Right, we’ve had a look at the new teams coming into the sport, and now we turn our attention to some of the more established players. So, in reverse championship order from last year, here goes…
Over the last few years Red Bull have started to flex their financial muscle, hoovering up and rebranding sporting teams around the world with the wanton abandon of a drug dealer who’s tasted too much of the merchandise. At last count their stash included four football teams, a stock car racing team, and an Austrian ice hockey team. To a certain extent those are all by-the-by though, because what we at F1 Badger really care about is the fact they own not one, but two Formula 1 teams. How very greedy.
After their main team had been in F1 for a year, Red Bull bought Paul Stoddart’s Minardi team in late 2005, immediately renaming it ‘Toro Rosso’ (no prizes for guessing what that means in Italian*). Continuing Minardi’s tradition of giving young drivers a chance in F1 (they’d had such luminaries as Alonso, Trulli, Fisichella, and Webber drive for them previously), Toro Rosso’s function is not to win world championships or even races, but rather to operate as a sister and feeder team for the main Red Bull team. They’re a bit like a finishing school for Formula 1 drivers but, rather than wandering round with books on their heads, the team allows their pupils to drive rather quickly round and round in circles. Thus far only Sebastian Vettel’s really proven to be the real deal; Bourdais, Liuzzi, and Speed all came and went from the team without troubling anyone’s memory unduly.
Last season marked a distinct backwards step for the team. Having only scored one point in their first season but not finished last (Super-Aguri swept in and came to their rescue), eight points in their second season to finish seventh, and then a whopping thirty nine points to finish sixth in 2008 (including a race victory for Sebastian Vettel), last season’s performance was presumably not greeted with great joy anywhere apart from the garage of fellow back-markers Force India. Although the season started well enough, with both Buemi and Bourdais finishing in the points in Australia (seventh and eighth respectively), it was to prove their biggest single race points haul of the season, so it’s probably fair to say things went downhill from there. After a couple of subsequent single point outings in the first half of the season a barren spell of nine races followed, but in the last two races things improved somewhat, picking up a couple of points in Brazil and one in Abu Dhabi, finishing the season, if not in style, with some vestige of respectability.
So, how will they do this season? They unveiled their car on Monday in Valencia and also took part in the first round of pre-season testing. While this doesn’t mean the car is any good, it does mean that they’re one-up on some of the new teams in, you know, actually having a track ready car. Prior to the test, their preparations will have differed significantly from their other seasons in F1, purely down to the fact that under the new Concorde Agreement regulations on so-called ‘customer cars’ have been tightened (the proposed sale of the team due to the rule change hasn’t materialised). No longer able to share design work with the main Red Bull team, this year’s car will be their own creation, so it’ll be very interesting to see how similar the two cars look. Their driver line-up remains the same as last year, with Buemi and Alguersuari (despite his strangely prolonged non-confirmation) sitting behind the wheel. This will obviously be good for consistency within the team, but this year really will be make-or-break for both drivers. Red Bull have shown in the past they don’t hang around if they think their drivers are under-performing, so the pressure will be on to make sure things go well.
Now comes the time for some predictions. Let us know what you think – agree or disagree, we really don’t care; just make sure you get involved!
Minimum target: Being comfortably ahead of the new teams.
Ambitious target: Consistently finishing within the points.
Benson Jamichello’s prediction: Lower midfield, with occasional forays upwards.
* Red Bull…