Bob McMurray: Quick changes for all ... but not Red Bull
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It’s a tough time in Formula 1, at least for the teams and crews trying to shift the many tonnes of equipment 1100km up the road from the Paul Ricard Circuit to this weekend’s venue for the championship at the beautiful track of Spielburg Bei Knittelfeld, otherwise known these days as the Red Bull Ring in the Styrian region of Austria.
The track has had various names since it was built in 1969.
Originally called the Osterreichring, then later, after modifications, the A1-Ring after a mobile phone company sponsor.
More modifications and development funded by the Red Bull company, meant that like many “new” tracks, the layout has been changed to tie in with the modern era and much of the original character went when it was shortened from the original 5.9km length to the current 4.3km.
It remains a scenic and challenging circuit with the often-unpredictable mountain weather playing a major role.
Four hundred trucks and vans will be making the journey from the South of France to Spielberg, transporting the entire contents of the F1 paddock to make sure of achieving in just three days what would normally take six days.
Then do it all again in a week’s time to get to Silverstone for the third Grand Prix, back to back to back, for the first time ever.
One of the big talking points from the French Grand Prix, apart from the migraine-inducing blue and red lines trackside, was the final announcement of the decision by the Red Bull team to adopt the Honda engine on a two-year deal.
Some see it as a brave choice but it is a reasonably logical one.
Red Bull have all the data, all the information — much of it developed by Brendon Hartley and his engineers — and everything they need to make a logical and analytical decision.
Many other parameters add to the rational argument, not least of which is money and the association with a manufacturer.
Exactly the same argument as Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh had when they committed McLaren to a similar agreement for the 2015 season and beyond.
Whitmarsh said of the McLaren /Honda deal at the time that “moving to Honda in 2015 gives us the bedrock of being one of the big teams and ensuring, in the long term, we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the correct structure and the focus to be successful.
We know that we’ve got to be putting together a programme and a structure, a business structure, and better resources that provide us with a platform to be successful every year in the foreseeable future”.
Whether the deal proves a world championship winning one remains to be seen but it was particularly poignant for me to see two of the greatest teams in the history of F1 lining up together at the back of the grid in Paul Ricard.
Williams, with the same race-winning power unit as Mercedes in the back of their car and McLaren with the same power unit as front runners and Grand Prix winners Red Bull.
McLaren were under so much pressure to ditch Honda engines, after three disastrous years, that it was tantamount to corporate suicide to remain with the Japanese manufacturer, yet here they are, at the back of the grid, two “star” drivers in the cockpits, watching a rival team eagerly pouncing on what is now said to be one of the most promising power units for the future.
Wretched and woeful to see on both Williams and McLaren, but even more worrying for both teams is that the immediate future on track does not look any more promising.