x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Formula One: Red Bull Racing on track for record year

Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull Racing team have been the dominant force in Formula One since 2009 and together, they could etch their names in the record books this year, writes Graham Caygill.

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, celebrates winning the world championship with his team after the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix at Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo last November. Vettel became Formula One's youngest triple world champion at the age of 25.  Paulo Whitaker / Reuters
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, celebrates winning the world championship with his team after the Brazilian F1 Grand Prix at Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo last November. Vettel became Formula One's youngest triple world champion at the age of 25. Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

The aftermath of the United States Grand Prix in Austin in November. Sebastian Vettel has just finished second to increase his lead over Fernando Alonso to 13 points with just one round remaining.

It is a happy occasion for Red Bull Racing as the 18 points Vettel has won has secured the constructors' championship, which is their third in a row.

While the occasion was marked with a small celebration and a team picture, it was rather a muted affair. The real business was still ahead.

Namely, ensuring that Vettel won his third successive drivers' title, which he would achieve at a soggy Sao Paulo. The party truly started then for Red Bull, both in Brazil and then back at their factory in Milton Keynes, England, a few days later.

While it would be unfair to say that Vettel's success was more important to Red Bull than the team title, they were simply being professional in Austin. They had a job still to do and they celebrated once their work had been done.

But while Vettel's achievement in becoming the youngest triple world champion in the sport's history is deservedly lauded, so Red Bull's team achievement, under the director of Christian Horner, the team principal, and Adrian Newey, the team's chief technical officer, deserves praise.

They have been the dominant force of F1 since 2009, with 34 wins and 46 pole positions.

This is a team that between 1997 and 2008, in its guises of Stewart, Jaguar and then Red Bull, had won only one race, and yet are now the seventh-most successful team in F1 history in terms of wins, and start the coming season with a chance of becoming only the third team to win four team titles on the bounce.

McLaren, between 1998 and 1991, and Ferrari from 1999 to 2004, are the only other teams to achieve that, and both were parts of eras of greatness that were overshadowed by the driver.

Ayrton Senna won his three titles with McLaren in that period, yet such is the Brazilian's legend that it is easy to forget just how good the McLaren was, winning 39 races and taking 52 pole positions during that period.

Likewise, Michael Schumacher's five titles in a row starting in 2000 made him the most successful driver in the sport's history, but it was also the most dominant era by a team as Ferrari won an unpredecented six titles on the spin.

So, Red Bull's achievement should not be taken lightly, and given they are likely to challenge again at the front this season, it should not be under-played, given how competitive F1 is.

McLaren have not won the constructors' title since 1998; Ferrari, after winning eight of 10 titles between 1999 and 2008, have not been in the top two in the standings since; Williams, who dominated the mid-90s with five titles in six years, have not claimed the crown since 1997.

Red Bull's success should not be taken for granted, considering the fact that last season saw five other teams win races and the signs are this year will be equally close.

They, too, are in pursuit of history this year, just like Vettel.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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