons of experience surely expected to have the upper hand over his young team mate. I’m sure he will be worried about being outperformed by Perez despite his and the team’s claim that everything is harmonious.

Ferrari is famous for having a very different team structure which often leads to fallouts but at the moment is working quite effectively. Having a clearly defined number one, Fernando Alonso, supported by Felipe Massa in 2012 almost converted a mediocre car into a world championship. It surely takes a weaker character alongside a very strong leader to make this work in any form, indeed it’s hard to imagine this style of management working at any other team.

Mercedes is the second team with a brand new line up for 2013. Lewis Hamilton, widely acknowledged as one of the top four drivers on the grid, hasn’t yet got a complete upper hand over Nico Rosberg. While the qualifying record is 3-1 to Hamilton, the gap has been closer than Hamilton’s fans claimed it would be.

The pair have been friends since karting in their childhood and this strength of friendship looks like it might just support the competitive rivalry between the two.

There’s nothing the media and fans love more than a big team mate fallout, however unfortunately for everyone, the likelihood of more happening isn’t as large as some predict.

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