Chinese Grand Prix – Red Bull Racing will, this weekend, celebrate the tenth anniversary of their very first victory in Formula 1.
It seems almost unthinkable that Red Bull were, at one point, the young upstart team that hadn’t even won a race, let alone a championship. But, up until the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, the former Stewart & Jaguar team had indeed never graced the top step of the podium. That all changed in the wet treacherous 2009 Shanghai race, when Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber splashed their way to a dominant 1-2. It was a seminal moment, marking their arrival to the big time and was the foundation of an eventual dominant four years and titles.
While championships, and victories, have been thin on the ground since 2013, Red Bull head to China for the first time in the Hybrid era as an unknown quantity. Now entering their third race with the much improved Honda power unit, the team were hugely fast in Australia but somewhat anonymous in Bahrain. Shanghai’s monumentally long back straight usually kept them out of contention at this power track, but it’s not yet clear whether the team still suffer from a power disadvantage at this early stage.
“The Chinese Grand Prix is always a good one for racing because the track gives you a lot of opportunities for overtaking, so I’m looking forward to hopefully having an exciting race there.” said Max Verstappen ahead of the weekend. “The first sector is really nice because you can take a lot of different lines through the long right-hander so it can be quite interesting during the race in terms of trying to stay out of the dirty air. The track can also be quite hard on the left front tyre so in the race you’re always looking at how you can use the least amount of energy in that corner. Overall, Shanghai provides you with a lot of opportunities to fight and set up overtakes like for example in turn six, where you’re already preparing and setting up for that in Turn 1.”
Acknowledging the anniversary, he said: “This year in Shanghai is also the tenth anniversary of the Team’s first race win, so hopefully we can put on a good show, especially for the passionate fans there who always turn out.”
Pierre Gasly, entering his third race with the team after a low-key start to the year, scored his first points with RBR last time out. He said the team are continuing to find improvements with the RB15 as the year picks up pace: “I’m really excited to go racing again for the third round of the season. China is not actually a place I really know well and last year was my first race there but I’m looking forward to going back. Shanghai is a really special track with the long back straight and the technical part at the beginning. Now we just need to keep the improvements we’ve made from one race to another and hopefully we’ll be able to find some more performance and fight for even better points. Red Bull took its first victory in China and this year’s race is also F1’s 1000th Grand Prix so it will be a special weekend. Looking back to Bahrain, it was not an easy weekend with the changing conditions but at the same time it was good to finish inside the points. Now we’re just focusing on the areas we can improve on before next weekend.”