Saturday, 24 December 2011

Team Season Review: Red Bull

Red Bull did the double for the second year in a row - but much more comfortably this time around.

Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber
Best Finish: 1st (Australia, Malaysia, Turkey, Spain, Monaco, Europe, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, India, Brazil)
Best Qualifying Result: 1st (Australia, Malaysia, China, Turkey, Spain, Monaco, Canada, Europe, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Japan, India, Abu Dhabi, Brazil)
Points: 550
Constructor's Championship: 1st

World Champions in 2010, but only just. They cruised this year, with their star man Sebastian Vettel driving a world class season, winning eleven races. Red Bull won twelve, and were on pole at all but one race. Such was their qualifying dominance that the one time when they were knocked off pole, in Korea, everyone was shocked. They were on the front row at every race, and were on the podium in all but one Grand Prix. It started with a very comfortable pole-win in Melbourne for Vettel, as Webber came home fifth. This Grand Prix set the tone for the year: Vettel flies, while Webber doesn't really get close to the German. It was the same thing in Malaysia, as Vettel marched to the win, with Webber in fourth. In China, Vettel took pole again, but they didn't win for the first time in 2011, with Lewis Hamilton beating Vettel. Mark Webber drove a brilliant race from eighteenth to third. Red Bull were back though in Turkey, taking a fantastic one-two finish as Vettel led Webber home in a comfortable race. Spain, and Webber beat Vettel to pole, but nothing was going to stop the German, as he drove excellently to the win, as Webber came home fourth. At Monaco, Vettel drove one of the best races of his life as he did a genius one-stop strategy to win, as Webber yet again came fourth. Canada, and shock as the team didn't win, Vettel throwing away victory on the last lap, as he and Webber came 2nd and 3rd. However, at this point they had a 69 point lead in the Constructor's Championship, after just seven races. Valencia, and yet another pole-win for Vettel, never looking troubled as Webber took third place. Silverstone was the start of Red Bull's "downfall," finishing second and third, as Alonso beat them to victory. However, many were angry, after Red Bull used team orders on the last lap to tell Webber not to overtake Vettel for 2nd. Vettel endured a scruffy weekend in Germany, finishing fourth as Webber beat him for the first time in 2011, taking third place. They didn't win again in Hungary, as Vettel came 2nd and Webber came fifth. Red Bull were back to form in Belgium though, taking a fantastic one-two finish, with Vettel leading as they strolled on a track they are supposed to be weak at. Ar apparently their worst track, Monza, Vettel, aided by a wonderful overtaking move on Alonso, took victory, while a mistake from Webber meant Red Bull recorded their first DNF of 2011. It was a third straight win in Singapore for Vettel, which meant he needed just a point to take the World Championship. Third in Japan confirmed that, and a Red Bull one-three in Korea (despite missing out ogn pole for the first time in 2011) meant they won the Constructor's Championship. The double for two years in a row, what an impressive feat. Vettel strolled to victory in India, but Webber was only fourth again. Vettel spun off from the lead in Abu Dhabi, and Webber finished fourth, meaning they were off the podium for the first time this year. They finished the year with a lockout of the front row, and Webber taking his first win of the year, at Brazil, to close a fabulous year. The team were amazing, and every element of them was improved on the difficult 2010. They will be incredibly hard to beat in 2012.

Best Finish: 1st (Australia, Malaysia, Turkey, Spain, Monaco, Europe, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea, India)
Points: 392
Driver's Championship: 1st

Vettel on fire in Singapore
Wow, wow, wow. Vettel was supreme. No-one got anywhere close to him. He won the world championship with five races left, even with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher on the grid. He won eleven races, and it all started in Australia. Taking a brilliant pole. he looked far more comfortable, controlled and confident than his messy 2010 season. Another win in Malaysia followed, as he established a 24 point lead after just two races. China was his first non win of 2011, but he was still second, and still drove a great race, with strategy proving crucial. He was back in Turkey though, as he took a comfortable pole, and never looked back, as he dominated in a one-two finish. Vettel was at his very best in Spain. He qualified 2nd, and though he passed Mark Webber at the start, he remained 2nd as Alonso jumped all of them from fourth. However, his excellent driving and defending late on from Lewis Hamilton earnt him a sublime win. Then came Monaco, and possibly Vettel's best drive of the season. He took pole, and led at the start. However, when his first pit stop came, his team made a mistake, and put the prime tyres on, when he was wanting the options. A lightbulb went off in Vettel's head, as he decided he would do a one-stop strategy. This meant he would have to do 60 laps on tyres designed to do 45. He was looking good to do it, and lap after lap, picked the best lines, and defended from Alonso and Button until the death. A crash for Vitaly Petrov brought out the red flag, which meant Vettel was allowed to change tyres. However, he still had to defend, and this does not detract from his magnificent victory on the streets. Next was Canada, and he led all of the extremely wet race, but a mistake on the last lap allowed Jenson Button to take victory, and Vettel finished 2nd. Then came Valencia, and a comfortable win for Vettel, never looking back after taking pole position. Silverstone, and he led at the start, after passing team mate Mark Webber, but an error at the pit stops meant Vettel finished 2nd. Next was his so-called "nightmare" race. It was his home Grand Prix, and he qualified third, his worst since September 2010. He was soon passed by Fernando Alonso, before a very uncharacteristic spin dropped him back from the top 3. He then almost stalled the car in the pits, before beating Felipe Massa on the last lap to fourth place. Hungary was next, and Vettel took pole after missing out on the last two. He led away from the start, gingerly, but surrendered it when he ran wide at Turn 2 on the fifth lap. He was third, but eventually finished 2nd. Belgium, and a great weekend from Vettel. He took a brilliant pole, before losing the lead at the start to Nico Rosberg. Vettel wasn't having that, and produced one of the very best overtakes of the year, passing Rosberg on the outside of the Blanchimont corner on his way to victory. Vettel then took pole yet again at Italy, Red Bull's worst track. He lost the lead at the start to Fernando Alonso, but wasn't to be beaten and made, in my opinion, the best overtake of the year, around the outside of the Curva Grande at 200mph. Then was Singapore, and Vettel took an excellent pole-win, meaning he now needed just one point to take the World Championship, with five races left. He took pole with a stunning lap at Japan, and though he finished 3rd, Vettel was crowned World Champion for the second time. He was back to winning ways in Korea, despite Hamilton beating him to pole, he made an oppurtunistic move on the first lap, and drove possibly his best race to victory, being utterly dominant. Another dominant performance was yet to come in India, easing to victory in the inaugaral race. Abu Dhabi was Vettel's only retirement of 2011. He took pole with an incredible lap, before spinning off at Turn Two, and getting a puncture. The damage was too bad for him to continue, and he retired on the first lap. In Brazil, he drove possibly the best qualifying lap of the year, to take pole, but had to hand victory to team mate Mark Webber when Vettel had a gearbox issue. He still drove very well, and took 2nd place. This closed a near-perfect season for Vettel, when the young German oblitterated the field. It was hard to work out why he had improved so much from 2010, but in September I analysed the reasons, and concluded that winning the championship matured him, and helped him to emerge as one of the true greats of the sport, and he's barely even started yet.

Best Finish: 1st (Brazil)
Points: 258

Driver's Championship: 3rd
Webber wins in Brazil

It must have been incredibly difficult for Webber this year, seeing his team mate do so well while he struggled with the Red Bull. He only took one race win this year, as opposed to four in 2010. He didn't drive badly, but it was just amazing how far he was behind Vettel. In Australia, he qualified third, but finished fifth after a quiet race. Malaysia was the same really, qualifying third, but finishing fourth this time in another race where his team mate cruised to victory. China was his best drive of the season. Red Bull sent him out in Q1 on the prime tyres, and for whatever reason, Webber couldn't get into Q2. This meant he started eighteenth, and fell to twentieth on the first lap. However, Webber drove a marvellous race, battling from the back, to pass various drivers, and the Australian took third place from Jenson Button on the last lap, in one of his best ever drives. Turkey, and Webber proved his overtaking prowess, with his first exhibit in the best overtakes of the year, passing Fernando Alonso to take 2nd place. In Spain, Webber took his first pole of 2011, with a strong lap. However, he was passed by both Vettel and Alonso at the start, and finished a very frustrating fourth. He would've fancied his chances at Monaco, after winning there in 2010, and he qualified third, but yet again made a poor start, and finished fourth. Canada was a good drive from Webber, and after being spun around by Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap, he battled from the back to take 3rd place, with a very strong drive, and easily his best apart from China. In Valencia, Webber produced what he thought was his "best drive of 2011", battling Fernando Alonso hard before losing, and finishing third. Webber took pole at Silverstone, but yet again made a poor start, losing the lead to Vettel. With just a few laps left, he was chasing down his team mate, and looked like he was going to pass him for 2nd place, but wasn't allowed to after his team ordered him to "maintain the gap." Webber was clearly not happy about these team orders, but managed to beat Vettel for the first time in 2011 in the next race. He took his second pole in a row, but lost the lead of the German Grand Prix on the first lap. He drove brilliantly though, and led for some time, but in the end Hamilton and Alonso were just a little too much for him, and he finished third, his fourth third place in a row. At Hungary, he qualified a disappointing sixth, and lost places at the start again, before finishing fifth, in a race he won in 2010. He looked very close to pole in Belgium, but could only qualify third. However, he had a great race, performing an overtake widely regarded as the best of the year, skilfully and bravely passing Fernando Alonso up Eau Rouge, before finishing 2nd. Italy was not a good rae, crashing out after hitting Felipe Massa early on, and recording Red Bull's first DNF of the season. Webber qualified on the front row in Singapore, but lost places at the start again, before making yet another brilliant move on Fernando Alonso, into the chicane, which earnt him his third spot on the overtakes of the season article. He qualified sixth in Japan after a qualifying mix up, and finished fourth. Webber had a good race in Korea, battling extremely hard with Lewis Hamilton, but he simply couldn't find a way past, and had to settle for third place. He was on the front row in India, but was passed by Jenson Button on the opening lap, and then Fernando Alonso beat him at the pit stops, demoting him to fourth. Webber had to make an extra stop in a frustrating Abu Dhabi race, as he came home fourth. However, he ended the season well, driving a great race in Brazil to take the race win, his first of 2011. This win meant he took third in the championship, where he was last year. However, it was still a very average season for Vettel, outqualifed 16-3, and out raced 16-3 also.

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