Formula 1 01 Feb 2007 01:44 pm

Inauspicious start to 2007 for Red Bull Racing and ‘our Mark’ Webber

I haven’t had much to say about Formula 1 for a while. I stopped reporting on races last year when I got depressed by the deterioration of the performance of the WilliamsF1 team – and especially their inability to give Mark Webber a decent car with which to prove his worth (or otherwise).

I’ve been scratching my head for months, wondering why Mark allowed circumstances to see him displaced from WilliamsF1, given that he must have known about the deal to run Toyota engines starting this year. With AT&T coming on as ‘title sponsor’, and Lenovo taking (I believe) a lion’s share of space on the car, Frank and the boys should have some more money to play with in 07. I’m hoping that this will be a better year for Williams, and that Alex Wurz (in particular) gets to show his ability.

Back to Webber.

I suppose that the two key attractions of the Red Bull deal (for Mark) are:
* superstar designer Adrian Newey
* Renault engines (at supposedly the same spec as the Renault team).

Newey is a Formula 1 legend, having designed massively successful cars for WilliamsF1 and McLaren. He also knows how to manage the engineers and researchers to get a good result. It was a major coup for Red Bull Racing to get Newey on board.

Renault engines are likewise a proven quantity. The engines for 2007 (and the next few years) are lightly de-tuned versions of the engines that ran in 2006. Renault’s 2006 unit was fast and reliable – claiming both constructors’ and drivers’ title.

So at least some of the ingredients look good.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating… and the proof of the F1 pudding is in the driving. It’s said that a car that goes well ‘out of the box’ will probably still be going well deep into the season. So far, the 2007 Red Bull Racing car (known as the RB3) looks like a bit of a dog — it needs to get back in its box!

On its first day of testing (Monday – at Valencia, in Spain), the car managed only 27 laps in the hands of Webber (Alonso ran 85), and it was three seconds off the pace.

On the second test day (Tuesday, same place), David Coulthard could only squeeze 26 laps out of the recacitrant beast (Alonso did 84 laps, and Nakajima did 116 in the Williams-Toyota) and was again three seconds behind the speedy McLaren.

If we don’t see some improvements soon, it will be ‘back to the drawing board’ for Mr Newey.

This all feels very familiar. For the last few years (even before Webber joined the team), Williams was always slow in early testing. In some years, they managed to claw back some speed during the season. In other years (like last year), they never managed to get onto the pace. For Mark’s sake, I hope this isn’t the same old story.

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