With the 2015 Formula One season now underway Infiniti Red Bull Racing will once again challenge for the title of both Drivers and Constructors Championships, but this wasn’t always the case. The team, despite its relatively young age, didn’t always challenge the top flight teams.
The origins of Infiniti Red Bull Racing can be traced back to 1997 to what was then Steward Grand Prix, the team started by two-time Formula One World Champion, Sir jackie Stewart. Two years later this team was sold to the Ford Motor Company, which rebranded the team as Jaguar Racing and raced for five more seasons.
In September 2004 Ford placed the team on sale famously at a price of just $1 in return for a commitment to invest $400 million into the team over the following three seasons by way of securing its future. On 15 November 2004, the final day of the sale, Red Bull agreed to purchase the team, and race under the title of Red Bull Racing for the 2005 season.
The team’s first car, the RB1, was officially unveiled ahead of the 2005 season with David Coulthard leading the team. He would be partnered by Red Bull sponsored young drivers Christian Klein and Vitantonio Liuzzi who would alternate around different races. Adding further variety into the mix, for both the US and Canadian Grands Prix, Coulthard would be partnered by American Scott Speed, who has risen through the ranks of the Red Bull Driver Search.
The season ended with Red Bull Racing finishing in an impressive sixth place in the Constructors Championship, amassing more points than the old Jaguar Racing team has in the previous two seasons.
For 2006 the biggest change with the new RB2 was the switch to Ferrari engines and Michelin tyres. During the winter break the team successfully poached the highly talented Adrian Newey from McLaren, a move that would be the foundation for future success. Following a strong performance in 2005, Christian Klien would partner Coulthard throughout much of the 2006 season.
After a stronger start to the season, Red Bull Racing’s first notable success came at the glamorous Monaco Grand Prix, where David Coulthard secured the team’s first ever podium finish, taking third place. To mark the occasion, the Scottish driver then jumped into the Red Bull Energy Station pool wearing only a red cape! Following a further points finish by Coulthard in Canada, the team ended out the season in 13th place in the championship, with Robert Doornbos replacing Klien for the final three races.
With Adrian Newey now heading up the design team at Red Bull Racing, the RB3 was off to a promising start. Renault came in as new engine suppliers, while the Ferrari engine contract moved to Red Bull’s second Formula One team, Scuderia Torro Rosso. An updated driver line-up saw David Coulthard joined by straight-talking Aussie, Mark Webber.
The season saw a number of solid performances by both drivers despite some technical gremlins with the car. A third place finish for Webber in the European Grand Prix and a fourth place for Coulthard in the Japanese Grand Prix were among the highlights of the season. That same Japanese Grand Prix also saw Mark Webber having a coming together with a young up-and-coming driver called Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull also ran a special livery on the RB3 at the British Grand Prix to pay tribute to Wings For Life. It was made up of 30,000 photographs of people, each of whom had donated to the foundation, raising close to €1 million in the process.
Despite a retirement from the opening race, Webber went on to enjoy a five-race run with points finishes, while Coulthard secured a podium finish at the European Grand Prix. Stiff competition from rival teams Renault and Toyota resulted in some close battles.
The Italian Grand Prix would become part of Red Bull history as the setting for its first Formula one victory. However it was B-Team, Scuderia Torro Rosso, that rose to take that honour, with young star Sebastian Vettel at the wheel. In the end Red Bull Racing would finish seventh in the Constructors Championship and in need of a new driver as David Coulthard announced his retirement from Formula One racing.
After a strong showing in 2008, German driver Sebastian Vettel progressed up into the Red Bull Team from Scuderia Torro Rosso. The RB5 was a highly competitive car, which saw Vettel secure the team’s first pole position at the Chinese Grand Prix with Mark Webber qualifying in third. Come race day Vettel was virtually flawless, and duly went on to win the race - the first for red Bull Racing - with teammate Webber finishing in second place.
A further victory for Vettel at the British Grand Prix would be followed by 1-2 finishes for the team in the German and Abu Dhabi Grans Prix resulting in the team securing second place overall in the Constructors Championship, just 18.5 points shy of Brawn GP.
Buoyed by the success of the 2009 season, Red Bull Racing were feeling confident going into 2010, with the RB6 looked promising in pre-season testing. First blood would go to Vettel in the third round of the season with victory in Malaysia. Webber would go on to take back-to-back victories in Spain and Monaco and further wins at the British and Hungarian Grands Prix to see him finish the season in third position.
The season belonged to Sebastian Vettel though. After his win in Malaysia, he went on to take four more victories, which, along with a series of solid podium finishes would see him go on to be crowned the youngest Formula One World Champion in the sixty year history of the sport.
For a third season Sebastian Vettel teamed up with Mark Webber, this time with the task of defending both Drivers and Constructors Championships. A maturing Vettel got out of the blocks by securing a victory in the Australian season opener and would give an indication of his form for the rest of the season. The RB7 racer turned out to be a supremely capable and reliable car throughout the season thanks to some very clever design elements employed by the team. It would eventually take Vettel to 11 victories and help Webber reach the top step of the podium at the final round in Brazil.
With Vettel taking his second consecutive Drivers Championship by a massive 122 point margin, and Red Bull Racing being crowned Constructors Champions by 153 point. Once seen by the paddock as the fun-loving party team, Red Bull Racing had by now become a very serious competitor in the eyes of some far more established rivals.
Such was the dominance of the RB8’s blown diffuser design, which was replicated by other teams, the 2012 season saw the technology outlawed. That said, the RB8 along with Vettel and Webber continued to show good form. With the exception of the Italian Grand Prix where both drivers were forced to retire close to the end of the race, the team scored points finishes in every other race.
Mark Webber went on to win at Monaco - his second time doing so - and in Britain, eventually winding up with sixth place in the Drivers Championship. His team mate Vettel once more showed supreme skill on numerous occasions to clinch victory five times on his way to claiming his third successive World Championship title.
For the fifth season running Red Bull Racing kept the pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber and gained Infiniti as title sponsor. Having comprehensively dominated the previous two seasons Red Bull Racing was once more being pitched as the team to beat. It would have to wait until the just the second round of the championship to claim its first victory thanks to Vettel. The next seven races would see a ding-dong battle between Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg, all taking turns at the top step of the podium.
However as the second part of the season got underway Infiniti Red Bull Racing found another gear and along with Vettel stepped up its game. Sebastian drove to his fifth win of the season at Belgium’s famous Spa Francorchamps circuit. He would then go on to win all remaining eight races that season, clinching his fourth successive World Drivers Championship title at the Indian Grand Prix. 2013 would also be the last time Vettel would be partnered by Webber as the Australian announced his retirement from Formula One in order to take up a race seat with Porsche’s World Endurance Racing team.
A new season and a new driver pairing. Once more Vettel would be partnered by an Australian driver, this time in the form of Daniel Ricciardo who was promoted from Scuderia Torro Rosso. The season got off to a jump start with Ricciardo found himself being disqualified from his third place finish in his home race in Melbourne due to a breach of technical regulations that governed fuel consumption. It wouldn’t be long before he was back on the podium, scoring third places in Spain and Monaco and the claiming his maiden Formula One victory in Canada. Two more victories in Hungary and Belgium would help the smiling Aussie on his way to third place in the Drivers Championship.
In stark contrast reigning four-time World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, was struggling to get to grips with the new car’s characteristics for much of the season. For the first time since the 2008 season Vettel failed to win a single race, with his best result of second place coming in Singapore. It would prove to be the end of an era as the German driver later announced that he would leave the team to take up a seat at the Scuderia Ferrari team. Also moving on was designer Adrian Newey, the man that is as much a part of the incredible success of Infiniti Red Bull Racing as Vettel.
With many changes over the winter break the team headed into a new season with newfound energy and with Daniel Ricciardo stepping up to take the role as the team’s lead driver with Daniil Kvyat partnering him. The season opener in Melbourne didn’t prove to be the most fruitful of starts for the team, which has struggled with the latest Renault engine. That said it remains very early days in the 2015 season and given how successful both drivers proved themselves to be this far in their careers, 2015 could prove to be the start of a new chapter of success for Infiniti Red Bull Racing.