Are Red Bull “dominating” Formula One?

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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.

For

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.

Against

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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100 comments on Are Red Bull “dominating” Formula One?

  1. Gabriel (@naylamp) said on 4th January 2013, 15:47

    “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.”

    Why do you think that, Keith?

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 4th January 2013, 16:13

      It’s an interesting poser, because nothing has changed enough to specifically munt Red Bull, like the exhaust blowing issue.

      That said, they have banned secondary uses of the DRS, which was at least part of the reason for the end of term push as they finally resolved some of the balance issues that were hurting Vettel earlier in the year.

      • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 4th January 2013, 16:41

        Red Bull will be fighting for the Championship no doubt but there isn’t any reason to suggest it’ll be like 2011.

        For me, it’s all going to hinge on what Ferrari can give Alonso. If it’s a quick car, it’ll be a great battle but if it’s considerably slower than the Red Bull as it was at times this season, it could be a dull year as I can’t see anyone else putting up a decent enough challenge.

      • Gabriel (@naylamp) said on 4th January 2013, 17:19

        Maybe Keith knows something we don’t.

  2. Enigma (@enigma) said on 4th January 2013, 15:53

    In 2010 they had a car that should have dominated, and did so in the qualifying, but the close championship fight until the very end proves they didn’t dominated. Last year, they didn’t have the fastest car and the title was decided by 3 points.

    They did dominate 2011, but other than that they didn’t.

  3. Irejag (@irejag) said on 4th January 2013, 16:29

    I am a Red Bull fan, so I am quite happy to see them win 3 in a row, but I really don’t think they have dominated in any year except 2011. The truth is that I want to see them win as many championships in a row, but I don’t want to see them dominate, that would just be boring, but winning championships by only a few points each time would be fine by me.
    I would love to see McLaren, and Ferrari get stalled in car development so that teams like Williams, Sauber, and Lotus can catch up and get into the mix a little bit more but still have Red Bull win, of course.

  4. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 4th January 2013, 16:42

    Slightly agree.
    The 3 world championships in a row are here. And if the field is as close as it is now, maybe we have to redefine dominance.

  5. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 4th January 2013, 17:55

    They’ve certainly been the car to beat. But they only point where they’ve ‘dominated’ Formula 1 is when Vettel has dominated Formula 1. So I’d tend to disagree.

  6. In the Ferrari-Schumacher days, fans complained about the dominance and how the chammpionship ended sometimes before mid season. There were times i didnt want to watch the sport simply because i knew Schumacher would win the race. Dominance in F1 makes it ‘boring’ to the fans. 2011 was Red Bull dominance. However can you compare 2004 to this season where the championship went to the last race separated by 3 points in the end. Red Bull have won the last 3 years but they are far from dominating…

  7. andrew simmons said on 4th January 2013, 19:13

    Well in 2010, the only reason Vettel didnt seal the title earlier was his own crash into Webber at Turkey and his crash at spa. The only reason anyone else was in contention was BECAUSE of the problem in Spa and Turkey. Otherwise, Nobody wouldve been close. He took 5 wins, wouldve been 6 if his engine didnt blow in Korea. But that equates to two retirements of Alonso/Hamilton. Webber won 4 races. So thats 9 races. Alonso won 5, mclaren won 5.

    2011 was still domination. 2012 was dominant too. See, how many tangles and incidents did RB get themselves into? Vettels terrible performance in Malaysia. Engine failure in Valencia. Alternator in Monza. He benefitted in that the faster cars were took out at Spa. He benefitted Kimi took Alonso out in Japan. He crashed into senna twice in Abu Dhabi, nearly took out an STR under the safety car, and he still literally cruised to 3rd and didnt even need to do any work. Brazil was his own fault, he nearly threw his own championship away. He had 10 podiums, 5 of those were wins.

    The only reason Vettel would never have won, wouldve been because of his throwing away of the championship. The only reason Alonso was in contention was because of everybody elses failures. They were always 3rd fastest from Barcelona onwards.

    So yeah, RB have been dominant over 3 years. Theyve took the most wins each year, theyve took the most poles each season (equal to mclaren in 2010 though but spanked on wins), Redbull had 7 fastest laps in 2012 alone. RB had 8 poles to Mclarens 7 Course tyres skew that but lotus is 2nd with 3 fastest laps. Go figure.

    So in a nut shell, redbull as a team ruled the roost over every other team.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th January 2013, 19:46

      Vettel also would have sealed the title earlier in 2010 if his car didn’t fail in the first 2 races of the season while leading, leaving him with 37 points instead of 75 after 3 rounds.

      Vettel didn’t have a terrible performance in Malaysia 2012- an HRT hit him, and it was duly penalised.

      Kimi didn’t take Alonso out in Japan.

      Vettel didn’t “cruise” to 3rd in Abu Dhab without working, he cut his way through the field to grab the podium.

      Brazil was partially Vettel’s fault, but also let’s not forget that Bruno had to dive up the inside of 2 other cars in order to get to the inside of Vettel. A tad over-optimistic if you ask me.

      And your numbers regarding poles and wins in 2012 are also wrong. Mclaren took 7 wins, 8 poles, losing a ninth pole because of a penalty, while Red Bull also took 7 wins, 8 poles, including one pole (for Webber) because of a penalty for Schumacher. Fastest laps are a rubbish indicator of overall car pace, with too many variables affecting them.

      Yes, I agree Red Bull did the best job over the last 3 years, but 2012 was a competitive and closely fought season between 4 top teams. And with the reliability issues in 2010, they didn’t have it completely their way either.

      • andrew simmons said on 4th January 2013, 20:44

        Your completely insane. Senna took the racing line in brazil. Didnt dive up anywhere. Vettel cut across 3 car lengths. Anyone with a brain cell saw that.

        Vettel probably wouldve sealed it two races earlier. but you take the points lost from Hamilton in Monza and from Alonso in Monaco (which wouldve been at least 3rd place for both) and those 10 points vettel lost is covered for bahrain. Australia could be covered by Alonso’s loss in Spa for example.

        Just like Malaysia. Anyone with a brain cell saw Vettel swiping infront too soon and he couldnt recover, just like Button was abysmal. just like he did in Turkey 2010. And Mclaren took 8 poles. They didnt lose one, they were disqualified for having an illegally underfuelled car therefore the pole never existed therefore Maldanado started pole. Just like Schueys Monaco pole, Webber took pole position due to a prior penalty.

        Kimi drove into the back of Alonso where there was no space to go around the outside apart from onto the run off into the gravel. So he drove into the rear of Alonso by placing his car in a position which it never shouldve been in.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th January 2013, 23:41

          Your completely insane. Senna took the racing line in brazil. Didnt dive up anywhere. Vettel cut across 3 car lengths. Anyone with a brain cell saw that.

          Senna didn’t dive up anywhere? Vettel was 7th going into that corner. Senna was 10th. To get alongside, he had to outbrake the 2 cars between them, yet you’re telling me Senna didn’t dive up the inside of anyone, and that I am insane? Laughable.

          Vettel probably wouldve sealed it two races earlier. but you take the points lost from Hamilton in Monza and from Alonso in Monaco (which wouldve been at least 3rd place for both) and those 10 points vettel lost is covered for bahrain. Australia could be covered by Alonso’s loss in Spa for example.

          Yes, but Alonso spinning out at Spa/crashing at Monaco and Hamilton having a collision in Monza are also driver errors. Vettel made his share of errors, but lost far more points and wins than either of those 2 in 2010 to mechanical failures.

          Just like Malaysia. Anyone with a brain cell saw Vettel swiping infront too soon and he couldnt recover, just like Button was abysmal. just like he did in Turkey 2010.

          The stewards disagree. Analysis on the forum disagrees. Karthikeyan himself admitted the error, and so he disagrees. You’re telling me that you, the almighty, all knowing armchair fan are the only one with a “single brain cell”? Ludicrous.

          It was nothing like Turkey 2010 where Vettel did make a mistake. Karthikeyan made an error, and cut Vettel’s tyre.

          And Mclaren took 8 poles. They didnt lose one, they were disqualified for having an illegally underfuelled car therefore the pole never existed therefore Maldanado started pole. Just like Schueys Monaco pole, Webber took pole position due to a prior penalty.

          I’m pointing out that you mistakenly said Mclaren got 7 poles to RBR’s 8. Also, that Hamilton set the fastest lap in qualifying in Spain, and Schumacher did so in Monaco, but didn’t start on pole. Because of this, Mclaren lost a potential pole, and Red Bull gained one. Red Bull weren’t “dominant” in 2012.

          Kimi drove into the back of Alonso where there was no space to go around the outside apart from onto the run off into the gravel. So he drove into the rear of Alonso by placing his car in a position which it never shouldve been in.

          And yet you’re so insistent on 100% blaming Vettel for the Brazil incident? If Kimi supposedly shouldn’t have been there, Senna shouldn’t either, in Brazil. At least Vettel was going towards the apex of the corner, Alonso had even less reason to have contact given that he was on the pit straight and had room to his right.

    • He crashed into senna twice in Abu Dhabi, nearly took out an STR under the safety car, and he still literally cruised to 3rd and didnt even need to do any work.

      I’ve heard of “creative writing”, but that’s downright Lewis Carrollesque!

      • andrew simmons said on 4th January 2013, 20:36

        Well how many overtakes did vettel do? 5 or 6? Most of them back markers and the williams. Now tell me he carved through the field ala Alonso in Valencia or Hamilton in Barcelona.

        Exactly. he didnt overtake his way, fighting tooth and nail wheel to wheel. he drove around miles slower cars and still ended up driving around Button on harder more worn tyres who left the door open. Button is a horrible racer.

        • You my friend are making some utterly ridiculous statements. I value the FIA’s opinion more highly than most (and I group you under most) so the fact Karthikeyan received a penalty in Malaysia speaks volumes: hardly “abysmal” if you ask me. Whether the Brazil incident was Senna’s fault or Vettel’s is up for debate: personally I share the FIA’s view that it was a racing incident (as was Alonso’s collision with Räikkönen in Japan, although of course that was in no way Alonso’s fault in your mind, which I strongly disagree with. If anything it was more so Alonso’s for squeezing Räikkönen too hard).

          As you seem quite happy to criticise Vettel’s Abu Dhabi drive I shall return the favour by criticising Alonso’s Valencia drive. You claim Vettel made “only 5 or 6 overtakes” but fail to mention the fact Alonso only actually made 7 overtakes by my count (source whereas Vettel essentially had to do two recovery drives (he was back at the back of the pack after the incident with Ricciardo). I’m not trying to take away anything from either of the drivers’ races as they were both brilliant drives but as you are stating highly exaggerated and quite simply false claims you leave me no choice.

          Quite honestly, with all the claims you’re making, I think you need to garner a few brain cells.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th January 2013, 23:45

          “andrew simmons”, Button may not be considered to be the best, but 15 wins + a WDC don’t come from being a “horrible racer”.

  8. Thats what Formula 1 is all about, all teams make mistakes. Mclaren could have dominated this season without the pit stop and reliability problems

  9. 91jb12 (@91jb12) said on 4th January 2013, 20:40

    People are getting bored quickly because its a German driver and a ‘drinks company’ team winning.
    Had it been a Brit in a Mclaren or a Ferrari, people would be liking it. I bet in Germany, they’re not getting bored of it.
    2 of the last 3 seasons have been epic, despite Vettel/Red Bull coming out on top- its up to the others to provide good cars for TWO drivers and to employ TWO good drivers, like Red Bull do.
    To say RB is dominant is ridiculous, they weren’t even the fastest car in 2012.

  10. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 4th January 2013, 22:58

    I think its difficult to argue that any team can be dominating f1 at the moment, when at most circuits, the entire field is covered by less than 2-3 seconds per lap. Then thinking that the top 10 is generally covered by little more than a second.

  11. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 5th January 2013, 1:33

    If we continue to get races and championships as exciting as we have had since 2010, then I really don’t care if Red Bull win the grand prizes at the end of the season. I’ve really enjoyed the battles that have taken place over the past few seasons. In comparison, even as a Ferrari fan I found the Schumacher dominance of the early 2000′s to be quite boring. As long as the racing is good it shouldn’t matter to the sport who wins.

  12. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 5th January 2013, 3:23

    When Red Bull are on form, they dominate. They won four consecutive races late last year, and dominated three of them (Singapore doesn’t count, because Lewis Hamilton had the pace to win until he retired). During the Japanese, Korean and Indian Grands Prix, I felt like we’d gone back in time a year, because the season was suddenly boring, with one car winning the race based on its qualifying pace.

    • uan (@uan) said on 5th January 2013, 3:50

      @prisoner-monkeys

      Well McLaren won 3 races on the trot in Hungary, Belgium and Italy, and it should have been 4 (Hamilton going out with gearbox failure in Singapore). So heading into Japan McLaren was looking pretty dominant, as much as RBR was from Japan – India. The final 3 races were pretty dominant for McLaren as well, and only the DNF in Abu Dhabi kept Macca from sweeping them.

      But I guess dominance doesn’t feel too bad when it’s from a non-Drinks Company or when it’s Hamilton and not “finger boy” lol. Really, when you think about it, McLaren should have had just as dominant a season in 2012 as RB had in 2011. They screwed up royally – and it also shows how good Red Bull was as a team last year.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 5th January 2013, 4:22

        @uan – Ah, but McLaren never looked totally secure in first place when they won those races, and it was turn-about; no one driver won all the races:

        - In Hungary, Raikkonen and Grosjean looked like they could have caught Hamilton.
        - In Belgium, Button controlled the race, but the first-corner pile-up helped him a lot.
        - In Italy, Sergio Perez started reeling Hamilton in late in the race.
        - In Abu Dhabi, there was that untimely retirement for Hamilton, but Raikkonen never let him get too far away. And Vettel’s exclusion from qualifying probably helped a lot, too.
        - In Austin, Hamilton was certainly quick, but he really had to work for the race win.
        - In Brazil, Nico Hulkenberg kept pace with them, and probably could have caught Hamilton if he had been a bit more patient.

        On the other hand, Vettel maintained complete control over the race from start to finish in Japan, Korea and India. Nobody looked like they could catch Mark Webber, much less Vettel. Those three Grands Prix were really more races to see who would come second, which is something I never felt in any of the races that McLaren won. There was always someone who looked as if they could catch up (even if that someone changed from race to race).

        • I actually agree with @prisoner-monkeys. Sure, McLaren definitely had the fastest car throughout most of the races you have mentioned but due to operational errors, surprise pace on others or mechanical failures they never really maximised the opportunity to crush their rivals. Which perhaps speaks volumes of their ability to screw up and Red Bull’s ability to dominate but nonetheless few can argue Vettel was looking pretty ominous from Japan through to India, leading every lap and only just missing out on pole in Korea. It was pretty much a formality who would win by turn one.

        • I think Redbull and Vettel showed how to utilize the Fast car to others. It may look boring but the precision and quickness of vettel cannot be underestimated. Not only his 3 straight Dominant wins in 2012 but also the Races from past 2 years. I Personally believe his Drive in Valencia was his Supreme in this season. He had a Alternator failure but his drive until First SC was his Best of all. You cannot add +4 sec gap over a driver like Lewis Hamilton by 2 laps time. For sure if it was some one else then every one will praise them for sure but it was Overlooked as it was vettel’s Natural Display and i call that was Domination.

          • @harsha – I agree wholely. His achievement I feel in Valencia was slightly forgotten due to Alonso’s but I voted him DOTW nonetheless. To have such a gap that he could pit and still be leading (unlike Suzuka: he achieved the Grand Chelem by staying out longer than everyone else on that occasion; no doubt still a dominant display though!) spoke volumes in just how at one he was with that Red Bull. I thought it a real shame that his alternator failed as that would’ve been an emphatic victory, although in retrospect it may have taken some of the shine off what was a brilliant race!

  13. Drop Valencia! said on 5th January 2013, 6:40

    If you put Petrov/Heidfeld in the ’92 Williams I’m sure they would win the WDC and WCC, same the ’89 Macca and 2002-04 Fez, but the 2010-12 Red Bull? unlikely in 2010, possibly in 2011, absolutely no way in 2012.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th January 2013, 11:29

      In fairness, I think Heidfeld was rather decent. But the 2003 Ferrari/2010 RBR weren’t particularly dominant, being taken to the final round by other cars.

      • Drop Valencia! said on 6th January 2013, 0:01

        I am a fan of Heidfeld/Petrov, I honestly think they could win in the most dominant teams in history, but would be silly to suggest Inoue/Nissany combo, they couldn’t even win in the FW14b

  14. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 5th January 2013, 13:08

    Simply put, no they haven’t. They’ve been the best team but that by no means is a measure of dominance. They have their down moments like every other team but what they excel at is almost flawless execution in their decisions, something which the likes of McLaren struggle with. They work hard, but the other teams sometimes make it easy for them.

  15. Cole (@cole) said on 6th January 2013, 12:31

    They had one of the fastest cars ever (compared to the field) in 2010 with RB6. The team was then not as mature as now, otherwise they would had blown the championship.
    They were dominating not only the field, but the develompment race aswell. If you look the recent Ideas on F1, double diffuser aside, they hit everything right.

    Other teams had ideas, but the ones that worked came from Red Bull.
    Mc laren had the U shaped sidepods, the octopus exhaust.
    Lotus had the front exit exhaust.
    Ferrari….?

    If they didn`t had a bigger dominance, was purely by constrains in the rules that were every year tweaked to cut their advantage. They would be miles ahead if rules remained static.

    • Cole (@cole) said on 6th January 2013, 12:39

      Tyres made an impact too. How many races we saw Vettel sitting 10 secs. ahead and saving tyres. There`s no point in destroying your tyres to build a 40 secs lead, that a safety car could cut short, and having to fight the remaining laps with worn out tyres.

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