Infiniti and Red Bull Racing: F1 Season Review


, ROLLE, Switzerland

Infiniti and Red Bull Racing: F1 Season Review

Supported by the inspired partnership with Infiniti, Red Bull Racing dominated the 2011 F1 season, bookending the calendar with victories and notching up poles galore and many wins in between.

On March 1, 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show, Infiniti announced an exciting new partnership with Red Bull Racing. The presence on-stage of Sebastian Vettel helped attract the world’s media as the 2010 F1 World Champion and Andy Palmer, Senior Vice President of Infiniti, revealed details of the collaboration between the two companies.

Palmer explained that this would be more than a marketing exercise to help raise Infiniti’s profile through the car company’s connection with such a dramatic and popular global sport. There would also be a unique technical alliance between the two as Infiniti received feedback and Red Bull Racing had access to research and development facilities not normally available to a Formula One team.

“The new season starts in Australia in just over three weeks,” said Vettel. “Everyone begins with zero points and we have a lot of work ahead of us. You need a strong team behind you and having Infiniti on board helps strengthen the Red Bull package. We know the competition will be very strong but we’re going to give it our best shot to win the Championship again.” Vettel was as good as his word.

The German driver picked up where he had left off at the end of 2010 by taking pole position and dominating the race in Melbourne – and then repeating the feat two weeks later in Malaysia.

Vettel’s prediction that winning was never going to be easy proved true in China the following week, when he had to settle for second place behind McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. And proof that Vettel would have to push hard to maintain any advantage came when he crashed during practice for the fourth round in Turkey. Vettel and Red Bull were under pressure but the team responded exactly as World Champions should when the chips are down. With his rebuilt car, Vettel took pole and won the race and then claimed another victory two weeks later in Spain, despite struggling with a technical problem and being pushed all the way by Hamilton. Vettel and Red Bull were leading the Championship, but this was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Winning the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix coincided with Vettel’s appointment as Infiniti’s Global Ambassador, a role he was delighted to fulfill a few weeks later in Canada as he spent a day at a race track with the national media demonstrating the handling and Inspired Performance of the Infiniti range. In a series of interviews, Vettel explained that while five wins thus far may make F1 racing look easy for Red Bull, the competition was intense and the slightest mistake could cost victory. They were to be prescient words.

In one of the most dramatic races of the season thanks to intermittent rain, Vettel held the lead of the Canadian Grand Prix until a minor misjudgement on the last of 70 extremely tense laps caused him to run wide and allow McLaren’s Jenson Button through to victory. It would be the only error Vettel would make during more than 1100 laps of racing in 2011.

In between his racing commitments, Vettel had been working with Infiniti’s engineers and designers, culminating in the launch of the Infiniti FX Sebastian Vettel Version at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. In that time, he had also won four more races, making it a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ he would retain his title.

With perfect timing from Infiniti’s point of view, Vettel became F1 World Champion for the second time by finishing third at Suzuka in Japan. Within hours of the celebration finishing, the double World Champion, accompanied by Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner and Technical Director Adrian Newey, were on their way to Infiniti’s global headquarters in Yokohama.

After studying what Newey referred to as “the interesting and useful engineering exchange between the motor industry and F1”, followed by a press conference to the world’s media, the Red Bull Racing party got a true taste of Japan’s passion for motor sport.

Gathering in the main hall where Sebastian would make his public appearance were more than 3,000 screaming, Vettel finger-wielding fans anxious to catch a glimpse of F1’s man of the moment. Many had camped outside the night before to ensure they got a good spot as soon as Infiniti opened its doors, and when the new double World Champion emerged and greeted them on stage, they weren’t disappointed.

Then it was back to business, Vettel and Red Bull showing no let-up by winning in Korea. It was a fitting result at the end of a weekend when Infiniti and Red Bull Racing announced a deepening of their multi-year partnership.

From 2012, Infiniti branding will feature more prominently on Red Bull Racing’s car with enhanced logos on the side of the chassis and the top of the cockpit. The Infiniti name and logo will also be displayed on new areas of the drivers’ overalls, as well as on team equipment. This accelerated program, just seven months after the original partnership was announced, underlined Infiniti’s shared vision with Red Bull Racing.

Vettel did not win the last race of the season in Brazil but another Inspired Performance by Red Bull Racing still ensured a brilliant 1-2 finish for the team, with Mark Webber claiming his maiden win of the season and his team-mate in second. Vettel had claimed pole position to set yet another benchmark, his 15th pole in a season beating the previous record established as long ago as 1992. Once again, he stormed into the lead and looked to be on course for victory until a rare mechanical problem struck his Red Bull before the race had reached quarter distance.

The technicians in the garage, monitoring every detail of the Red Bull’s performance thanks to more than 100 sensors buried deep within the car, were alarmed to note that the gearbox was consuming more oil than it should. A radio message went out to Vettel urging him to change gear early, particularly when leaving the slower corners where the biggest strain is placed on the transmission.

In a sport as competitive as F1, a mechanical handicap such as this should have meant the loss of a number of places. Yet Vettel somehow managed to cope with the problem and lost just one place — to his Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber going on to take his first win of 2011.

It was the perfect way to wrap up the season, the one- two finish meaning that Red Bull Racing had won 12 of the season’s 19 Grand Prix events to make it 24 wins in the last 41 races — an extraordinary record of consistency and speed.

It was a truly Inspired Performance, from the start of the season in Australia to the very last lap in Brazil.

Leave a Comment