In 2004, Ford decided that its Jaguar Racing brand was no longer suitable for its business portfolio, and put the British F1 team up for sale. Although the team, viewed by Ford to be a financial liability, changed hands for only a nominal amount of US$1, the team secured a promise from Red Bull, the new owners, to invest $400 million in the team over the next three seasons.
The team also retained the rights to Jaguar’s old Cosworth engine. Although this was the first F1 team Red Bull had ever owned and run, it had already been heavily involved in the sport via its partnership with the Sauber team, and its sponsorship of a development programme for promising young drivers. Red Bull has tried to ignite a sense of fun in Formula 1.
They employed Mark Gallagher, former head of marketing at the glamorous Jordan team, in order to inject some energy and excitement into the Red Bull brand image.
Red Bull recruited experienced British driver, David Coulthard, to lead the team through its first season. They used the newly christened RB1 chassis, and continued to use the Cosworth engine that the Jaguar team had developed.
The second driver was chosen from the ranks of young drivers the company had sponsored. Christian Klein and Vitantonio Liuzzi both drove the team’s second car in the 2005 season. Across the season, Coulthard scored 24 points, Klein scored 9, and Liuzzi 1.
With a grand total of 34, the team managed to beat Jaguar’s score for the previous two seasons combined. The season was also a massive personal improvement for Coulthard, who had struggled throughout 2003 and 2004 with McLaren.
The team switched to Ferrari engines for the 2006 season, after the F1 authorities ruled that V8 engines would be allowed. The team also began using the new RB2 chassis, which Coulthard rated as better than the last model, despite various problems with the cooling system.
Despite promising pre-season performances and training, the first half of the season was marred by technical problems. The team’s first and only podium finish of the season came in Monaco, when David Coulthard achieved 3rd position.
Before the race, team boss, Christian Horner, said he would swim naked in a swimming pool at the track should a Red Bull win a podium place. He jumped into the pool wearing only a red cape, suggesting that Red Bull are serious about putting the character back into F1!
Richard Doornbos replaced Klein as the team’s second driver with three races left. He failed to score any points. Towards the end of the season, Red Bull signed a contract with Adrian Newey, former technical director of McLaren.
Newey quickly got to work redesigning the troubled RB2 chassis, and switched to Renault engines. Although they were technically still under contract to Ferrari, this contract was passed to the junior Red Bull team – Scuderia Torro Rosso (Red Bull Stable).
Mark Webber was signed to the team’s second driver position, making Doornbos the third driver. The team started the season weakly, with Coulthard having to retire after a serious collision with the Williams driver Alexander Wurz. A couple of races later Coulthard managed a points-scoring 5th place in Barcelona, despite experiencing problems with his gearbox towards the end of the race.
The team’s best performance of the season came at the European Grand Prix, with Coulthard once again finishing fifth, but Webber finishing third, claiming the team’s only podium position of the season. It is expected that the same drivers will continue in the first and second cars for Red Bull into the 2008 season.