A lack of chassis/engine cohesion has ended their four-year dominant reign
It’s been fun watching Red Bull this rst half of the season, if only because a great golfer’s teeto-green regularity is sometimes less interesting than his ability to rie a ball through a hole in the rough, around a tree and out onto the front of the green. We’re so used to seeing Adrian Newey and the Red Bull in F1 Wonderland that it was a shock, at rst, to see Seb Vettel struggling to make Q3 before packing his bags early.
Along the way, the team has opened up. The Energy Station paddock palace is less crammed with hangers-on and is thus a slightly more pleasant place to meet for a drink. And you don’t always get thrown out when you sidle in to see their latest in ‘garage technology’.
Daniel Ricciardo is a good bloke. I spoke to him at Silverstone, congratulating him on his excellent run of results and his response was a modest, “Yeah, things are moving along pretty well…” Nor does he give the impression of being affected by stardom. He’s been a pleasure to watch since the pre-season Bahrain test. He was brilliantly quick: a revelation. He’s an oversteer driver, but his manipulation of the back end is smooth and owing.
Seb is his counterpoint. There’s a lot of conjecture right now about whether this is because Seb knew the best of the blown-diffuser era, and so has been late in adapting to the looser rear ends of 2014, or whether Seb is just a tad slower. Personally, I think it’s the former, combined with the unavoidable impact of Seb having won four titles. It doesn’t matter how much he tells himself he’s the same driver with the same motivation: if the car isn’t a Merc then a little voice will always say, “You’ve got nothing to prove. Drive to your limit. Your day will come again.” In other words, a free spirit like Daniel Ricciardo will always do a better job of maximising a less-than-perfect F1 car.
It’s been interesting to see how far out of bed Renault fell over the winter. Being critical, you’d
“Newey isn’t an engine-engineer. Thus Renault did their thing and he built his car around it”
say this is perhaps an Adrian Newey shortcoming we’d never previously identified. Unlike, say, Patrick Head, Adrian isn’t an engine-engineer. Thus Renault did their thing and Adrian built his car around it. You don’t get the impression that there were too many Head/Dudot-type conversations along the lines of: “But Rob, I want the fuel pump here and the turbo there…”
Engine aside, Red Bull reached the halfway point sharing the best-car honours, with Mercedes. Overall, that’s really not bad for a Renault runner. We can only speculate about the speed of a Red Bull-Mercedes.