After dominating the sport for two and half seasons, with clearly the fastest car on the grid, Red Bull have lost some of their mojo so far this year following changes to the aerodynamic regulations. The ban on Exhaust Blowing Diffusers was always going to cost Red Bull more than most teams.
Last year Sebastian Vettel was able to take advantage of the unique driving style required by the Exhaust Blowing Diffusers to utterly dominate the sport. This year however, the squad have only occasionally shown a blistering turn of speed that has been their trademark. Vettel dominated at Valencia only to be robbed by a mechanical failure of a near certain victory.
Vettel was flawless in Bahrain but it is remarkable to think that this is the only victory of his campaign thus far. Having comprehensively outperformed his teammate, Mark Webber, last year the intra-team battle has been much closer this year.
Webber’s performance in qualifying has been much improved this year but more so than that his race pace has been superb on most occasions. He was dominant in Monaco and calculating at Silverstone and showed the determination needed to be a champion on numerous other occasions. Like Alonso Webber has done a great job of claiming as many points as possible in each race and his run of fourth place finishes at the beginning of the season have been the foundation of his title assault.
The team however clearly need to improve the car if they are to win another title. The challenges facing Red Bull in their bid to return to top form has seen them sail very close to the wind in recent months with their engine software and ride height systems having been at the centre of a couple of scandals.
Red Bull has, rightly, said that while their car has been outside of the “spirit of the regulations” there is no defined spirit of the regulations simply the actual wording of the rulebook. The reigning constructors’ champions have been exceptional in finding legal “loopholes” in the rule book over the course of the last three years and while they have been forced to adjust their car it seems inevitable that Adrian Newey will find another way to extract maximum performance from the car. Given Newey’s history the rest of the grid should be wary that the next time that Red Bull pushes to the limit they will not be as fortunate in having the rule makers force Red Bull to adjust their car.