Red Bull still a serious force in Formula 1

For most of the past two months, while Formula 1 teams put their 2014 drivers and cars through weeks upon weeks of testing, we saw four-time champion Red Bull literally fall apart in front of our eyes.

There were days at both Jerez (Spain) and Sakhir (Bahrain) when Red Bull couldn’t even get past single-digit runs with the new RB10.

Explanations ran from ‘It’s a design problem’ to ‘It’s an engine problem’— to both.

Everyone, including this writer, wondered aloud whether this was the end of an incredible winning streak — four consecutive championships with 41 wins over that stretch — for the Austrian powerhouse.

Now here we are on the eve of the launch of the 2104 season with the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park and there is Red Bull back near he top of the speed charts.

Was what happened in testing just a huge bit of sand-bagging or was it, as Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Friday, just a “software problem” that the team has now solved?

Whatever is was, plenty of eyes were raised in the paddock at Red Bull’s spectacular turnaround at Melbourne.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel called it “a big relief” after posting the fourth-fastest time with a lap of one minute 30.381 seconds, which was less than a second off of the best time of the day — 1.29.625 — set by rival Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes.

Vettel’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, was just a tick back of him at 1:30.538.

“It was very good,” Vettel said afterwards.

“It is a big relief, a lot of work went into this.”

We will have to wait until early Saturday morning to see how Red Bull qualifying went, but now the betting is they will do just fine.

“Neither of us had big problems today, the cars were running and the balance felt very good,” Vettel said.

He also served notice to the rest of the F-1 grid that Red Bull still had more speed than it showed in Friday’s two free practices.

“In terms of speed we know there is a lot more to come, but so far it feels very good,” Vettel said.

Ricciardo, who will be racing in front of his home fans in Australia, was even more optimistic about how good Red Bull can be, in spite of the myriad of problems the team encountered in the winter tests.

“We are really, really happy. This will motivate the team a lot and show that we can overcome any difficulties that are ahead of us still.”

HAMLIN ON THE POLE

Denny Hamlin will start on the pole on Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway after a lap of 129.99 m.p.h in the final qualifying session Friday in the No. 11 Toyota.

Brad Keselowski, the winner last week in Las Vegas will start beside him in the No. 2 Ford with Matt Kenseth starting third in the No. 20 Toyota.

Joey Logano will start fourth in the No. 22 Ford with a surprising Marcos Ambrose rounding out the top five in the No. 9 Ford.

Among those who missed the cut to get to the final 12 in qualifying was points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, who has five wins at the half-mile oval.

Shockingly, three-time champion Tony Stewart was not only knocked out in the first session, the No. 14 Chevrolet will need a provisional starting position just to make the race after failing to be among the top 36 fastest cars.

12 HOURS AT SEBRING

The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford EcoBoost DP will start on the pole in Saturday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Challenge Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring after veteran Scott Pruett laid down a qualifying lap of one minute, 53.241 seconds.

Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon — the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion — will start beside Pruett in the No. 02 Riley-Ford EcoBoost DP on a lap of 1:53.500.

In the GT Le Mans class, Antonio Garcia will be on the pole in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs posting a lap of 1:59.133.

Former IndyCar driver Raphael Matos will start first in the Prototype Challenge class with the Performance Tech No. 1 ORECA FLM09 on a lap of 1:56.434.

Canadians in the race include Alex Tagliani, Chris Cummings and Kyle Marcelli.

FINISH LINES

IndyCar team owner Dennis Reinbold told the Indianapolis Star he has had discussions with Paul Tracy about another try at this year’s Indy 500, but said nothing has been firmed up. The 45-year-old Tracy, if he makes it, would join James Hinchcliffe, Jacques Villenueve and Tagliani as Canadians entered in the big race … The IndyCar series has finally found a title sponsor for the North American open-wheel loop. From now — at least until the end of the undisclosed deal — it will be known as the Verizon IndyCar Series. Verizon., a U.S.-based telecommunications giant, had been tied to Penske Racing, particularly the No. 12 Chevrolet of Will Power and will continue in that role as well as with Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 2 Chevrolet. … Brad Keselowski has a girlfriend, at last. The 2012 Sprint Cup champion is dating Paige White, a North Carolina native with a psychology degree from East Carolina University. Keselowski had joked that he hoped winning a championship would lure him a date with a celebrity, or at the very least a steady girlfriend. … Calgary’s Cameron Hayley will get his first experience at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday in the NASCAR KN East Pro Series PittLite 125. Hayley is fifth in the championship after the first two races driving the No. 98 Chevrolet and qualified seventh on Friday with a speed of 118.774 m.p.h.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca

Article source: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/03/15/red-bull-still-a-serious-force-in-formula-1

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

*