Thursday, April 30, 2009

Red Bull's Growth

Lost a bit in the kerfuffle of the New Diffuser World Order is the fact that Red Bull is surprisingly competitive this year. What makes it surprising is the fact that the car does not yet feature a double diffuser.

While one could wave aside the victory in China as Vettel cementing a reputation as a wet-race specialist, the fact remains that the car was extremely competitive in Bahrain, out shone only by the Brawn and the Toyota.

The records of the first four events show us that the car has qualified extremely well so far this year. Third and tenth in Australia. Third and seventh in Malaysia. First and third in China. Third in Bahrain, with the second car impeded. The car is clearly quick over the short haul, and Vettel's performances in the races make it clear that the car is quick over the long haul as well.

Another interesting thing to think about is the fact that the car features Adrian Newey's pull-rod suspension design. I read somewhere that this design on the rear of the car will make implementing a double diffuser a non-trivial task, due to the spaces that the suspension occupies.

But one really has to ask -- should Red Bull even bother? There are other areas where the car can be improved, and they are clearly not at an excessive disadvantage due to the lack of such a device.

Red Bull has come a long way since their Jaguar roots. I was one of those who wrote off Red Bull's performance their first year as being entirely the result of Jaguar's efforts the year before, and called their purchase of Minardi (or Torro Rosso) as a dangerous over-extension of the team's reasources. The following years proved me correct, as the Red Bulls frequently found themselves circulating with, or even behind, their "junior team" brethren.

Last year showed what the potential of the car was with Vettel's performance in Italy. I believe that Torro Rosso's performance there was almost entirely due to gambling on the wet conditions and being correct, instead of trying to do a safe and conservative compromise. Had the conditions ended up being different, Torro Rosso would not have factored in at all that day. I am not trying to take anything away from Vettel's performance that day, I am just saying that it was Torro Rosso's gamble that gave Vettel the opportunity to shine, and he grabbed it with both hands.

Red Bull is definitely in the "Best Of The Not-Brawn Cars" group, a group which includes Toyota, and possibly McLaren or BMW depending on the day.