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While things aren’t exactly falling apart for Red Bull, there’s a definite sense that fortunes are shifting away from the Formula One champions.
Not only is the team fighting against ever-improving rivals on the racetrack, but it’s come under fire by allegations of cheating - or, if that’s too strong a word - then for bending the rules.
Red Bull has this year had to make changes to the floor design of its cars and wheel hubs as well as its engine mapping, in a bid to slow it down. The team is no stranger to controversy after claims that it used a form of flexi-wing technology in 2010 and 2011 that was in breach of regulations.
But the team denies cheating, and team boss Christian Horner said it has merely taken an adventurous and creative approach to car design - and this has indeed always been the hallmark of F1. Horner said the fact that Red Bull has faced no penalties this season shows that it is playing things straight.
He added: “Of course the nature of F1 is that it is competitive, but the regulations are written in such a way that they are open to interpretation. From Hispania to Red Bull, every single team interprets the rules, otherwise every single car would look the same. Part of our strength is our ingenuity and I don’t think we should be criticised for being creative.”
That creativity was nipped in the bud by the FIA when Red Bull was forced to adopt a new engine mapping system in last Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, and although before the race the team played down the performance-robbing effect this would have, the result was that neither of its drivers was able to finish on the podium - Sebastian Vettel was fourth and Mark Webber eighth.
The Red Bulls were overshadowed by a revitalised McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole and winning the race, as well as by the ever-improving Lotus team which took the remaining podium placings on Sunday.
Ferrari too, after a slow start to the season, has found real pace in the past few races which, along with excellent reliability, has catapulted Fernando Alonso into a handy 40-point championship lead. Although the red team still likes to claim it has an inferior car, its recent results certainly don’t bear this out.
Felipe Massa admittedly hasn’t delivered much in the way of results but this has been mostly due to poor racecraft and tactics as his actual lap times, like those of Alonso’s, are generally on a par with the other top teams.
As the F1 season takes a five-week break before resuming with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on September 2, Alonso leads the championship with 164 points ahead of Webber on 124, Vettel on 122 and Hamilton on 117.
But it is perhaps Kimi Raikkonen, who moved up to 116 points after his second place in Hungary, that we should look to as a danger man to the others’ title aspirations.
The Finn has already claimed five podiums this year and the Lotus has looked like a race-winning car all along. And, unlike Red Bull, it’s so far avoided the glare of the FIA’s “creativity” police. - Star Motoring