After spending a brilliant weekend in Belfast with the Red Bull Racing crew, I came up with the idea for a new Drivetribe article series, which I’m going to call “Tech Spec”, looking and finding out about some of the most famous, successful and recognisable Formula One cars in the history of the sport so far, and no better car to start than the car of that weekend and the only one to date I have been actually up close with, the RB8, Red Bull’s challenger from 2012.
In a year where there was seven different winners in the first seven races, nobody really knew where they stood in terms of pace and competition and Red Bull were no exception, despite coming into the season as favourites due to being victorious in both championships the previous two years. 2012 was one of those crazy years where everything you didn’t expect to happen did happen, and then some. I mean come on, if I had told you Pastor Maldonado and Williams were going to win the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona a week before the race, you would have said I’m nuts yeah? Exactly.
The RB8 was first shown to the world online on the 6th January, and made it’s on track debut at Jerez in Spain during the first pre-season test a few weeks later. The car featured a stepped nose like the majority of the 2021 field to conform with the regulations concerning driver safety in the event of a collision with another car. The car was powered by the 2012 spec 2.4 litre Renault RS27 V8, naturally aspirated, mid mounted and limited to a maximum of 18,000 RPM. The engine was also equipped with the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS for short. A system which was familiar amongst F1 at the time, allowing the engine to recover any kinetic energy lost under braking for later use, which is then deployed by the driver when necessary.
Once again the brainchild of famous F1 designer Adrian Newey, and driven by the duo of German Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber, the topic of the car’s legality was a season long concern for many rival teams. Several of these teams complained about an unspecified slot in the rear floor of the RB8, to which Red Bull argued that since the slot’s introduction at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the car passed all scrutineering since then. The team eventually had to alter the slot when prior to the Canadian Grand Prix, the FIA deemed the slot in breach of the regulations and thus illegal, forcing a change for the team. There were also concerns for the throttle map and changeable ride heights, prompting Red Bull to change and alter areas of the car throughout the season.
Red Bull looked to have been bested in the opening rounds of the 2012 season by McLaren after Red Bull qualified behind both McLaren’s in the opening two rounds in Melbourne and Sepang. Vettel would take the first pole and win for the team in Bahrain, with Webber taking his first pole and win in Monaco, having inherited the pole from a sensational Michael Schumacher, suffering from a five place penalty after a crash with Bruno Senna at the previous round in Spain. Changes in the car to make it legal for the next round in Canada would not hinder Vettel as he took his second pole of the year, but would lose out to Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez to finish fourth.
The RB8 with the special "Wings For Life" livery at the British GP. A livery made up of 25,000 pictures and selfies sent in by fans across the globe.
Webber took an amazing win in the ninth round with the RB8 at Great Britain, qualifying 2nd to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, and eventually passing him in the closing laps in a very exciting race in mixed weather conditions. The team, due to inconsistency and more legality concerns would go on a dry spell until Vettel would win in Singapore, coming off the back of a double retirement for the team at the previous round in Italy, their first since the Korean Grand Prix of 2010. Vettel would go on to win the next three races in Japan, Korea and India to hurl himself back into championship contention. Vettel would also take pole at the initial race of the newly built Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas during the first US Grand Prix in six years, but would be caught and passed by Hamilton in what was an extremely close finish, only six tenths between the two. Webber retired from the race with an alternator problem, one that plagued his car throughout the season. Vettel and Red Bull would eventually seal their respective titles with the RB8 at the final round in Brazil, a race regarded to be one of the best in the history of the sport. Vettel fought back from behind after a first lap crash with Bruno Senna, dragging his damaged RB8 to finish an eventual sixth, just pipping Alonso to the title by just three points.
David Coulthard told us on Saturday that the RB8 he used in Belfast was in fact Webber’s ex-car, with Vettel’s taking pride of place in the team’s factory museum in Milton Keynes. The car Vettel nicknamed “Abbey” won’t be remembered as Red Bull’s most successful or best car from their for year championship spell, but it sure as hell got the job done in the end, be it just about. It was exceptionally cool to see this car in the flesh, knowing it’s backstory and history. Compared to cars before it, the RB8 looked a lot simpler in my opinion. No crazy mirrors or ugly sidepods, just simple. A simple, but so beautifully sophisticated machine.