Red Bull launches the new car on Monday in Jerez and they seem to be getting quite excited about it in the build up to the event. We’ve had Mark Webber saying that it’s the best looking of the 2009 cars so far and their website is pretty gushing about it. It talks about the car being a creation from the drawing board (literally because he still uses one) of Adrian Newey.
He’s overdue a real winner of a car and this year is a pretty vital one for the team as they have to take a serious step closer to the front-runners to justify the massive investment. They have been threatening to do it for some time, but it’s not materialised.
They had reliability issues with the 2007 car, while last year, although the car was reliable, they went the wrong way on development just as the car was starting to show some real speed. After Webber qualified on the front row in Silverstone and then spun on the opening lap, it never returned to those giddy heights and scored just five points after that, sliding to seventh in the championship. It didn’t help that the Renault engine was down on power compared to everyone else’s, not least Toro Rosso’s Ferrari unit. But that wasn’t the whole story.
The technical team under Newey and Geoff Willis has been given the time and space to bed in and now it’s time to deliver. A major set of rule changes gives the well funded midfield teams a chance to get it right and take a leap forward. You’d still expect Ferrari and McLaren to outdevelop them over a season, but it’s possible that a Red Bull could be on the front row in Melbourne if Newey and team have got their sums right.
I mentioned here before that his track record in his heyday was very good on rule changes, if you think of the 1996 Williams with the high cockpit sides and the 1998 McLaren, the first of the narrow track cars. So let’s see if he’s rediscovered his Muse. He and Willis form an impressive unit, as they did at Williams and I just sense from the confident noises coming out of the team that they feel they might have a shot at that elusive win this year.
Webber deserves a year in a really good car to show what he can do. I rate him highly for his speed, be just needs to show he can turn in consistent race performances week after week. He had a run of strong results in the first half of last season race, but then it frustratingly got away from them.
He’s been taking the rehabilitation from his broken leg, sustained in a cycling accident, very seriously. Apparently he uses a cryogenic chamber to speed up blood flow around the break. It sounds scary.
“I’ve been doing it for three weeks now,” says Mark on the Red Bull website. “You go from a normal, ambient room temperature into a chamber of -50ºC for about 30 seconds and then for another three minutes into -130ºC.
“It’s very good for your general well-being, your immune system, and apparently for cellulite. Not much of a worry for me … but it’s very good for the whole body.”
Maybe he’s taking in a little botox and a tummy tuck while he’s at it! Anyway, he’s really going to be up against it this year because in Sebastien Vettel, RBR have a superb talent. His ability in the wet and in changeable conditions is well known, but then Rubens Barrichello excelled in those conditions too. The question is does he have all the other tricks in his locker?
What we started to see from Vettel in the final part of the season was sustained, consistent speed and an ability to make things happen, two of the most vital components for a Grand Prix front-runner. If he also has a strong mentality, which we’ll find out this year, then he could be the real deal, as Bernie believes him to be.
Anyway, this morning those cunning boys and girls from Red Bull marketing posted this animated film of the new car, with a voice over from Vettel. It’s a great explanation of the 2009 rule changes, a sneak peak at what the new car will look like (or so they make out) and a brilliant animation of how KERS works. Take a look: