There is absolutely no denying that Red Bull have the best car on the grid, in the form of the RB6. From the very beginning to right now, this car has been miles ahead of any other team in (nearly) every race so far. The team took pole positions in the first 7 races in a row, just to demonstrate their performance. Both drivers are highly skilled, and have both, at separate points this year, have been favourites for the championship. All of this happened without the F-duct, which so many other teams believed to be of utmost importance. So the question is: why are they 2nd in the championship?
Dire reliability and driver crashes have thrown away Red Bull's initial advantage
You could have said the writing was on the wall from Race 1. Sebastian Vettel suffered reliability trouble, as his engine lost power, and he surrendered his lead to the Ferraris, and fell to 4th. Mark Webber, meanwhile, suffered his millionth event of bad luck before the race had even began, after being held up in qualifying. A 4th and 8th was horrible for what could have been a dominant 1-2 finish. Australia was an even more embarrassing result, with Vettel suffering another loss of a definite win, after a brake failure. Webber was involved in a race-long battle with Alonso, Massa and Hamilton, and topped off his troubles by crashing into Hamilton in the dying few laps, dropping him to 9th place.
Finally things took a turn-around in Malaysia, where a 1-2 finish was well deserved, after Vettel stole the lead from Webber at the first corner. A 1-2 qualifying performance looked excellent in China, right up to the point when the wrong tyre call was made in the race, and Vettel and Webber were forced to fight their way back up to 6th and 8th. Despite this, the team looked on course for a 1-2 finish in Spain, even after messing up one of Vettel’s pit stops. But, as it has done so often, Vettel’s car suffered a braking problem, and crawled to the finish in 3rd place. Monaco saw the return of the 1-2 Red Bull finish, but the next race came dangerously close to destroying their whole season.
With Webber leading Vettel, and the German closing in, the fans were expecting a close battle for the lead. What they saw was a little too close though, as the pair collided into each other on the back straight, shattering all hopes for Red Bull, and handed a 1-2 finish to McLaren on a silver plate. For the few days afterwards, the Red Bull bosses appeared to back Vettel after the incident, although replays suggested that he was at fault for the incident. Vettel and Webber finally made up after the crash (albeit in a Red Bull press release), and got back to racing.
However, when they returned, suddenly McLaren had the faster car, as shown in Canada, where the Red Bull’s speed in a straight line was magnified. A 4th and 5th, after severe tyre woes for Webber, was all they could manage, and the team suddenly realised that McLaren were in the lead of the championships after this race. Valencia was a slight return to form, with Sebastian winning the race, although it was a disaster for Mark. After losing a huge amount of places at the start, he smashed into Heikki Kovalainen, and flipped into the barriers.
By this stage, Red Bull should have completely dominated the championship standings. Vettel, for example, has lost 41 points after mechanical problems, and is therefore 12 points behind Lewis Hamilton. The worst part of it is that the second half of the calendar has races which mostly suit the McLaren. The next race is Silverstone, where Red Bull completely dominated last year. This could be their last chance to close the gap between them and McLaren. If they cannot, it will be completely their own fault for throwing away a huge initial advantage.