Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2012

Are Red Bull “dominating” Formula One?

Debates and PollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2012Bernie Ecclestone told La Gazzetta dello Sport this week that he hopes Red Bull’s “dominance” of Formula One doesn’t continue in 2013:

“After three years of dominance by Red Bull it wouldn?t be too bad a thing if we were to have a change at the top of the sport, perhaps with Ferrari leading the way again.”

These remarks are partly Ecclestone telling a Ferrari-focused publication what it wants to hear. But he’s far from the only person to claim Red Bull have dominated Formula One in recent seasons – it’s a commonly-heard refrain in the comments on F1 Fanatic.

With three consecutive constructors’ championships under their belts and three drivers’ championships wins on the trot for Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull have certainly excelled in the ultimate measure of F1 success since 2010.

But does that automatically mean they are “dominating”? When you look at the margins by which some of their championships have been won, it’s reasonable to question whether Red Bull have attained the same level of superiority enjoyed by previous teams.


The simple fact that no one besides Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel has won a world championship since 2009 speaks loudest for some.

Their achievement stands comparison with Ferrari, McLaren and Williams’ multiple championship victories at the zenith of their powers.

Regardless of how it was achieved, the fact that they ultimately came out on top makes them dominant by this simplest of measures.


Team Seasons Races Wins Pole positions
Red Bull 2010-2012 58 28 (48.3%) 41 (70.7%)
Ferrari 2001-2004 68 47 (69.1%) 41 (60.3%)
McLaren 1988-1990 48 31 (64.6%) 42 (87.5%)

It is too superficial to only consider championship results when assessing whether Red Bull have dominated Formula One. Vettel won the 2010 drivers’ title by just four points and clinched last year’s crown by a mere three.

While Red Bull have been the pre-eminent team of the last three years, they’ve won less than half of the races in that time (see table). This falls well short of recent levels of dominance achieved by other teams.

Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey has experienced more emphatic success in the past. From 1992 to 1994 Williams started from pole position in three-quarters of all races and won 56.25% of them. By comparison his achievements with Red Bull remain highly impressive but fall short of true “dominance”.

I say

Michael Schumacher, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Ferrari F2004, 2004This is a question of perception versus reality. It’s also a question of our boredom threshold, and whether we ask for more variety in terms of winners now than we used to.

Red Bull certainly dominated in 2011 with 18 pole positions and 12 wins in 19 races. Even then we still enjoyed many close and exciting races.

Vettel’s other two championships were much more closely-fought. He never led on points in 2010 until the final round and only hit the front with four races to go last year (and after one race earlier in the season). These details are easy to overlook in retrospect.

I also think it’s significant that since drivers stopped qualifying with their race fuel loads at the end of 2009, Red Bull have usually been the team to beat on Saturdays. This perhaps exaggerates how competitive they are, as they have had over 20% more pole positions than race wins.

There is also the question of how far ahead of their rivals Red Bull are in terms of pure performance. They are generally not taking pole position by a second and winning races by a minute or more in the manner of McLaren in 1988 or scoring eight or more one-twos in a season like Ferrari in 2002 and 2004. Even the RB7 didn’t enjoy that kind of advantage.

The way I see it, Red Bull are on the cusp of dominance but haven’t quite made it yet. On paper 2013 looks like being another good year for them and offers an opportunity for more 2011-style dominance rather than the close contests of 2010 and 2012.

You say

Do you think Red Bull have been dominant in the last three seasons? Does a team need to do more to win multiple world championships to be considered dominant?

Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Have Red Bull "dominated" F1 between 2010 and 2012?

  • Strongly agree (15%)
  • Slightly agree (44%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (5%)
  • Slightly disagree (25%)
  • Strongly disagree (11%)
  • No opinion (0%)

Total Voters: 283

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images