Red Bull Formula One (F1) driver Sebastian Vettel may be considering drinking his teams energy drink to grow some wings after the teams slow start this season. Last season Vettel won the drivers championship and teammate Mark Webber came in third. The success of the driving duo last season resulted in Red Bull winning the Constructor’s Championship. The first four races this season for the world champion driver has been a struggle. Vettel has reached the podium only once so far this season with a third place finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel’s teammate from last season retired and Red Bull brought in Daniel Ricciardo to fill the open spot left by Webber. Ricciardo came to Red Bull from the Scuderia Toro Rosa team after coming in 14th overall in the drivers standings for 2013. In the last two races Ricciardo has finished ahead of his teammate and defending World Champion.
Vettel’s slow start this season could be blamed for a number of reasons. One key reason may be rule changes implemented this year. F1 moved from V8 motors to a turbo charged V6 power plant. This can make the race car feel different to a driver. Last season Red Bull utilized an exhaust blown diffuser that has been disallowed for the 2014 season. The diffuser used exhaust gases to apply additional downforce on the rear wheels and was thought to be one of the main advantages led to the success of the Red Bull team in 2013.
While Red Bull commercials say that their drink will give you wings, the race team is looking at some other options to get Sebastian Vettel back on track to defending his World Championship. Each year F1 teams develop new cars for the new seasons. While Vettel had success with the V8 car last season and is struggling with the V6 car this season, moving back to last seasons’ car is not an option. However, Red Bull is swapping the current chassis out for one that Vettel used during testing in the pre-season. Vettel and the team both agree that there is nothing wrong with the current chassis in the car. However, the switch is being used more of a psychological tactic to try to reset the driver’s thinking behind the wheel. The team is hoping that by hitting the reset button will help them to tune the car from scratch to Vettel’s liking.
There may be more than the engine change, lack of exhaust diffuser, or a chassis problem that has kept Vettel down this season. The 2013 Drivers Champion is very good friends with F1 great Michael Schumacher. Schumacher is still in a coma after a skiing accident last year. In a recent interview Vettel did with a German Motorsports magazine, the driver appeared emotional about the condition of his friend. This has led to speculation that the Red Bull driver is not as focused on this season as he was during his championship run last year.
Sebastian Vettel needs more than wings from an energy drink to return Red Bull to a winning team this season. The hope for the team is that the changes to the car before the Mother’s Day race in Spain will help get Vettel’s mind back onto the race track and into a winning streak to vault back into contention this season.
By Carl Auer