It may be a bit difficult to dredge up some tears for a team that has won four world championships in recent succession but you have to hand it to Red Bull Racing—they’ve had a difficult time of late.
The team had a few of their key members poached by other teams and not just that crack front-office PR woman who welcomes touring dignitaries with a warm smile or the guy who answers the phone with a charm and wit that could be felt over copper phone lines, no, these were head engineers and aerodynamic geniuses like Peter Pedromou.
Then the news came that the head brain and Formula 1 Delphic engineering oracle, Adrian Newey, was about to walk out the door but some crafty re-positioning and big checks convinced him to stay—but he’s not 100% focused on building race cars anymore. No, now he’s open to building boats for Ben Ainslie. This leaves many wondering just how much of Daniel Ricciardo’s 2015 car will be born from the furtive mind of F1’s leading designer.
If that wasn’t difficult enough, your star driver announced he’d be leaving for Ferrari. Sure, Daniel Ricciardo has been a real revelation but Sebastian Vettel is nobody’s chump behind the wheel having delivered four titles in as many years.
To make matters worse, your 2015 season has been a complete reversal of fortunes and heap on to that—you celebrate Sebastian’s departure with a big “thank you” party only to have your office burgled that evening and over 60 of the trophies you fought so hard for stolen. Good grief, this is starting to sound like a filmography for John Hurt of Sean Bean.
As fans were wondering just how Red Bull will fare given Newey’s passion for boat building and the departure of Vettel as well as the anemic power unit that is Renault, Christian Horner bravely answered questions for Sky Sports F1 saying he felt good about 2015:
“Adrian’s still very much involved. He’s still very much involved in the design of next year’s car and he’s going to be around for sure,” Horner said.
“But we’ve got a great line-up. We’ve got strength in depth in the team and some real talent. A lot of teams have been chasing after that talent but we’ve managed to hang onto it.
“In the driver line-up we’ve got Daniel Ricciardo, who demonstrated this year he’s a potential champion. He’s a really exciting star of the future. In Daniil Kvyat as well we’ve got somebody who has got great speed, great potential and it is going to be exciting to see how he develops.”
That all sounds great but the elephant in the room is really the lump isn’t it? Well, Horner didn’t dodge that issue either:
“The prospects are looking good. Renault are obviously working incredibly hard in the window of opportunity that we’ve got and I think we can close that gap,” he added.
“Mercedes have done a wonderful job this year, they’ve stolen a march on everyone and it’s down to us to catch up. But we’re working hard with the guys from Renault, we’re trying to close that gap, and hopefully we can give them a harder time next season.”
Meanwhile, Horner also insisted that the team had no doubts that 20-year-old Kvyat was ready to make the step up to Red Bull to replace the outgoing Vettel.
“If you’re fast enough, you’re old enough. Daniil Kvyat has been fantastic this year,” Horner said. “He’s been incredibly quick in a Toro Rosso and he thoroughly deserved the opportunity.”
Let’s hope those “prospects” are good because if Mercedes gets their continued improvement process down, they will be unstoppable and they will be towing Williams and Lotus in their wake. A wake which could be so big that Red Bull and Ferrari struggle to stay ahead of it and out of its undertow.
Then there is the looming question mark of McLaren and it’s upcoming re-marriage to Honda power. Will this reap the rewards it once did when Ayrton Senna and the team pummeled the competition like an illegal Harp Seal hunter? Can McLaren and Honda start swatting flies straight out of the box in Australia? They might but at this point we have no idea who the hell will be driving for them and that could play a factor as well.
Red Bull have a lot of work ahead of them and the good news is they aren’t short of cash in which to do it. In fact, ask Force India’s Vijay Mallya and he’ll tell you the team are paid to be in F1 while he is paying to be there so that ought to explain a little about the cash-positive position the team are in—or the red ink position Vijay find himself in even with a Mercedes lump. Either way, that’s a good narrative for one team and bad narrative for the other and I think you can tell which is which, right?
Missing 60 trophies? This just might be the kind of team who will simply go back out and win 60 more to fill the holes in their trophy case if the Renault folks get the power right. I don’t put anything out of reach of this highly motivated, well-funded and expertly helmed team and nor should you.
Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1 and the irascible Crofty.