The History of Red Bull Racing

A now-famous name in the motorsports world, Red Bull Racing is one of the top teams. But unlike Ferrari or Williams, they’re a relatively new name on most grids. Where did Red Bull Racing begin?

Written by Alicia Hiney

April 6, 2021

The Formula 1 team that we now know as Red Bull Racing started its life in 1996 as Stewart Grand Prix. It was founded by 3-time F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart and his son Paul, who owned his own junior formulae team – Paul Stewart Racing. Sir Jackie was not the only ex-F1 driver to start up his own team; Alain Prost, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, and many more did as well.

Johnny Herbert 1999 Canadian GP (Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Paul Lannuier)

Stewart Grand Prix existed as the Ford-Works team between 1997 and 1999, with their final season being their strongest. They never fought for the championship, finishing their last season in F1 with one win and one pole position, granting them 4th in the 1999 constructors’ championship. During their three seasons in F1, they ran some names that you might be familiar with. In 1997 Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen, father of Kevin Magnussen, drove for the outfit. They kept this lineup going into 1998, but after the 7th race of the season, Jan Magnussen was swapped out with Jos Verstappen, having achieved only one points finish. Their most successful lineup was when they had the pairing of Johnny Herbert and Rubens Barrichello in 1999.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Rick Dikeman)

At the end of the 1999 season, Ford purchased the team from the Stewart family outright and renamed it to Jaguar Racing as a part of Ford’s marketing plan to promote the Jaguar brand. However, what is interesting in this situation is that they continued to run with Ford-Cosworth engines, so no actual Jaguar engineering was going on. The team had kept Johnny Herbert on for the upcoming 2000 season, but Rubens had moved to Ferrari, so Jaguar hired the 1999 runner-up Eddie Irvine. They would fail to match the results achieved by Stewart Grand Prix, finishing 9th in the constructors’ championship, only ahead of Minardi and Prost, who had been unable to score any points. Over the next few years, Jaguar was never able to score higher than 7th in the constructors as they failed to challenge for points consistently.

In the end, Ford, Jaguar’s parent company, decided they would have to withdraw from the sport. A significant part of this decision was due to Jaguar not promoting the core Ford branding,  and as such, it cost them considerably more money than what they were getting out of their F1 endeavors.

The team was put up for sale in September of 2004 as they could “no longer make a compelling business case for any of its brands to compete in F1” and instead wanted to focus on their NASCAR and World Rally Championship teams.

At the end of 2005, the owner of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, purchased the Minardi team and renamed it, Toro Rosso. Red Bull acquired two struggling teams in the span of a year; they had big ambitions.

Red Bull, the energy drinks manufacturer, bought the team on its final day of sale, the 15th of November 2004, for $1. The $1 purchase was symbolic as the buyer was committing to a $400 million investment in the team over 3 Grand Prix seasons. Christian Horner was instated as the team principal, and the driver lineup consisted of Christian Klien, who previously drove for Jaguar, and David Coulthard, who moved over from McLaren. In their first year, the RB1 ran the Cosworth engines carried over from the Jaguar days to ease the transition. At the end of 2005, the owner of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, purchased the Minardi team and renamed it, Toro Rosso. Red Bull acquired two struggling teams in the span of a year; they had big ambitions.

With 2006 bringing in the V8 engine, Red Bull switched engine suppliers from Cosworth to Ferrari, and they also hired Adrian Newey, who, at the time, was McLaren’s technical director and had been incredibly successful in his role.

Horner at the 2006 Monaco GP (Photo via Andrew Griffith)

They achieved their highest finish as a team that year and the highest finish since the Stewart Grand Prix days when Coulthard finished 3rd in Monaco. Horner had stated before the race that if one of his cars finished on the podium, he would jump into the swimming pool naked. The photo would go on to become well known in the F1 world.

Come 2007, they started their partnership with Renault as an engine supplier, and they passed the Ferrari engine contract onto Toro Rosso. Between 2005 and 2008, they mostly lingered around the back of the midfield when it came to the constructor’s championship, very at home in that 7th place that the Jaguar team often got, their best finish being a 5th place in 2007 (the year they switched to Renault) that was until 2009.

Vettel at the 2010 Bahrain GP (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

 

2009 came with the new and exciting young driver, Sebastian Vettel, who had won in Monza the year prior with Toro Rosso. If it were not for Brawn GP that year, Red Bull would have won the championship as they had finished only 18.5 points behind. 2009 was a turning point for Red Bull Racing, as, after that year, they achieved four double World Championships in a row. 

However, when the Turbo-hybrid era started in 2014, they struggled, and since then, they have been trying to get around the restrictions and claw their way back up to the front. They reacted well to the 2009 regulation change, so maybe 2022 will be another turning point?

The one thing Red Bull has continually excelled at through the years is getting the right people on board to help them make the all-important climb up the grid. The hiring of Adrian Newey was vital for their championships, as the Red Bull was always the car that had the best aero upgrades and found their way around regulation loopholes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Alicia or Al. I’m 21 and an Aerospace Engineer in the UK. I got into motorsport young and actually karted myself for a few years but I soon realised I prefer watching the sport. I basically consume as much motorsport content as I can, whether that be single seaters, rallying, MotoGP, endurance etc.

I love the technical side of motorsport in particular and actually write about it on my tumblr blog @mclarenp1.

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