2005 Australian Grand Prix: Given Wings, Will Fly
By: Jeremy McMullen
- Red Bull-Cosworth RB1
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By: Jeremy McMullen
| Motor racing is full of risks. However, most think of those risks existing out on the circuit. Rarely does one think about merely competing being a risk. But in 2005, Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz would take a huge risk. He would give wings to a Formula One team. And as the team set off on the first round of the World Championship, it was clear the risk would take flight.
Three time World Champion Jackie Stewart, and his son Paul, would set about exploring the idea of starting a brand new Formula One team. Paul Stewart, though moderately successful as a driver himself, had built a solid reputation running his own Formula Three and Formula 3000 team Paul Stewart Racing. Of course, Jackie Stewart had a wealth of experience, and connections. Many of those important connections were within the Ford Motor Company. Ford had been the company behind the Cosworth engine that had provided him his three World Championships. Ever since those days in the late 1960s and early 1970s Stewart had maintained strong relationships. And he would fall upon these relationships to start Stewart Grand Prix F1 Team.
Jackie and his son were opposed to the idea of starting a Formula One team originally. However, Ford would step up its involvement. Late in 1995 Jackie would strike a deal with Ford for a five-year development deal. This would make Stewart Grand Prix something of an official factory team. This meant Ford would supply the team with engines. The team would just have to concentrate on building a car. This would set things in motion.
Finally, in 1997, Stewart Grand Prix would make its Formula One debut with its Stewart SF01. Over the course of the '97 and '98 seasons the team would make some modest gains. But it seemed clear the team was heading in the right direction. This would become all the more evident in 1999.
Ford and Cosworth would decide to build an all-new engine heading into the season. Despite some embarrassing teething issues in the first couple of races, the car and the new engine would prove to be a potent combination and it would lead to Johnny Herbert scoring the team's one and only victory in the rain at the European Grand Prix.
Encouraged by the gradual improvement of the team over its three years of existence, Ford would be inclined to buy out the Stewarts and make the team a true factory effort. Purchased from Jackie and Paul, Ford would rebrand the team calling it Jaguar Racing.
Expectations were high coming into the 2000 season. The team had managed to secure the driving talents of Eddie Irvine, who was the runner-up in the Driver's Championship in 1999. Irvine would partner with the team's only race winner Herbert. Backed by a larger influx of resources and capital, it was expected that Jaguar Racing would challenge some of the top teams throughout its first year of racing.
This was not to be. By the end of the season, the team had actually scored worse than when it was Stewart Grand Prix. It was believed the team had all of the necessary elements save for a couple of key positions. This would lead to American champion Bobby Rahal coming on board as Team Manager.
The 2001 season would not start out any better than the previous year and certainly wasn't as good as the final year of Stewart Grand Prix. More changes were believed to be necessary. It was believed a further influx of experience would help the team takeoff. Therefore, three-time World Champion Niki Lauda would come on board also as a Team Manager.
Instead of boosting morale, Lauda's presence, and continued struggles, would cause the team to further slip down in the field. Conflict would arise between Rahal and Lauda which would further cause the team problems. In the interest of resolving the conflicts and helping the team, Rahal would resign after the end of the 2001 season.
Under Lauda's leadership in 2002, the team would continue to flounder, and would even worsen. The costs were causing Ford to weigh the benefits of even having the team given its poor performance. As a result, a timeline for improved results would be given. It would be for 2003 and 2004.
Better use of resources and other obvious changes would help the team keep from slipping further down in the running order at races. But still, the team would continue to regularly score points. The costs associated, and the poor return in points-paying positions, would lead to Ford reduce its involvement, and therefore, its investment in the team.
The 2004 seasons, what would be the last for the team, would see drivers Mark Webber and Christian Klien score just 10 points total. And while Klien would suffer four retirements over the course of the season, Webber would, by far, have the worse of it experiencing eight.
That was it. Not only was Ford tired of the costs and lack of results, but so too was Webber. By the end of the season, Mark had signed a deal to drive for Williams F1 for 2005. And, Ford was looking to unload its huge investment to someone, anyone willing to take a risk.
Enter Dietrich Mateschitz. Famed for being a co-founder of Red Bull, the Austrian would take the risk presented by Ford's desire to sell the Jaguar Team. Mateschitz and the Red Bull name had become very well known for making successful investments and making them payoff even more, but it was believed this would be difficult to do with a Jaguar team that struggled mightily in its final season of existence. Nonetheless, on November 15th of 2004, the final day of the sale, Mateschitz and Red Bull would buy the defunct Jaguar team.
Given the date of the purchase, time was incredibly short to sort a team and make preparations for an upcoming season unless everything remained pretty much the same. It was obvious some drastic changes needed to be made to make the team profitable, so time was even more of an issue since people would be fired and others would be brought on.
It was reported Mateschitz looked to fellow Austrian and grand prix winner Gerhard Berger to take the reigns of the team. However, Berger's involvement with BMW would prevent the move from happening. It was clear the team would need a solid team manager that could take the team to heights it never had achieved over the past five seasons.
Youth and experience are usually not all that common, but it Christian Horner, Mateschitz found about as good a combination of the two possible. Horner had given up racing to focus on being a team manager in Formula 3000. Only in his early thirties, Horner reflected the youthful exuberance that could challenge the team to do great things, but he also had the sober experience of both the racing and the management worlds.
Other key people would be let go. Others would stay. Christian Klien would be the only driver from Jaguar to remain on the drivers roster for 2005. Providing even more experience, David Coulthard was come on after his contract with McLaren-Mercedes expired. Now the team had its experienced grand prix winning driver it needed. The other benefit to Coulthard's presence was his technical abilities. His ability to relate needs and feels to engineers would be invaluable as the team tried to build some early momentum.
In spite of having what was believed to be key people in key places, time was running out. The season was right around the corner. Surely the team would have to make do in some areas. Red Bull would still receive Cosworth engines, which meant its immediate power needs were taken care of. It had also purchased an already existing team with chassis already built. This meant the team could work with what it already had but just make what it believed to be key design changes in order to make the car, and the team, more competitive moving forward.
Using the older Jaguar chassis, the Red Bull team would make some quick changes that would be seen on the newest chassis. Coulthard would then take what was a year old car and would set the fastest time at Barcelona in January. Meanwhile, the rest of the engineers would be back at the team's headquarters preparing the car that would actually take part in the 2005 season.
Finally, the new car would be unveiled at Jerez, Spain on the 7th of February. As expected, Coulthard would be the first to take the new car around the circuit. Being that the car was new, the testing times would reflect the team's methodical and careful approach. As a result, on the first day of testing the team would be down in the lower-third of those on the timing and scoring sheet. However, by the second day, both Coulthard and Klien were in the middle of the pack. By the third, and final, day of testing at Jerez, Coulthard would be 6th fastest amongst 16 drivers.
By the time of the first race of the season it was clear Red Bull was certainly faster than the old Jaguar team had perhaps ever been. The question remained, 'Just how fast?'
The teams would make their way to the southern hemisphere. The destination would be Melbourne, Australia, home of the Australian Grand Prix since 1996. Taking place around the 3.29 mile Albert Park Circuit, the Australian Grand Prix would be a tough opening test for any team given its mixture of fast sweeping corners and straights. Almost constantly turning, the circuit featured a few slow corners and few straight portions of track. However, it flows well and has always been a favorite of the drivers.
For David Coulthard, Melbourne came with different flavors. He had won there twice, but he had also been told to give up another would-be victory back in 1998. Nonetheless, it was a circuit the Scot liked and had fared well at throughout his career. It would be a good opportunity to get the team off to a good start.
The first practice session would be a good one. The team would end up with all of its drivers placing inside the top ten in times. Practice on Saturday would see the circuit in wet conditions with passing showers. Coulthard would take his RB1 and would be amongst the top ten in times in the first practice session on Saturday. In the second practice session, which would be in just damp conditions, Coulthard would be the only one that would be able to stay within in the top ten in times.
Aggregate scoring would be used in qualifying. This would make for an absolute mess in the first round as a passing shower would make the circuit quite wet just about halfway through the session. This meant those that were first out would be able to set faster times than those that had to come out when the circuit was really wet.
Klien and Coulthard would both manage to get out just before the rain started to fall. This meant the circuit would not be dry but it would not be overrun with water. As a result, the two drivers would head out with intermediate tires and would run rather conservative lap times to end up with the 5th and 6th best times of the first qualifying session. Klien would be 5th while Coulthard was 6th.
Sunday morning was the second round of qualifying. While the second round would be in dry conditions, the wild wet weather had already played havoc with the grid. However, by the end of the two days of qualifying Giancarlo Fisichella would be on the pole for Renault with Jarno Trulli alongside in 2nd for Toyota. David Coulthard would head up an all Red Bull third row starting in 5th. Klien would start 6th.
Lining up for the start of the race, the sky was still overcast and still bore a threat of some rain. The temperature was warm but comfortable. When asked before the race about the expectations of the new team starting up toward the front of the field Coulthard would respond, 'You would expect we would have to look in our mirrors but you never know what to expect. We'll see.'
The actual start of the race would be a tell-tale sign that it was the first race of a new season. As the cars prepared for the red lights to go out to start the race, yellow flags would begin waving in earnest as it became apparent that Raikkonen had stalled his car on the grid. Since this happened before the start of the race the cars would be sent around for one more reconnaissance lap. The McLaren team would run to Raikkonen's failed car and would remove it to the pitlane. It would be from here that the Fin would have to start the race should the team manage to get the car running again.
The cars would line up on the grid for a second time preparing for a final start to the 57 lap, 187 mile, race. Finally, the lights would go out and the field would power its way toward the first turn. Fisichella would lead the way with a comfortable margin over Trulli in 2nd place. Webber would be right behind Trulli looking strong for a 3rd place positioning. Jacques Villeneuve would make a poor start and would find David Coulthard right beside him heading down to turn one.
Braking into turn one, Coulthard would make the bravest move of any of the front-runners. He would cross in front of Villeneuve prior to the braking point and then would dive down underneath an unsuspecting Webber. Locking up his front brakes slightly, Coulthard would manage to edge out Webber into the first turn and would take over the 3rd place spot in the running making his way down toward the tight turn three.
By the time the field poured around the final right hander and headed down the start/finish straight Mark Webber, who had left the Jaguar team for Williams, presumably for a better ride, would find himself following his former team in his home grand prix. Webber had left Jaguar because he believed he just would not have an opportunity for top end results and here, almost the very same team was beating him.
Coulthard would be relishing the opportunity. The jump into 3rd place would lead to a tremendous battle between Coulthard and Webber. And while the focus would be on Coulthard in 3rd place, Klien would be just behind Heidfield in 6th.
It was clear that Webber was faster in the early part in the race but Coulthard would be more than enough to keep the Australian behind in him home race. In spite of Webber's best efforts, Coulthard would prove to be able to match him blow for blow.
The race was still going incredibly well for Red Bull even after 15 laps, Coulthard would still be running in 3rd place and Klien would still be keeping touch with Heidfield in 6th. Both cars were well inside the top ten and still looking strong.
But it would almost come to naught just when things couldn't have looked any better. David would be approaching the two Minardis coming out of the tight turn three. After rounding turn four, DC would quickly approach one of the Minardis, much too quickly heading into turn five. Unfortunately, the difference in pace would catch Coulthard off guard. He would lock up his brakes once again and would actually touch the Minardi going into the quick right-hander. This would break off one of the pieces attached to the nose endplates. More importantly, the locked brakes would cause Coulthard to lose a lot of momentum going into the corner. Webber, however, would not be held up, and therefore, would get a run on DC. To protect his position David would go down low which would cause Webber through the grass. In order to save the car and stay out of worse trouble Webber would back out slightly and would maintain his 4th position behind the Scot.
After that close call, Coulthard would push hard. He would overcome the incident by setting what was to be the fastest lap of the race, at that time. This would help to open the gap between himself and Webber back up slightly. Meanwhile, Klien continued to hang onto the back of the group.
Heading into the first round of pitstops Coulthard would find himself as high as 2nd place before coming in himself to make his first stop of the race. At the time he came into the pits he had been flying, but Fernando Alonso would be going even faster in an attempt to leap up the order. However, after the first round of stops cycled through Coulthard would still find himself in 2nd place. Klien would fall back down the running order.
And while many would think the Renault would leave the old Jaguar in the dust, but Coulthard would prove otherwise. His experience would show up as a second and a half difference each and every lap over that of his teammate Klien. He would continue to run fast laps and would actually take little bits from Fisichella's lead lap after lap. What was more, Webber still found himself behind his former team.
As Webber made his second stop, Coulthard would have Barrichello taking over the position behind him and would push the Scot very hard. This would be very important as Coulthard headed into his final stop of the race. Sure enough, as David rejoined the race he would find himself down in 4th place in the running order behind Fisichella, Rubens Barrichello and Fernando Alonso. Still it was shaping up to be one incredible debut. It would look even better with Klien remaining in the top ten as well.
Coming down to the final lap of the race Coulthard was still running in 4th place behind Fisichella, Barrichello and Alonso. He would also have Webber still running behind him in 5th. Out of the 57 lap race the only time in which Webber had actually been in front of Coulthard in his Red Bull was on the short run down to turn one at the start of the race. Had it not been for a scary moment trying to lap Friesacher in a Minardi, Coulthard would have been powering his way to the line with a larger advantage over Webber than what he actually had.
Klien had a battle of his own with Kimi Raikkonen in a McLaren. Less than a second separated the two with Raikkonen gaining at more than a second a lap. However, Klien would battle the Fin hard, not giving up once inch.
Sure enough, Coulthard would take the brand new team and would give it wings. He endured the pressure of Webber each and every lap of the race, and yet, never bowed under the pressure. Coulthard would round the final corner and would put his foot on it for one final time. He would go on to cross the line in 4th place just 16.131 second behind race winner Fisichella. Just under 39 second behind Fisichella would come Klien with Raikkonen all over his tail. But he too would not bend and would score a 7th place finish.
Red Bull Racing couldn't have started out much better. Coulthard had ran in 2nd place for a majority of the race. Both cars remained well inside the top ten and the two cars would leave Australia having earned seven points for the team in the Constructors' Championship. All the team would need was just three more points and it would match the total number earned by Jaguar in its final year of existence.
On a personal level, the race was a bit of vengeance for David Coulthard. He had been basically dropped by McLaren in favor of Juan Pablo Montoya. And yet, at the first race of the season, Coulthard would take a car that formerly was a middle of the pack runner, and with advancements within the design itself, would take the car and would beat both Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya in the race.
Australia would be just one of nineteen races in the 2005 Formula One World Championship season, but it could not have been anymore of watershed moment in the saga of Stewart Grand Prix, Jaguar Racing and Red Bull. How fitting it would be that one of the company's slogans reads, 'No Red Bull, No Wings', for as Jaguar, the team was about to fall out of Formula One consciousness. However, in the hands of David Coulthard, who had taken a huge risk himself in coming to the team, Red Bull would take flight and would cause many to wonder if it could ever become a World Championship winning team. The answer would be emphatically, 'Yes'. Thanks to the risks taken by Mateschitz, Coulthard and others the big red bull would fly higher than any other, twice, and quite possibly even more.
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