Where can Red Bull be threatened now?
25 May, 2010
May. 24 (Daniel Chalmers) In the last two rounds in Spain and Monaco Red Bull has finally started to turn their superiority over the rest of the field into big results. Furthermore it appeared that Adrian Newey waved his magic wand again, and their margin over the rest of the Formula 1 field has increased.
Their pace in Barcelona was more dominant than Brawn GP a year earlier. In 2009 qualifying Button was only 0.133 seconds clear of Sebastien Vettel. Fast forward to 2010 and Mark Webber was a massive 0.834 seconds clear of the first non-Red Bull.
To their rival’s dismay the twisty streets of Monte-Carlo didn’t hault the Red Bull bandwagon.
However the RB6 isn’t perfect. There are weaknesses that their rivals can capitalise on in future races. This season we have seen reliability issues, and errors in the team’s strategy.
Their Renault engine is also down on power in comparison to the Ferrari and Mercedes engines. Red Bull are almost bottom of the order when it comes to straight line speed. In fact Mercedes almost gave Red Bull engines for this season. Just imagine how much quicker the RB6 would have been had that deal taken place.
The car does still have a tendency to eat its tyres. Fortunately for the team we haven’t really had any boiling hot races since Bahrain, which has eased the issue somewhat at the high degradation tracks.
Let’s look ahead to the next five races, and see where McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes will have a chance of posing a challenge to Red Bull
Turkey – Istanbul
In principal Istanbul Park should be a Red Bull track with it’s fast corners. Turn 8 in particular (the triple apex corner) the RB6 should be ultra strong. With their extra downforce they should be able to carry more speed into the corner than any of their rivals.
However this isn’t a guaranteed Red Bull win. Istanbul also features a number of long straights. The cars will exceed 300kph twice in the lap, and go over 280 kph in three other places all on straights. Therefore McLaren with their Mercedes engine and F-duct device will gain quite a bit of time here.
It will be important for Red Bull to ensure their F-duct is ready for this race. Although even if they do have it ready it won’t be as strong as McLaren’s due to the fact that the chassis can’t be changed.
Another feature of Istanbul is that it is high up the list in terms of excessive tyre wear.
Thankfully for Red Bull the race isn’t in the middle of August as it used to be, so the temperature will be in the early 20s rather than mid 30s. This will make tyre wear less of an issue.
Istanbul verdict: Red Bull will win the race, but won’t be as dominant as some are already predicting.
Canada – Montreal
Out of all the races so far this on paper should be the place where Red Bull face the stiffest opposition.
The Gilles Villeneuve circuit addresses many of the car’s weaknesses. More significantly the track doesn’t feature any fast corners. Turn 9 is the fastest corner on the track taken at a mere 160kph. Therefore Red Bull will have no opportunity to utilise the car’s fast corner prowess.
The circuit is simply a number of straights punctuated by chicanes.
On the long back straight the cars will hit 316kph.
At Montreal Red Bull will have to cope with all the slow corners where the car is less efficient, and also suffer from the power disadvantage to it’s main rivals on the straights.
In previous years brake wear has been a huge headache in Montreal. We have already seen Red Bull have issues with their brakes this season so that’s potentially something to look out for.
Montreal verdict: Red Bull will be competitive despite it being a weaker track, but they may have to settle just for the podium here.
European – Valencia
Valencia may be billed as a street track but it’s really anything but. In many ways the configuration is similar to Montreal but with even more importance on straight line speed.
Again like Montreal the circuit is made up of long straights separated by low speed corners. This is another circuit where Red Bull won’t be able to make use of their speed in fast corners.
The circuit features 3 main straights where the cars hit 300kph. Red Bull will suffer down those with the less powerful Renault engine.
Another potentially critical point is the number of turns. Whereas Canada only has 13 corners, Valencia has a whopping 25. Therefore there is more opportunity for those cars strong in slow corners to gain over those cars who aren’t.
Valencia verdict: Red Bull have really struggled at this track in the past. They should be stronger this year, but like Montreal this is another big opportunity for their rivals.
Britain – Silverstone
This track is ultimate Red Bull territory. The RB6’s potential pace around here is quite scary.
Silverstone has all the features Red Bull love. Now with the new Arena section Silverstone is the fastest track on the calendar even ahead of Monza. Although unlike Monza it’s status as a fast track comes from all the circuit’s high-speed corners rather than just long straights.
The first section in particular is where the RB6 will be utterly dominant with it’s superior aerodynamics and downforce. This sector contains Copse, Maggots, Becketts and Chapel, all of which are taken at over 200kph. Copse is taken at nearly 300 kph.
In the new arena section the new abbey corner is said to be reminiscent of Blanchimont in Spa (but right instead of left) which will be taken flat out.
The only downside for Red Bull is that Bridgestone say Silverstone is now likely to be the most abrasive track on the tyres. However with a lack of hot weather in Britain during most summers, this issue is likely to be eased just as it has already has been at other places so far.
Silverstone verdict: Red Bull will be so fast around here that if they really “had wins” they would actually take off. Silverstone used to be an airfield after all. Although Red Bull will hope the British weather won’t intervene to ruin their chances of an easy win.
Germany – Hockenheim
Had F1 still been using the old circuit where long straights went deep into the woods Red Bull would have been worried. Back then it was very much an engine track so Red Bull would have been suffering.
Thankfully for them the circuit is very different now. Overall the track has a mixture of high and slow speed corners. However the track is relatively simple so there isn’t as much opportunity for the fastest cars to force home their advantage. This along with the short lap length means there is the potential for close races here.
Importantly for Red Bull though it’s not a high tyre wear circuit, so this trait on the RB6 won’t cost them much at this circuit.
Hockenheim verdict: It won’t be a dominant performance but Red Bull should have enough to win here.
The last two races may have looked very ominous for all of Red Bull’s rivals, however there are still upcoming opportunities to beat them.
From Red Bull’s point of view it will be very important to secure victory at this weekend’s Turkish GP, as the next two races in Canada and Valencia will be much harder to win.
For McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari they must make sure they make the most of their opportunity in those two races to stay on terms with Red Bull in the championship.
In Monaco they didn’t capitalise. Alonso showed in practice that he had the chance to battle the Red Bulls but blew it when he crashed in free practice. The McLaren also wasn’t particularly suited to Monte-Carlo due to it’s long wheelbase design. Mercedes stopped themselves from scoring a front row start by inadvertently putting their cars together on the track. So maybe you could say Red Bull were slightly flattered in Monaco
It would probably be fair to say that if Red Bull dominated in Valencia and Canada they can dominate anywhere. It may well be the crossroads point in this championship, which tell us if battle is still on, or if some teams may become tempted to give up on 2010 and focus on 2011. Hopefully from a fan’s perspective it’s the former.
In this writer’s opinion it is ridiculous to start saying that the championship is already over. There are still 13 races left, and a lot can still change. Red Bull still have to stay ahead in the development race and not shoot themselves in the foot.