Red Bull Renault RB6 Season in Review: The Evolution of a Champion
In five very short years Red Bull Racing has achieved what neither Jaguar or Stewart-Ford racing could in almost ten, win either a driver's or constructor's world championship title. Jaguar bought out the struggling Stewart-Ford team. Then, in 2004, Red Bull came in and bought the defunct Jaguar Racing team. The thought was, amongst the Jaguar members, that nothing would change. But to win a championship, something which Jaguar had not been able to do, it was obvious things would have to change. Many people were replaced; Christian Horner was brought in as Team Director, and from the very start it was apparent Red Bull would be a competitor to be contended with at each race. Ever since its first race at Melbourne in 2005, when David Coulthard was able to shoot up into 4th place at the first corner, run as high as second and end up finishing the race a surprising fourth, it was clear Red Bull meant to contend not only for good finishes, but victories. But when Adrian Newey came on board, despite the early struggles, it also became clear Red Bull would, at some point in time, become a champion.
In 2009, Brawn GP took the rules and 'stretched' them a bit to come up with the double-diffuser. This, in many ways, helped to make Brawn GP untouchable throughout the early part of the championship. Newey's Red Bull RB5, while much better and more reliable than its predecessors, still was running near the front but wasn't quite a front-runner. Then, when Newey utilized the same controversial technology the technical mastery of Adrian Newey really showed, and it took the RB5 to the head of the class. This was underscored by three straight victories at the end of the season and the runner-up position in the constructor's championship. Red Bull was poised for a real run at the championships.
All through 2010, similar to its logo, Red Bull really had wings. However, the team struggled with execution and with constantly improving competition. This required the team to make adjustments in all areas to help ensure success moving forward. Additionally, a championship winning car has to go through an evolutionary process throughout the course of a season to achieve and maintain an advantage for its driver against its competitors. The Red Bull RB6 went through such an evolution.
In and of itself, the RB5 was a radical car with its high V-shaped nose and tightly wrapped rear-end. Of course, the RB5 that disappeared into the off-season had evolved from the RB5 which started the 2009 season. What was impossible to hide was the performance from which Adrian Newey had to build his 2010 challenger. The high, wide nose, the pull-rod suspension, the low-positioned exhaust and the end-plate supported rear wing were all good elements from which to develop a new car. When these elements were put together with the Renault RS27 engine Adrian Newey had all the makings of a champion.
What came out from under wraps at Jerez in February bore quite a striking resemblance to the RB5. But, upon further inspection, it was apparent the RB6 was based upon the components that made the RB5 a major contender, only refined and updated to become the out-right favorite to win the championship. Proven to be the class of the field at the end of 2009, it wasn't too surprising the RB6 that was uncovered wasn't all that aesthetically different than its predecessor. However, there were some very important differences in the RB6.
The RB6 was unveiled with the similar tall, wide retro-radical nose arrangement as existed on the latter generation of the RB5. The RB6 came with a revised front wing. The deck of the main wing was made up of one main non-adjustable cambered element along with multiple cascading wing planes. The wing endplates retained the specially shaped contours, which help direct airflow to the underside of the car.
As with the RB5, the nose of the RB6 sits tall. This increases the volume of airflow through and around the car. Due to the high nose, the lower suspension elements attach to the main nose structure so close that it appears as if one hinged attach point. The tall nose and suspension pieces attaching to the taller nose structure leaves the area under the driver's legs open and relatively free of obstructions. Before running into the T-shaped skidplate and splitter, the airflow only runs into a ride-height sensor and a vertical support element that stiffens the front edge of the skidplate and splitter. The T-shaped skidplate helps to direct airflow under and around the car.
The sidepods of the RB6 are greatly sculptured. They are tight to the chassis structure at the bottom and then contour out to the rounded sidepod edges. Adrian Newey's team incorporated a bargeboard to help control the airflow around the sidepod. The bargeboard takes and directs the airflow out and around the side of the car, but, helps to keep it tight to the car so as to limit any hindrance with the on-coming airflow. To further aid with this, a vertical turning vane that attached to the outer part of the sidepod was integrated into the RB6. Adrian Newey's design team decided to locate the rear-view mirrors out on this turning vane.
Some of the real interesting parts of the RB6 come into play as one moves toward the rear of the car. Now, the airbox and engine cowling remain similar to some of Newey's previous Red Bull designs. The airbox retains the slotted gap that feeds air down through the back of the engine cowling and out over the gearbox and lower portion of the rear wing.
There are a number of differences, however, back near the rear wheels. The number of differences, when compared to Newey's other cars and those of other teams, are considerable. One of the first differences to be noticed would have to be the use of pull-rod suspension for the rear tires. This arrangement actually cleans up the area between the suspension and gearbox housing and the rear wheel. This helps to increase efficiency of airflow to the top and sides of the diffuser. In addition to cleaning up the area to help with airflow to the splitter, the design of the rear-end of the car also helped to make it possible to make the rear-end tighter, which also increases the flow of air to the rear diffuser. In an attempt to keep the rear as tight as possible, the RB6 exhaust exits are lower than many other teams's designs. Red Bull located its exhaust down near the suspension wishbones.
Rarely is it the case that the car that is unveiled remains unchanged even before the first race. Computer simulations and fluid dynamics can only go so far. They are a great help but there is always room for tweaking. The RB6 was no exception. Of course, every aspect of Formula One is a strategy to defeat one's opponents, including timing of changes.
Coming into the first race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Red Bull RB6 arrived with one very noticeable change, even from what had been tested only a couple of weeks prior. The nature of the change would beg the question as to whether Adrian Newey knew all along they were going to make this change, but, were waiting till the last moment.
Auto racing, like a war, is made up of a series of battles whereby the victor of the whole becomes declared. To be a champion one needs to be able to adapt in order to counter the opposition's adaptations. Also, one needs to work hard to maintain any advantage the one may have had in order to provide the best opportunity for success. Newey had designed many championship winning cars. He knew he could not sit back and rely upon the RB6, as it was unveiled, to carry the team to overall victory. He needed to maintain the advantage. Therefore, when the team arrived in Bahrain for the first race of the 2010 season, the RB6 had undergone some changes in an effort to stay ahead of its opponents. These changes were most likely incorporated right before the start of the season in order to provide Red Bull with the greatest advantage possible. By introducing the changes right before the first race other teams didn't have the time to test and incorporate similar ideas to their own cars.
The main difference to the RB6 at Bahrain from that which first turned a wheel a couple of months prior was a new location for the car's exhaust. In the new position exhaust exits the car down below the suspension wishbones. This is advantageous as it increases the flow of air over the side channel of the rear diffuser helping to increase the amount of all-important downforce. Of course it did pose a potential cooling problem as the exit was very near the inside of the rear wheels. A small vertical vane running to the inside of the tire and fixed to the tea deck obviously was meant to help channel airflow, both approaching the rear wheel from along the side of the car, but also, to help direct the hot exhaust airflow toward the back of the car and away from the tire.
In qualifying, Red Bull started 1st and 6th. Sebastian Vettel, the class of the field, took the pole with a time that was over a tenth of second faster than Felippe Massa in his Ferrari. This performance was helped, in no small way, by the changes made to the car before the team arrived for the race. Based upon the results of qualifying it would appear the race was going to be an easy victory for the winged bulls. But, as in battle, having the most advanced weapons only provides the best opportunity for success. It doesn't necessarily ensure victory. This fact would become apparent during the race.
Initially, things looked worrisome and great. At turn one, Mark Webber's RB6 spouted a worrisome amount of oil smoke while Vettel disappeared into the distance. Webber was never able to get going but Sebastian appeared on course to victory, that is, until after the first stop for tires. A spark plug problem began to slow the German until he was passed by Alonso for the lead. From that point on, Vettel was in a defensive position. Unfortunately, he could not hold others back. He would end up finishing the race in 4th after looking so dominate early on in the race. Webber finished the Bahrain GP in 8th.
It was obvious the car had the performance. However, little problems plagued the team from being able to take advantage of the obvious gap the RB6 had over its competition. All in all, this was a good sign. If the team could find and rectify the small issues then it wasn't too much to believe the results were going to get better. Therefore, the team made no drastic changes to the car for the next race at Melbourne, Australia.
At Australia, things looked even better. Vettel, once again, took the pole. However, things looked even better when Mark was able to start the race from alongside in 2nd. This was the first time in the team's history that they ever had their two cars start a race one-two. At the start of the race Vettel again looked good. Webber also looked on pace for a good result despite the wet conditions. The weather, however, would prove to be part of the undoing for Red Bull. Mark would end up finishing the race in 9th. Sebastian's race totally came unglued when he suffered from a tire issue. This was the second time the tire was coming loose. It had done it during Friday practice at Bahrain, and then, in Australia. Because the tire was coming loose from his car, Vettel was forced to retire.
The main focus, as the season arrived in Malaysia, was the tire issue. The performance of the RB6 was still such that the team didn't make any huge changes in preparation for the third round of the championship. However, the team did go to work testing the wheels heavily to try and make sure the tire issues would not resurface.
As it had for the first two races, things looked good for the team after qualifying. Mark Webber took the pole this time. Sebastian qualified 3rd for the race. Finally, the Red Bull team would look like the championship contenders everyone thought they would be. Webber had a slow start away from the line. Vettel catapulted at the start and was able to take the lead after the first turn. From then on, the RB6 looked wonderful. The Red Bull teammates pulled away from the other cars in the field. Red Bull put the final exclamation on their dominance as it was able to have their cars finish one-two. Finally, Red Bull's championship aspirations got on track.
When the season gets underway, the job of the design team isn't over. In fact, as the team arrived for the Chinese Grand Prix, a number of changes had been made to the RB6. The majority of the changes could be found up by the nose of the car. The team introduced a new modified front wing. This modified front wing would spark the controversy the team would face for much of the season. At speed, the design elements of the wing, along with the elasticity incorporated into the design, would cause the tips of the wings to droop down and practically touch the track. Moveable aerodynamic devices are banned in Formula One and many teams felt this wing was in direct violation of that rule. In addition to the modified front wing, two turning vanes attached to the underside of the nose were found on the RB6. These turning vanes helped to control and direct airflow toward the sidepods and around the car.
The other major change Red Bull applied to their RB6 was found at the other end of the car. In an attempt to protect the rear wheel from the hot exhaust gases, and, to further help make the rear diffuser as efficient as possible, the team incorporated a vertical duct inside the rear wheels of the car. This duct helps to channel the hot exhaust away from the rear tires and back toward the rear diffuser. There is also an opening within the diffuser. This allows the hot exhaust gases to actually channel into the diffuser as if coming from underneath the car. It is the rush of air from under the car expanding as it leaves out the back that gives the car the suction that pulls it to the pavement. By channeling this air into that part of the diffuser, more air, in essence, flows from underneath the car and, thereby, increases downforce at the back of the car without having to increase wing angles. Without having to increase wing angles, increased airflow from the diffuser increases downforce without the drag penalty. Of course, using exhaust gases for airflow becomes variable as volume and strength is directly related to how much the gas pedal is depressed. Less effect is gained from the exhaust blown diffuser during breaking and cornering (when it's needed) as compared to when the power is down and the car is accelerating.
Despite the obvious short-comings, the changes appeared to have a good effect as Red Bull was able to qualify one-two for the second time of the season and for the second time in four races. The race itself would be wild, wet and crazy. Both the Red Bull cars got jumped at the start and would begin to continue to slip back in the field as the race wore on and the weather got worse. The weather was able to undo the performance advantage of the RB6 to the point that it appeared like just another car out on the track. Mark Webber finished the race in 8th over 50 seconds behind race winner Jenson Button. Sebastian Vettel would finish in 6th. The team had been able to secure points toward the championship, but this was bitter disappointment after the team's cars started the race from the first-two spots on the grid.
Up until this part of the season, Red Bull had been the team with the greatest promise, but, was having a rather frustrating un-realization of that promise. In Spain, one of the team's drivers would experience the potential of what the RB6 could offer, while the other would continue to suffer from intriguing problems. During qualifying for the Telefonica Spanish Grand Prix, Red Bull continued to dominate. It was obvious the team still had a very fast car. However, it was apparent there was still work to do. Mark Webber out-dueled his teammate this time to take the pole.
Going into turn one, Webber was able to hold station over Vettel. It was Red Bull, one-two, throughout the early part of the race. Lewis Hamilton was able to overtake Sebastian during pitstops. Webber had disappeared into the distance. As the race continued on Vettel began to suffer from failing brakes until he overshot one of the corners due to his brakes having faded almost completely. This led to Vettel backing off. However, he had enough of a gap on Michael Schumacher to finish the race 3rd. Webber was unaffected by any problems and dominated the race. Mark would end up winning the race over country hero Fernando Alonso by almost 25 seconds.
Coming into Formula One's crown jewel race in Monaco, Red Bull was still suffering from some rather abnormal problems. In qualifying, the team could get both cars to work almost perfectly. During the races, however, it was still a struggle to get both cars to have trouble free runs. Due to the struggles Sebastian had faced in Spain the team focused on their brake discs which faded badly for the German. As a result, Red Bull talked with their brake disc supplier Brembo to supply a different type of disc with differently shaped holes to affect cooling.
At Monaco, during qualifying, the best laps were coming down into the low one minute and fourteen seconds range. Sebastian Vettel's best lap was 1:14.227. This was good enough for him to start the race from 3rd on the grid. It seemed that Robert Kubica would be able to take the pole for Renault with a time one tenth faster. However, nobody could touch Mark Webber. While most of the attention was on Kubica and Vettel, Mark quietly, but poignantly, took the pole, not by a matter of thousands of a seconds, but by over two tenths of a second! This made it six-straight poles scored by Red Bull.
At the start of the race Robert Kubica was slow off the line and this enabled Vettel to take over second, while Mark got away well in first. From that point on, Red Bull dominated the race. At a race where one misstep would lead to a very quick end, the Red Bull team ran a race very close to perfection. Part of perfection is being able to avoid disaster when it takes place. In Mark Webber's case the disaster took place right in front of him. When Karun Chandhok and Jarno Trulli came together as La Rascasse it happened right in front of Mark Webber. However, Webber was able to make it through and ended up winning the race with Sebastian coming in second. This was a wonderful result at Formula One's premier event.
Although the team had been able to achieve a wonderful one-two result on the streets of Monaco, the performance of other teams was starting to close the gap. In the all important race to maintain a performance advantage the team tested its own version of the ever-increasingly popular F-Duct system during practice for the Turkish Grand Prix. Following the example set by McLaren, Red Bull incorporated a system of two ducts to direct airflow at the rear of the car. The lower duct runs air through it without affecting anything. When the system is engaged, airflow from the top duct feeds through slots in the main plane of the rear wing. By feeding air through the tiny slot the airflow going under the wing, and then, directed up to create the car's downforce at the rear becomes disturbed, thereby stalling the rear wing. By stalling the rear wing at speed the drag is also reduced. Lower drag means higher speeds. The team tested its system during practice, but, during qualifying and the race, the team opted not to use it.
The team suffered no loss not using the F-Duct system during qualifying. In what could have been described as a career resurgence, Mark Webber took yet another pole for the 2010 season. Lewis Hamilton was almost two tenths of a second slower in second place on the starting grid. Hamilton, though slower, was able to beat out Vettel for second, thereby breaking up Red Bull's string of one-two starts. Vettel did start the race third with a time almost a half of a second slower than Mark's.
The results of qualifying made it appear that things looked rather good for the team. However, the tensions that were rumored to exist and brewing overflowed during the race and almost spelled an end to any title hopes. At the start, things went well. Lewis made a poor start, while Sebastian got off the line very well. This meant Red Bull led one-two through the first turn. Hamilton's McLaren had superior speed and was able to challenge, and even get by, Vettel. Vettel was able to leap back in front of Lewis after pitstops. Under the threat of rain, the two Red Bull pilots were battling it out side-by-side. Then, just like that, it appeared the season came undone. Webber pushed Vettel to the very edge of the track, and then, slid over slightly touching Sebastian and sending him out of the race. Despite the damage to Mark's car, he was able to make it back to the pits for some repairs. Lewis Hamilton won the race. His teammate, and reigning world champion, Jenson Button, came in second. Mark kept his title hopes alive by finishing the race third.
It was obvious that many of the other teams actually had cars capable of higher top-end speeds. The pace of the Ferrari and McLaren on the long straight in Turkey revealed Red Bull had other things to think about besides the internal riff that was truly exposing itself. Heading to Canada, another high-speed circuit, Red Bull had to put these problems aside and try and deal with the its competitor's greater top-end speed.
Canada is mostly a high-speed circuit, but it does have just a couple of areas where aerodynamic grip is very important. To help its cars have the greatest speed advantage, while maintaining a certain level of downforce, Red Bull's designers created a new front wing. The main plane was wider and with one single piece compared to what the team had been running to that point. Also, there were two slot openings in the endplate. This helped to control airflow out near the front wheels by preventing the formation of a vortex in that area. The presence of a vortex reduces stability. The team practiced with this new front wing, but, during qualifying and the race, this wing was abandoned in favor of the style that had been used to that point of the season.
It's hard to say whether the changes to the front wing would have made much of a difference or not, but the reality was that during qualifying Red Bull's strangle hold on pole-position was broken. In fact, this was the first time all-season that a team other than Red Bull had sat on the pole. Lewis Hamilton had beaten out Mark Webber for the pole by over two tenths of a second. Sebastian Vettel qualified third, yet another tenth slower.
As the race got underway, as is usual for Canada's first couple of turns, there was a bit of a pile-up and many top team cars suffered damage. The Red Bull cars got away without too much trouble and were looking strong, but still out-paced. On a whole, the race was rather uneventful for the team, which was good after the embarrassment in Turkey. The drivers had to push so hard to really keep up that the tires started to fade on them. This allowed Lewis and Jenson to get by, as well as, Fernando Alonso. The top three were within ten seconds of each other. But, there was another twenty seconds between third place Alonso and fourth place Vettel, who was followed by Webber who was another two seconds in arrears. All-in-all, Red Bull did not look like the dominate car throughout the weekend, but the team had been able to leave the race with both cars having scored points toward the driver's and constructor's championship.
Two weeks after the race in Montreal, the teams headed back to the European continent for the European Grand Prix held in Valencia, Spain. The race in Valencia took place on the city streets down among the harbor-front. The twisty layout played back into the hands of the RB6 and that truth was evidenced in qualifying yet again. The twisty layout placed a premium on brake wear; something Red Bull had been struggling with. To help keep the brakes cool, Red Bull caught up with other teams by positioning the brake ducts out at the leading edge of the tire. A panel aided in smoothing and directing airflow into the cooling ducts.
This time, Vettel claimed the top spot on the starting grid with Webber beside him. Less than one tenth of a second separated the two drivers. However, there was almost a half of a second gap between Vettel's pole time and that of Lewis Hamilton's third place qualifying effort.
The race, itself, was quite revealing. It was revealing not so much in terms of who ended up winning and who else finished on the podium. It was more revealing as to the technology incorporated into the RB6. After a slow start by both of the Red Bull drivers the field was quite bunched up throughout the course of the first couple of laps. Mark ended up touching with another car and needed to have a tire changed. This dropped him down in the field and he needed to push to get back toward the front. Webber ended up making an error when trying to pass a slower car. This miscalculation in judgement sent him flipping into the air. This miscalculation gave all the world a look at the underside of the RB6. All could see the openings under the car to the double diffuser; an important piece to Red Bull's success. Despite Mark flipping out of the race, Vettel went on to win by five seconds over Lewis Hamilton.
The victory in Valencia helped to keep Sebastian's championship hopes on track. To further aid those hopes as the season headed to England, the team incorporated another couple of design changes to the RB6. These changes were rather important ones.
First of all, Red Bull almost totally revised their car's front wing for the British Grand Prix. The camera position was moved down to between the twin support pillars underneath the nose. The camera position, in conjunction with the wing, created greater downforce in the middle part of the front wing than had been produced on the previous designs. This increase of downforce in the middle of the wing enabled the technical designers to reduce the main plane angle, thereby, decreasing drag. The twin slots in the endplate; that was tested in Canada, returned.
The other important design change to the RB6 for the British Grand Prix was the diffuser. Instead of squared-off tops to the diffuser. The car was revealed to have arched, or, rounded tops where the vertical planes met the top part of the diffuser. Also, like the McLaren, the absolute outer tip of the diffuser came to a point instead of remaining rounded as it had been. This part of the design had been introduced in Valencia and retained for Silverstone. The rounded tops of the undersides of the diffuser helped to create a vortex action. This is due to the air passing through the openings in the plank floor of the car, as was revealed in Mark Webber's crash in Valencia. This vortex, at the rear of the car, helped to increase overall downforce at the rear of the car.
These changes seemed to help Red Bull as the team once again, qualified one-two for the fifty-two lap race. Vettel took the pole over Webber by just over a tenth of a second. Fernando Alonso qualified third, but almost a full second slower.
The 2010 British Grand Prix took place on the new circuit layout that included the infield arena section. This increased the track length to 3.66 miles. The increased length of the track also led to the organizers lessening the number of laps of the race to 52. As the tenth round of the championship got underway, Mark Webber was able to slide into the lead at the first turn, holding off his teammate. Vettel ran wide of the exit but was able to recover. However, just a little later on Sebastian ran wide again and took the rough road. This trip off-road caused Sebastian's rear tire to cut down. He had to pit to replace the tire. This caused Vettel to fall back into the pack; from which he would never fully recover. However, Vettel was on a charge afterward. He came up through the field at a rather impressive pace. Despite the problems he encountered, Vettel would end up finishing the race seventh after starting the race from the pole.
While Vettel floundered from the pole and had to scramble back up through the field, Webber had the lead and encountered a dog-fight throughout the rest of the 52 lap race. Although Mark was hounded by Lewis Hamilton, he never put a foot wrong and ended up taking his third victory. Hamilton finished second and Nico Rosberg came in third. Mark's win helped him to climb up to third in the driver's championship. Vettel's seventh place finish meant he was sitting fourth in the driver's championship after the British Grand Prix. The team's results helped them to stay in the top-three of the constructor's championship.
The eleventh round of the Formula One season was the German Grand Prix held in Hockenheim. For German-born Vettel, this was an opportunity to come with a top car and to potentially score a victory in front of the home crowd. He would take advantage of the opportunity presented to himself during qualifying. However, it would not come easily. This time, it wasn't a matter of a tenth or two separating first and second on the starting grid. The gap was much less. Fernando Alonso set a lap of 1:13.793. It seemed the Spaniard would capture his first pole of the season, but the German had something to say about the issue. Sebastian eclipsed the Spaniard with a lap time only two thousands of a second faster. The close gap between Vettel and Alonso was indicative of the ability of Ferrari to rank amongst the fastest cars on the grid. This was emphasized by Felipe Massa's third place qualifying position. However, Red Bull had by no means disappeared amongst the rest of the field as Mark Webber was able to qualify fourth for the race. The ability of Ferrari to split the Red Bull machines was proof the competition had been catching up. The race would further prove this point.
Right from the start of the race both Vettel and Webber got swallowed up by Alonso and Massa. The once dominant RB6 chassis appeared to have been equalized by the other teams. This was true in spite of the fact the workers at Red Bull had made some minor changes to the car's F-Duct system. The good news at least was that when the Red Bull cars had been out in front during races they had been able to pull away from the competition. Alonso went on to win the race with Felipe Massa coming in second. Vettel kept his championship hopes alive by coming in third and was only about five seconds behind Fernando. Webber finished the race sixth, almost forty-four seconds behind. The results in the race kept Red Bull second in the constructor's championship and third and fourth in the driver's championship.
Throughout the first half of the season, Red Bull's main competition appeared to come from McLaren. After the mid-point of the season the source of competition seemed to shift from McLaren to Ferrari, specifically Fernando Alonso.
Even though Ferrari had superior pace in Germany, when the season arrived at the Hungaroring, things seemed to return to normal. Red Bull dominated the time sheets during practice. Then, during qualifying for the Grand Prix of Hungary, things appeared to be back to where they were at the start of the season. Sebastian Vettel went out in the third session of qualifying and claimed yet another pole; his seventh to that point in the season. Webber also turned in a solid lap enabling Red Bull to have yet another one-two start on the grid. Fernando Alonso started the race third, over a second slower than Vettel's pole time. Of course the RB6's front wing flexing, to the point it seemed to almost touch the ground, sparked controversy once again with many teams up and down the pitlane petitioning for sanctions against Red Bull. This flexing had been an issue throughout the year, not just since the British Grand Prix when the front wing was redesigned.
At the drop of the green flag, Vettel was able to hold his position on the point. However, Fernando was able to slide inside of Mark to take over second. Sebastian was streaking away from Alonso and Webber at the rate of almost a second a lap. The race was far from decided though as contact between the Renault and another car brought out the safety car. Vettel almost missed the pit entrance when the safety car was deployed. This was a sign of the chaos to come as Rosberg lost one of his tires in the pitlane and the Force India of Adrian Sutil and Renault of Robert Kubica ran into each other when Kubica left his pit box while Sutil was coming in. Mark avoided the fray and stayed out on the track. Trouble hit Vettel while the race was caught up behind the safety car. In an attempt to control the field, Sebastian fell more than ten car-lengths behind the pace car, which was in violation of the sporting regulations. Such rules had rarely been enforced, but, Vettel was given a drive through penalty when the race got back underway. This allowed Webber to take over the lead while Vettel angrily shook his fist driving down through the pitlane.
Webber took over the lead and disappeared into the distance, easily cruising to victory. Sebastian was able to climb back up through the field and caught Fernando Alonso. The two then battled it out for the rest of the race. Vettel was unable to get by the Spaniard and had to settle for third. Vettel had victory almost assuredly taken away from him, but, it still was a good day for Red Bull as Mark was able to take the victory and the team was able to improve in the championship. At the end of the race, Mark Webber was leading the driver's championship and Sebastian was third overall. The first and third finish also propelled the team into first place in the constructor's championship.
Four weeks separated the Grand Prix of Hungary and the next round of the championship. At the end of August all of the teams arrived in Spa, Belgium after the mandatory two-week shut down period. Once again, the Belgian Grand Prix would be contested over the four mile long Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Top-end speed is always important at Spa, and were it not for the incorporation of the F-Duct system, many believed Red Bull would have struggled to keep pace.
It was hard to tell if Red Bull fully had the pace during the first practice session as rain hindered out-right speed for each team. Laps were taking over two minutes to complete. Handling and balance was of more importance. Vettel ascended to fourth on the timesheets while Mark could only set the seventh fastest time. Over time, the track began to dry out. Vettel was within a half a second of the fastest time set by Fernando Alonso. In the final practice, Red Bull's true pace began to show. With the help of the F-Duct system, Mark Webber was able to set the fastest time in the third practice session. Sebastian set the third fastest time.
In qualifying, the out-right speed of some of the other teams began to show. Webber was able to claim his fifth pole of the season with a lap that was only eight hundreds of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren. Sebastian was out-qualified by Robert Kubica in his Renault by twenty-seven hundreds of a second and had to start the race fourth.
The Belgian Grand Prix, historically, has a reputation as being one of the more crazy races on the Formula One calendar, especially when rain becomes involved in the event. For Red Bull, the race would be filled with both adulation and frustration. When it is wet, Vettel usually appears to be on his game. At Spa, Webber would seem the cool-handed one in the rain while Sebastian practically came undone at every turn. It didn't appear it would go like that from the start of the race. Webber faltered from his pole position and slipped down to 6th when he allowed his revs to drop too low when the lights went out. Everything appeared fine for each team until the bus-stop chicane where it seemed the whole line of cars were like lemmings; each one taking a step off the cliff following the car in front of them. Almost every driver over-shot the entry into the chicane. This led to cars running into each other. The two Red Bulls made it through the chicane without incident and continued to click off laps. A few laps later, Vettel's race began to vaporize. Heading toward the bus-stop chicane, Sebastian was in the tow of Jenson Button's McLaren and weaved to make the pass. Vettel's move was too aggressive and it caused his RB6 to brake loose and hit the Brit's McLaren in the side. This knocked Button out of the race. Vettel had severe damage to his nose but was able to pit to have the nose replaced. This accident brought out the safety car. The retirement of Button, and Sebastian's troubles, meant Webber was able to come up to third after his poor start.
In an attempt to make concessions for his mistake, Vettel was on a charge up through the field to help secure at least some points for the team and himself. This attempt to rectify the situation came undone again when he made contact with Liuzzi's Force India, once again at the bus-stop chicane. This contact caused a slow puncture of his tire. The tire came apart during the lap. As a result, Vettel was forced to limp around the track in order to make it back to the pits for a new tire. While Sebastian's race was filled with one bad event after another, Mark was able to recover and was driving a steady, consistent race.
The rain appeared once again. The sudden downpour toward the end of the race caused many teams to struggle. Alonso lost control of his Ferrari triggering another safety car. Kubica, who was in second at the time, overshot his pit-box. This adjustment for the team took extra time and awarded Mark with a promotion into second place. Lewis Hamilton would be able to hold onto his car and the lead. Hamilton ended up winning the race, beating Webber by one and a half seconds. Hamilton's victory vaulted the Brit into the lead of the driver's championship. Webber slipped to second. Vettel remained third. Red Bull was able to maintain the lead in the constructor's championship, but by only one point over McLaren.
The next race in the season was the Italian Grand Prix, and as is tradition, the race took place in September. Red Bull's advantage virtually disappeared throughout the race weekend. For the Tifosi, it would be a race to remember.
Red Bull drivers were only able to top the timesheets in practice once. During qualifying, Red Bull didn't even get close to the dominance it had throughout the majority of the season. Fernando Alonso took the pole in his Ferrari. Jenson Button would start the race second. Neither of the Red Bull drivers would start the race from the top three spots on the grid. Instead, Webber would start the race fourth with a qualifying time a half a second slower than Alonso. Vettel started worse. Sebastian qualified sixth with a time eight tenths slower.
The obvious struggles from qualifying would continue throughout the race. While Button was able to push his way past Alonso to take the lead right from the start, the Red Bull drivers would have to push themselves just for a good result. By the end of the first lap Webber was ninth, having dropped five places from the start. Vettel was looking better, but, began to lose places due to an engine problem. After struggling with the apparent problem for a few laps, Vettel's car roared back to life and the German was back on the charge. Webber struggled with some other cars on the track and just couldn't come back up through the field. Finally, with four laps left in the race, Mark was able to pass Nico Hulkenberg to finish the race sixth. Vettel drove a splendid race despite the problems and, despite pitting on the last lap, was able to finish the race fourth. Alonso ended up taking the win after beating Button with a better in-lap and pitstop. Felipe Massa ended up putting another Ferrari on the podium by finishing the race third.
By salvaging some points, and with Hamilton's exit on the first lap of the race, Webber was able to reclaim the lead in the driver's championship. Vettel slipped to fifth despite finishing fourth in the race. Alonso vaulted up into third, and thus, began the Spaniard's charge that made him the main challenger to the championship. Red Bull increased their lead in the constructor's chase by having both cars finish in the points.
It was obvious Red Bull had lost most, if not all, of its advantage. The design team needed to make some changes in order to give its drivers the best shot at success. Therefore, heading into Singapore, the RB6 was unloaded with some minor changes to help recapture some of its performance advantage. Red Bull revised its rear diffuser. The tea tray just in front of the rear tire sported a larger angled duct to help control airflow to the top of the diffuser's side tray. In addition to the changes made at the rear with the diffuser, the team also made some slight changes to the front wing of the car. The endplate of the front wing now had a third slot, instead of two. As with the other two, this third slot was for the purpose of reducing the possibility of a vortex being created toward the ends of the front wing. Prohibiting the vortex increases stability and downforce by reducing the disturbed air in this area. The FIA increased the parameters for its test of loads on the front wing. However, Red Bull was able to pass these tests without problems.
These changes seemed to help, when compared to how the team qualified at Monza. However, the team was still prevented from reclaiming the pole. Fernando Alonso took the pole for the second race in a row. Sebastian Vettel was able to qualify second with a time less than a tenth of a second slower. Webber was also less than a second slower, but, was only able to start the race sixth.
The Grand Prix of Singapore was the first race of the season to take place under the lights. The drivers prepared to battle it out for sixty-one laps of the 3.1 mile street circuit. Sebastian had the better getaway from the start but was squeezed out by Alonso. From that point on Fernando began to pull away. Sebastian kept in touch but appeared to have nothing for the Spaniard. An early safety car hurt Webber as he got caught behind some slower cars. He had to do everything he could to maintain touch. The McLarens pitted during the safety car period as well. This caused Hamilton to be right there with Webber when the race resumed. Lewis tried to pass Mark around the outside. The Australian defended the inside line and contact was made between himself and Hamilton. This knocked Lewis out of the race. Mark was able to carry on. This ended up helping Mark as he was able to come up to third place by the end of the race. Vettel challenged Alonso during the pitstops but could not get past him. This was the first race since Hungary that both Red Bull drivers had finished on the podium. Alonso's victory helped him to climb to second in the driver's championship. Webber remained first. Sebastian climbed up one place to fourth. Having two cars finish in the top-three meant Red Bull increased its lead in the constructor's chase even more over McLaren.
Throughout the season each team constantly tweaks its cars to increase performance, reliability and stability. Although there were only four more races left in the 2010 season, Adrian Newey continued to tweak the RB6. In preparation for the Japanese Grand Prix Newey updated and revised the RB6's rear wing. The F-Duct system was revised to blow the air directly onto the main plane of the rear wing. This helped to direct air through the wing, which helps to reduce the drag on the rear wing. Another change to the rear wing was found in the lower (beam) wing. This was redesigned featuring more of a delta shape. This delta shaped wing takes advantage of the air flowing down through the back of the engine cowling to help keep the gearbox cooled. This increases downforce while being able to run with a lower wing angle.
One other change that was made to the car for the race at Suzuka was the positioning of the brake caliper. Up until that point in the season, the caliper had been placed low, horizontal to the ground to help lower the car's center of gravity. This arrangement had been a thorn in Red Bull's side throughout the year. Therefore, Newey abandoned the design in favor of the more conventional positioning of the caliper on the backside of the rotor. To help cool the caliper the dual duct that had been used in Singapore, and other races, was abandoned in favor of one larger duct.
The changes obviously made a bit of a difference. Throughout the practice sessions, with the exception of the third session that was practically a rain out, Red Bull drivers were one-two on the timesheets. Qualifying on Saturday was cancelled due to heavy rains. There were areas of the track that were more suited to boats than cars. Therefore, qualifying was rescheduled for Sunday morning. In qualifying, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber picked up where they left off in practice. Vettel took the pole with a lap of 1:30.785. Mark would start the race second after he set a lap time less than a tenth slower than Sebastian's time. Lewis Hamilton started the race third with a time two tenths slower than Webber's time.
For a second time, when the lights went out Webber had trouble getting away. Robert Kubica took advantage and was able to slid into second behind Vettel through the first turn. Further back, the carnage began in earnest. Petrov ran into the Williams of Hulkenberg. This sent Petrov immediately into the wall on the start/finish straight. Massa tried to avoid the Renault and Williams entanglement. However, Felipe's reactions put him in a bad position going into the first turn. He bounced over the curb and hit the side of Vitantonio Liuzzi's Force India. The two of them were sent sliding through the gravel and out of the race. All of the accidents brought out the safety car. When the safety car appeared, there was Vettel but no Kubica. Robert's right-rear wheel broke loose from the car and he was forced to retire from the race. This promoted Mark back up to second after his poor start. From that point on Red Bull controlled the race. Vettel won the race, with Webber finishing in second, less than a second behind. Alonso finished the race third. Lewis Hamilton struggled and lost third gear in the middle part of the race. This caused him to slip down the order and, also, caused his title hopes to further slip away. This was Vettel's first win since Valencia and the European Grand Prix. The win reignited his championship hopes. Webber left Japan having padded his lead by fourteen, but Vettel's win had propelled him back up into a tie for second with Alonso. The one-two finish also helped Red Bull add to their advantage in the constructor's battle.
The seventeenth round of the championship was historic as it was the first Formula One race held in South Korea. As it was a new event, the drivers were still getting used to the track. Mark was the only real bright spot in practice as he topped the sheets in the second session. Sebastian seemed to struggle. Vettel would get the ship righted in qualifying however.
Many had become accustomed to Red Bull qualifying one-two for a race. Korea would be no different. Vettel set the pole time, followed by Webber who set a time less than a tenth slower. Alonso would start third after establishing a time a little over a tenth slower than Webber's time. As had been the case many times throughout the year, things looked good for Red Bull before the race started. When the lights would go out at the start, it would seem the hopes of such promise would also go dim. This time, the weather would help to shake up the championship and rattle Red Bull's hopes.
The race started behind the safety car due to heavy rains. The race was then suspended for over forty minutes when it was determined it was not possible to race under such conditions. The main determiner was the heavy spray that virtually blinded the driver's view when behind another. Conditions appeared to be not much better after the red flag period ended, but the race started anyway. Webber wished it hadn't as his race, and his championship, went into a spin on the eighteenth lap of the race. He had a chance to salvage it but his car slid across the track and was then hit by Nico Rosberg. The safety car was again deployed. When the race resumed pace Vettel was in the lead and was looking as if well on his way to his fourth victory on the season. However, the pace of his RB6 slowed toward the latter stages of the fifty-five lap race. Then, with nine laps left, his engine totally let go. Just like that, Red Bull went from having the lead in the driver's championship to having drivers sitting second and fourth once again. The failures also cut into the team's lead in the constructor's championship.
Two races remained to settle the championship. Red Bull would have to have flawless performances to secure what many had believed to be theirs from before the start of the season. The first of those two was the Brazilian Grand Prix held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Throughout the majority of the practice sessions the Red Bull duo dominated. However, in qualifying there was a surprise. One of the most unlikely drivers in the field snatched the pole away from Vettel and Webber. Nico Hulkenberg ran off almost ten more laps throughout the qualifying sessions. This made him lighter and faster. Nico was able to take pole in his Williams-Cosworth. He set a time over a second faster than Sebastian and Mark. For all intents and purposes, Hulkenberg's performance was more of an anomaly than a threat. Therefore, Red Bull once again showed plenty of promise. However, now, more than ever, the team needed to deliver on all that promise.
Seemingly out of place given the last couple of races, the race would take place under sunny skies and nice warm weather. Once the race started, Sebastian darted down to the inside of Hulkenberg going into the first turn. Vettal was able to work his way into first. Webber quickly set his sights on Nico and was able to get by after the drafting down the straight. Once Vettel and Webber got by the Williams driver the Red Bull pairing set sail. When the pressure was fully on Vettel responded. He didn't put a foot wrong throughout the seventy-one laps. Undoubtedly helped by the notion that it was his teammate following him, Sebastian was able to settle in a drive a consistent race. He would cross the line with a four second advantage over Mark. Alonso finished third, crossing the line almost seven seconds behind Vettel.
Just like that, Sebastian was back up to third in the driver's championship race. Webber remained second. Since Red Bull finished the race one-two (and McLaren finished fourth and fifth) Red Bull clinched their first ever constructor's championship.
One more title chase was to be decided at the last race of the season. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the scene for the final battle of 2010. Jenson Button had been mathematically eliminated from retaining the driver's championship title the previous race in Brazil. Therefore, the race came down to Fernando Alonso, the two Red Bull drivers and Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton needed everything to go right for him to have a chance. And although Red Bull had superior pace throughout the season, the same sense for the need of providence to be with them was thick and viable.
As had been the custom at most races, Red Bull gave themselves the greatest opportunity as Sebastian took the pole. Webber couldn't match the pace and could only do a lap good enough to have him start fifth from the grid. Alonso qualified third and only needed to finish in the top-two to ensure his third championship.
When the green lights went out to start the race, Lewis Hamilton pushed down to the inside of Vettel heading into the left-handed first turn. With the hopes of the title firmly within his sights, Sebastian never backed down and was able to hold a line further out to maintain the lead. This move actually slowed Lewis up, which allowed Sebastian to create some space between himself and the rest of the field. As the sun began to set, the title hopes of some of the contenders was beginning to set as well. Webber just couldn't make his way up through the field despite pushing really hard. He ended up pushing too hard and brushed the outside wall of the Yas Marina circuit. This caused the Aussie to have to pit to have the car checked for damage and to have a new tire put on the car. Fernando only needed to finish in the top-two to win the championship but he was unable to get past Petrov in his Renault. This fact led to the Spaniard angrily signaling to the Russian when the race was over. In the end, Sebastian sailed to victory and to the title. He ended up winning the race by ten seconds over Lewis Hamilton. By securing the championship, Vettel reset the record for the youngest Formula One champion ever at 23 years and 134 days old.
The season also proved to be a grand one for Webber, even though there were tensions toward the middle part of the season and onward. Seen as on the downward side of his career, Mark showed he still had the talent and prowess as a racing driver. Having the right car, Mark experienced a career resurgence. Though of little consolation after leading portions of the championship fight during the season, Mark was still rewarded with his best-ever finish in the championship when he finished third.
By the end of the season Vettel had achieved ten pole positions. As a whole, Red Bull achieved fifteen. The fifteen pole positions tied the McLaren team from 1988 when they achieved the mark with their MP4/4.
It was obvious throughout the season Red Bull was the team to beat each and every race. Yet, while the team had the performance, execution was severely lacking in the team. The RB6, as with the team, had to adapt to its competition. And though it may have taken the entire season, Red Bull, and the RB6, proved to be a champion. In only Red Bull's fifth year of existence, Sebastian Vettel was able to take his red number five RB6 to the title. As a result, Red Bull has firmly cemented itself amongst the elite teams in Formula One, and, the RB6 amongst the rare number of championship winning machines.'F1 2010: European GP Technical Updates', (http://www.racecar-engineering.com/articles/f1/475053/f1-2010-european-gp-technical-updates.html). The International Journal of Motorsport Technology: Racecar Engineering. http://www.racecar-engineering.com/articles/f1/475053/f1-2010-european-gp-technical-updates.html. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
'2010 FIA Formula One World Championship', (http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2010/), Formula1.com. http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2010/. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
Wikipedia contributors, '2010 Formula One season', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 December 2010, 11:48 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=2010_Formula_One_season&oldid=403003613 accessed 19 December 2010By Jeremy McMullen