Formula 1 has a long history of “super-teams” achieving consistently excellent results. The most recent example that comes to mind is the Ferrari nexus of talent that included Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Jean Todt. Together, they brought together essential skills in three basic areas: driving, design and team management.
The Ferrari revolution really began with Jean Todt. The former rally team boss realized he had to revamp the team from the bottom up when he joined the Scuderia in the early 1990’s. He began by stealing Michael Schumacher away from Benetton, and Schumi, in turn, convinced Brawn and Byrne to follow him from Enstone to Maranello. The eventual results are now the stuff legend.
But other teams have brought together these three key elements to enjoy their moment in the sun. Virtually any team uber-designer Adrian Newey is involved with almost becomes a super team by default. This occurred at Williams during the early and mid-nineties, and at McLaren at the end of the millennium. One could argue that the driver and management elements of those teams during those respective periods were at times dodgy (granted, Ron Dennis rescued McLaren from a serious moribound phase, but his management skills have always seemed to bounce between brilliance and catastrophe), but Newey is so good he almost makes up for his teams’ other weaknesses.
Another obvious super-team was Lotus, during the Colin Chapman heyday. He comprised two thirds of the aforementioned necessary ingredients all on his own. And Chapman was not only a brilliant designer and team manager, he also had a great nose for talent. Under his stewardship, the team won several drivers’ championships during the sixties and seventies with Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti behind the wheel over a 15 year period. Perhaps they reached the zenith of super-team status in 1968, with world champs Jim Clark and Graham Hill paired as drivers. Sadly, Clark only completed one GP that year before dying in a lowly Formula 2 race at the Nurburgring.
But to return to the most recent chapter in the Adrian Newey chronicle, as all the sporting world knows, having made his mark at Williams and then McLaren, Newey decamped for the fledgling Red Bull team. It seemed like a gamble to some, but Newey has the kind of talent that makes its own luck. Flash forward a few years, and the once fledgling team is collecting its first titlest laurels. And now, in a move that is reminiscent of Ferrari’s simultaneous contract renewals for all key parties (Schumi, Brawn and Byrne), we learn that not only has 2010 F1 champ extended his current contract through 2014, but Adrian Newey and team honcho Christian Horner have followed suit.
While the exact details of the Newey and Horner contracts are unknown, what’s apparent is Red Bull’s desire to keep a winning combination of talent together under one roof. That approach certainly worked for Ferrari during the first half of the last decade. Will Red Bull establish a similar sort of record?