Canada was a wake-up call for Red Bull. They might’ve blamed their drivers for the much unwanted Turkish Bull-fight, but Canada was all about the car and the strategy. A gearbox change for Mark Webber effectively ended his chances of wining the race from 7th place. More gearbox problems during the race for Sebastian Vettel meant that he had to back-off and couldn’t challenge the front-runners for a podium. The team made the wrong tyre calls in qualifying and in the race. Add to this, the fact that McLaren have now caught them in terms of car performance. It’s all a bit too much to handle for a team that has never fought at the top before. While the other top teams await their updates, it’s evident that the Mclarens will fight the Red Bulls in most GPs this season.
On Saturday evening, it looked like a good start to their weekend with a 2-3 in qualifying and a radically different tyre strategy that could’ve gone either way. Mark Webber’s 5 place grid penalty certainly caused a dent, but the team were cheering again when Sebastian Vettel made it past Hamilton in the pits on Sunday. For a brief period it looked like the Bulls could finish 1-2, or at least get both cars on the podium.
But their strategy failed, because heavy traffic and a lower than expected performance from the prime tyres meant that their drivers couldn’t keep the pace required to stay ahead of the McLarens. A surprisingly quick Ferrari took more points away and 4th and 5th was the best they could manage.
They’ve lost the lead in both championships, lost the performance advantage of their car, the buddy-buddy atmosphere within the team and the 2009 confidence of Sebastian Vettel. He does look less relaxed and confident than in the past. There is also a lot of chatter about who calls the shots in the team. Chelsea (FC) have shown us what happens when a billionaire interferes with his manager’s decision making. Let’s hope all the cartoons about Dietrich Mateschitz are meant in good humour, and don’t reflect the reality within the team.
McLaren’s ability to bounce back from mediocre season-starts is well known. Ferrari (unfairly) also enjoyed that reputation for a few years. But as the last few seasons have shown, it was actually the Todt-Schumi-Brawn-Byrne team that earned it for them. Red Bull have no reputation. They are writing their own history now, and it can be whatever they want it to be. The next few races will show us (and Red Bull themselves) if they are worthy of being world champions.
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