Mercedes-Benz is the official victor of the Formula One Constructor's championship, but for me, it doesn't matter who won officially. The way I see it, Red Bull Racing keeps winning everything. Because they keep cheating in the cleverest of ways, which is what F1 is all about.
Don't get me wrong – everyone cheats in Formula One. Hell, everyone cheats in racing in general. There's a reason why there's a tired cliché about cheating and trying. But Red Bull Racing has a much deeper history of completely innovative cheating, and that's what makes them perfect.
For the past three years now, Red Bull's been caught, if not outright cheating, then certainly having a flexible interpretation of the rules. And when I say "flexible," I mean that literally, like Sebastian Vettel's bizarre rubber nose from 2012:
It's like the thing was designed by Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon. What it did was it enabled the front wing to lower at high speeds using aerodynamic forces, reducing drag, and it raised the wing at lower speeds, increasing downforce. It's genius, because F1 bans moving aerodynamics like that but it's not technically a mechanical system that's moving it. It's air!
The next year, in 2013, Red Bull is alleged to have created a legal version of the otherwise totally illegal traction control system, which was allegedly only in use on eventual champion Sebastian Vettel's car, thereby explaining why teammate Mark Webber left F1 in a huff entirely at the end of the season. The supposedly incriminating video below documents an unusual noise coming out of Vettel's engine when he exited a corner, which sounded much like the now-banned traction control systems of years past:
It's supposed to have worked using some combination of the hybrid system and the suspension and probably didn't actually exist (the best theory is it's some sort of weird engine mapping), but Red Bull is so great at stretching the rules that people believed they had to be doing it.
And this year, at the final race of the 2014 season, Red Bull was forced to start from the back of the grid after race officials found Red Bull had engineered a way to essentially embed a leaf spring into their front wing. The ingenious mechanism essentially enabled the wing to flex upwards and downwards, much like Vettel's cartilaginous nose in 2012.
If you really wanted to go hog wild, we could put on our tin foil conspiracy hats. We could make up theories about F1 knowing about Red Bull's leaf spring all season long, but only saying something about it during the last race, when the point didn't matter anymore because they didn't want Mercedes walking away with the championship more than they already did. Maybe the officials have it out for Red Bull specifically, as Red Bull itself implied when the decision was first handed down. Maybe everyone else really was cheating, as Williams seemed to have a flexible wing, too, as the always-excellent Axis of Oversteer notes:
And maybe Red Bull is just bad at getting caught, and everyone else is much sneakier about it.
But it doesn't matter, and I don't care. I don't care that the biggest innovation of the year, the split turbo on the Mercedes engine, was totally legal and within the boundaries of the rules. I don't care about issues of virtue and vice, of some fabled "morality" in F1, because it's pretty well-documented that F1 has no morality.
I just care that a team is willing to go to every possible length, in the desperate hopes of winning a race. And in some way, all this cheating is a solace, and can lead to even greater explorations of imagination. With all these teams spending millions upon millions of dollars each year, who's to say that Red Bull doesn't have a secret space program, and moon dust is the real secret ingredient powering its cars?
You think they just had a space suit lying around, ready to send a dude in a balloon to fucking space?
Red Bull's got a moon program, and we all know it.
But like I said, in the grand scheme of things, Red Bull's moon shot doesn't matter. The greatest, most well-remembered cars in Formula One history have all been massive cheats. The Brabham BT-46B had an enormous fan strapped to the back to literally suck the car onto the ground.
No one remembers the Brabham BT-46C.
The McLaren MP4/12 had a secret second brake pedal, which was only caught when a photographer stuck his camera into the cockpit and snapped a picture. Not knowing what he would eventually find, he acted on a hunch that something funny was going on with the brakes, and he used gumption and moxie to tear it all apart.
No one remembers the McLaren MP4/11.
The Lotus 88 had a completely bizarre setup, using two chassis in one. The inner one was independently sprung, and the outer one basically acted like one enormous upside-down wing. It produced massive amounts of downforce, and was shortly banned from competition.
Nobody remembers the Lotus 87.
So to Red Bull, I hold you up as this year's Cheater's Champions. May your weird in-wing leaf spring be remembered as one of the great F1 cheats of all time.
And may you keep breaking every rule in the book.
Know of any great cheats that we haven't heard about from the 2014 F1 season? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity available upon request.
Photos credit: Getty Images, Edvvc