How Red Bull can ruffle more feathers this year
Already it’s a contender for ‘Green Room’ moment of the year: Daniil Kvyat, grinning broadly at Sebastian Vettel, in robust defence of his lap one move at the Chinese GP that forced Seb into avoiding action and into Kimi Raikkonen.
Regardless of the merits of either man’s view of the incident (and for the record I reckon Kvyat would have been remiss not to go for the gap left by Vettel) the bigger-picture point is that Kvyat was there at all.
With team-mate Dan Ricciardo already disappearing up the road, having dropped Nico Rosberg at the start, Kvyat decided he also wanted some of the action. So he went and got it.
What this means is that Red Bull is back, big time. Not quite in the full world-domination spec we saw from 2010-2013 (four consecutive world title doubles), but it’s getting into that Mercedes-ferrari mix and looking increasingly confident.
It’s no surprise that RBR has turned out yet another great chassis in the RB12: the technical team is still led by F1 design totem Adrian Newey, after all.
But more encouraging is that the Renault-built, Tag-heuer-branded engine in the back end is much more like the real deal than it was at any point during a largely disastrous 2015.
Any true racing fan should rejoice in this: while RBR’S take-no-prisoners style of racing has ruffled plenty of feathers over the past decade, it remains a brilliant, ambitious racing team, with a rare gift for focusing on the job in hand – winning races.
That’s why, indeed, relations with Renault turned so sour last year: Red Bull’s leaders, from the very top down, believed their undimmed energies and expenditure were being squandered by a sub-standard Renault technical offering.
All that appears to have changed – and more quickly than many might have imagined. With Renault having bought back into F1 as a full works entry, it can’t afford to compete with anything other than a highly competitive motor, so resource is being diverted back to Viry-chatillon engine HQ in a way that was noticeably absent in 2014-15.
RBR is feeling an immediate benefit. Kvyat’s third and Ricciardo’s fourth in China were founded on pure pace, not some elaborate counter-strategy. Ricciardo might even have won without his puncture.
So what should we expect from the Canadian GP onwards when Renault’s much-trailed upgrade comes on stream? Wins and, who knows, maybe even a late-season championship tussle? That’s almost certainly bad news for the 2016 title ambitions of Lewis Hamilton, who may find points-scoring opportunities reduced by the presence of blue and yellow cars ahead. But you can expect more wide smiles from the two Dans.