How Red Bull Racing Bought Ford's F1 Failure for $1 and went on to Win 6 Titles

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The late legendary NASCAR racer and team owner Dale Earnhardt Sr. had famously said, “Second place is just the first place loser”. Sebastian Vettel, who on November 26 won his third consecutive Formula 1 world championship with Red Bull Racing (RBR), thinks along the same lines: “When you win, everything is crazy. When you lose, you have time for yourself, no one is interested”, he says.

Everyone is certainly interested in Vettel and Red Bull Racing, which also won its third constructors’ title in a row this season. What makes their accomplishments even more astonishing is the fact that the RBR team was formed in 2005 and its first win came in the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix.

So how do you build a winning Formula 1 team? RBR’s principal Christian Horner has joined the ranks of Williams’ Sir Frank Williams, McLaren’s Ron Dennis and Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo in the select few who have managed to do it.

Success didn’t come overnight and it sure wasn’t easy; in fact, Red Bull Racing’s achievements were born out of the ashes of two failures.

In January 1996, triple F1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart decided to make the move into F1 as a team owner – but only after sealing a five-year deal with Ford for Stewart Grand Prix to be its factory team.

The deal was cut two years short in 1999, when Ford decided to buy the team and rename it Jaguar Racing. Ironically, this was also the best season for Stewart GP, with Johnny Herbert winning the European Grand Prix and the team finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Ford’s plan was to promote Jaguar, which it then owned, starting from the 2000 season. After four years, many changes in management and team personnel and many millions, Jaguar hadn’t even come close to emulating Stewart’s 1999 success.

By September 2004, Ford had had enough and put a symbolic US$1 price on the team, provided the new owner would invest US$400 million in the next three seasons.

Austrian energy-drink maker Red Bull, owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, acquired the team and renamed it Red Bull Racing. In Dearborn, Michigan, they must have watched in awe as RBR, in its first season, secured sixth place in the 2005 championship – much better than Jaguar ever did. 

The rest, as they say, is history; and you can watch Horner, chief designer Adrian Newey, Vettel and his team-mate, Mark Webber, recount Red Bull Racing's way to glory and all the highs and lows that this entailed, in the video that follows right after the jump.

By Andrew Tsaousis