2013 Team Reviews: Red Bull

The Team Review series draws to a close, but not before the World Champions, Infiniti Red Bull Racing are placed under the microscope. 2013 was an incredible year for the Milton Keynes based team, as the now four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, notched up 13 victories, wrapping up the title in India and claiming an unprecedented nine consecutive wins. With long-time servant of the team Mark Webber announcing his retirement and a dramatic team orders fiasco, 2013 was a year to remember for the Red Bull juggernaut.

The Unstoppable Sebastian 

Even by Vettel’s immensely high expectations, 2013 was an unbelievable campaign. The RB9 was a strong package from the outset and as the paddock arrived in Australia, flashbacks of 2011 left many people anticipating a year of Red Bull domination. However, Vettel and Webber struggled in Australia and despite locking out the front row on Saturday, Sunday was most certainly a different scenario, as Vettel could only manage P3, while Webber fell to P6.
However, Sebastian’s consistency was key in the first half of the campaign. The German never finished outside of the top four in the first seven races, with this streak only broken when Vettel suffered a gearbox failure at Silverstone when he was on course for a victory. Post Silverstone, the German was impeccable, winning each and every race bar the Hungarian Grand Prix. His form was immaculate and he exuded confidence at every event – He never looked like relinquishing his stranglehold of the championship and was able to manage each race from the front. Even Mark Webber, in equally sublime machinery, was unable to halt his teammate’s charge. The post race doughnuts became a formality once the championship was wrapped up in India, with three races remaining.
Meanwhile, Qualifying performances were just as extraordinary. Each time Sebastian competed on option tyres in Q3, he qualified within the top three, (which he achieved in 18 of the 19 rounds.) The one exception came in China, where Red Bull opted to qualify on the prime compound to optimise race strategy. When Vettel hit the track in anger on Saturday’s, he was a potent and consistent competitor.

“Multi-21 Seb, Multi-21?”

One of the most memorable quotes of the season. An exasperated Mark Webber could do little to hide his anguish after a Malaysian Grand Prix which threatened to tear Red Bull apart.
Mark Webber was driving a magnificent race, leading his teammate after jumping him in the first phase of pit-stops. His lead was small, yet as the duo entered their final stint, Webber led the charge. Then came the infamous call of “Multi-21” – Red Bull code identifying the team’s desire for Webber to finish ahead of Vettel, and in this case, telling the drivers to hold station. What came next stunned the pit-wall. Sebastian ignored team-orders and mounted an attack on a defenceless Webber, who had already turned his power output down in the knowledge that he had no threat from behind. After a fierce tussle, Vettel claimed the initiative and went on to take the win.
The situation was dire for Red Bull. Mark Webber felt cheated and Christian Horner’s authority as Team Principal had been undermined. In typical undiplomatic fashion, a furious Webber stated his belief that his teammate would “receive protection as always” when being interviewed live on the podium, making matters worse for his team. The situation was so volatile, initial speculation suggested that Webber may not arrive in China for the next race and instead call time on his career, there and then.      
Of course, the Aussie did respect his contract at Red Bull, but the gloves were off, between him and Vettel – To be honest, the gloves were off since Turkey 2010 quite frankly. This mutual distaste was evident from Sebastian’s press conference on Thursday in Shanghi, when Vettel claimed that he would do the same thing again, should the situation arise. Fortunately for Red Bull senior personnel, the pair never met each other on the circuit for the remainder of the year.

The Aussie’s Departure

After driving for Red Bull since 2007, Mark Webber has been a key feature of the team’s road to success. He was crucial to their development and after claiming an impressive nine race wins, he leaves the sport with fond memories. However, 2013 was unfortunately a season without a victory, (including a bitter day in Malaysia,) yet with five second place finishes, two fires, two poles and a scandalous dispute, 2013 optimises Webber’s dramatic career of highs and lows.
Undoubtedly the best moments of Mark’s season came in Brazil. His final race was a truly memorable one, even before he arrived on the grid. Webber was greeted with an Australian favoured garage, fitted with rugby balls, cricket bats, Australian flags and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ blaring out from the frequently used Red Bull stereo. The race was just as special, as the Aussie met Fernando Alonso on track for another titanic battle to add to their collection. After beating the Ferrari, Mark completed the another Red Bull one-two finish. In a rare display of emotion, Webber removed his helmet on his in-lap, looking to soak up the atmosphere while completing his final miles in an F1 car. It was a beautiful moment which will live long in the memory.

2013 for Red Bull was filled with these special moments. Whether it was Vettel’s crowd-pleasing doughnuts or Webber’s removal of his helmet, Red Bull will have fond memories of the season. After enjoying so many moments throughout the year, the sour events in Malaysia were somewhat forgotten by the end of the campaign. Even Vettel’s boo-brigade had softened to a team who were beginning to resemble the fun-loving, not-too-serious operation that they were before they found success. Lets hope that attitude continues in 2014.      

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