September 2004, Ford could no longer justify its brand involvement in Formula One. With budgets reaching the insane limits of £300m throughout the paddock, its star marque Jaguar was removed immediately and without apology from the glittering world of international motor sport. Enter the Bull.
Yet it wasn’t the Austrian energy drink giant’s first foray into competitive motor racing. Back in the nineties, the Bull had been a prominent backer of Peter Sauber’s glorious Swiss outfit and truthfully, to understand the real story of Red Bull’s zero to hero impact on the F1-scene; its humble beginnings with Sauber cannot be understated. But come on, this is F1 Badger and there’s a time and a place for all that, it’s called wikipedia.
With a host of very excellent drivers destined to race the car throughout its life, it was considered only right and just that behind the scenes, similar levels of commitment were shown and for 2006, Red Bull bigwig Dietrich Mateschitz (try saying that with a gob full of the stuff) lured the services of F1 starchitect, Adrian Newey for a reported $10million. Wowza! Now, if you’re rolling that Newey with a hint of intonation, let’s just call him the anti-Brawn. But was he worth the money? More than half the grid’s designers would pronounce a resounding yes following near-identical interpretations of the RB5 popping up across car launches this month and last. That being said, he’s yet to bring a championship to the Milton Keynes mecca, something managed with astonishing ease at McLaren and Williams. The jury’s still out.
So it took a while, but less than a year after its little sister Scuderia Toro Rosso took its first win with the peerless Sebastian Vettel at a waterlogged Monza in 2008, the little fella managed it again (in the wet) at the Chinese Grand Prix. In just three and a bit seasons, the Bull were being considered as serious championship contenders, albeit against a team that almost became extinct over the winter break.
But to abandon the facts for a moment, just look at them, they’re style-makers! OK… we’re not talking levels of Eddie Jordan-style making, but the brand-synergy and tie-ins with extreme sports like BMW BMX and snowboarding has helped recapture some of the youthfulness and risk-taking associated with F1 of old. Certainly Vettel and his beanie have helped develop the informal character of a team that is rarely far from the centre of a party, but with the strong-willed Webber, Red Bull have hit upon a pairing that has the potential to win championships. Last year was more than evidence for this.
Now, 2010 should be interesting. With more than half the field copying their car design, there’s a chance they’ll have lost their competitive advantage But if the Badger knows Newey, and let’s just say, there’s history, then 2010’s challenger will be every bit the charger it’s proving to be in testing. This year will be a four-way battle, it’s a fact that has been reinforced by returning giant Michael Schumacher, but whilst we know who one of the teams will be, just who else will be running with the bulls come Bahrain?
And yes, this journo will be sporting a rather ill-fitting Red Bull T over yet to be tackled Christmas cheer for 2010. ‘Mon the Bull!
Minimum target: After last season, the minimum will be a repeat performance
Ambitious target: Both Constructors and Drivers World Championship titles
Ciaran Buttonham’s prediction: RBR to be in the thick of the constructors title to the end and Vettel in contention of the Drivers crown at the final showdown in Abu Dhabi (yes, I am definitely on the fence)