RED BULL: BACK IN THE GAME

With up­grades on the way, driv­ers say mul­ti­ple cham­pion team can be a force

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook

Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and Daniil Kvyat be­lieve that Red Bull’s im­pres­sive pace dur­ing the Chi­nese Grand Prix last week­end proves it is just a mat­ter of time un­til the team is back in the mix for race wins.

Red Bull en­joyed its strong­est grand prix out­ing of the sea­son so far at Shang­hai, with Kvyat claim­ing his first podium fin­ish since Hun­gary last July and Ric­cia­rdo lead­ing the race in the early stages un­til suf­fer­ing a rear punc­ture. The Aus­tralian even­tu­ally bat­tled back to fin­ish in fourth place.

The Re­nault-pow­ered Red Bull wasn’t ex­pected to shine in China, with the Shang­hai Cir­cuit’s 1170- me­tre back straight – cur­rently the long­est on the F1 cal­en­dar – play­ing into the hands of those cars with more pow­er­ful en­gines, such as the works Mercedes team.

Red Bull has made great ad­vances with its chas­sis this sea­son, and boasts one of the most ef­fi­cient aero­dy­namic pack­ages on the grid, which helped the cars stay in the fight last week­end. The team is also due to ben­e­fit from an ex­ten­sive power unit up­grade from Re­nault in time for the Cana­dian GP in June – round seven of the cham­pi­onship. Re­nault is known to be fo­cus­ing largely on im­prov­ing com­bus­tion ef­fi­ciency within its En­ergy F1 power unit as it seeks to gain ground on pace­set­ter Mercedes.

Both Kvyat and Ric­cia­rdo said they were en­cour­aged by the car’s speed in China, and in­sist that the sig­nif­i­cant up­grade from Re­nault could be the fi­nal step to Red Bull chal­leng­ing Mercedes again.

Ric­cia­rdo said: “The car is re­ally promis­ing right now. We’re three races in and ev­ery week­end we’ve shown a strength at some point, and it’s been a strength we didn’t think we’d have at this point in the year. It def­i­nitely feels more like 2014, when we had po­ten­tial [and won three GPS].

“I def­i­nitely feel I would’ve been spray­ing cham­pagne this week­end, but part of me is smil­ing in­side be­cause I know that can hap­pen more times this year. It’s not go­ing to be the last op­por­tu­nity for me, so it’s re­ally good.”

Kvyat added: “Mercedes is still a bit of a step ahead, but with the de­vel­op­ments we have in the fu­ture races, prob­a­bly around Canada, we can make a bit of a step for­wards. In some cir­cum­stances, we can be quite a big chal­lenge to them [Mercedes].

“The race was very en­cour­ag­ing be­cause on the soft tyre I thought we were very close in pace with the Fer­raris. The down­side was we had to fit the medium tyres for the fi­nal stint, which are a stiffer com­pound to the soft, but when we were on the same tyres our pace was very sim­i­lar to the Fer­raris. It shows that we are on the right way for­ward at the mo­ment.”

Gut punch

Ric­cia­rdo be­lieved he was in the fight for vic­tory in Shang­hai, and de­scribed his early race is­sues as a bit of a sucker punch.

Ric­cia­rdo qual­i­fied sec­ond on the grid to hand Red Bull its first front row start since Sin­ga­pore last year. That race also rep­re­sented the only time Red Bull started a race on the front row in the 2015 sea­son.

Ric­cia­rdo jumped Nico Rosberg at the start and led the early stages un­til de­bris cut his rear-left tyre, which de­lam­i­nated down the back straight on lap three. The re­sult­ing stop dropped Ric­cia­rdo to 18th when he re­joined be­hind the safety car. Ric­cia­rdo said his race back to fourth place was one of the best of his ca­reer so far.

“I re­mem­ber the sec­ond lap, there was some de­bris here and there, but it didn’t seem like there was one big bit that I caught, so it was un­ex­pected,” he said of the punc­ture. “I came through turns 11 and 12 be­fore the straight and could feel the rear start­ing to slide, so I went on the ra­dio to say the rears were fin­ished. I sus­pected some­thing and as soon as I got on the straight I felt the car wob­ble, looked in my mir­ror and it went. I guess it was un­lucky.

“The safety car then put me even fur­ther back, so it was like a dou­ble whammy, which felt like be­ing punched in the gut by a heavy­weight. But in the end I think the sec­ond part of the race was prob­a­bly one of the best races of my life.”

The re­sult puts Ric­cia­rdo third in the Driv­ers’ Cham­pi­onship, three points be­hind Lewis Hamil­ton and ahead of both Fer­rari driv­ers.

Vet­tel’s spat

Kvyat had some of the shine taken off his week­end by a post-race spat with Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

The Ger­man was an­gered when he be­lieved he was forced to take avoid­ing ac­tion when Kvyat ap­peared on his in­side into Turn 1 at the start. In his avoid­ance of the Red Bull, Vet­tel clipped team-mate Kimi Raikko­nen.

Af­ter the race, Vet­tel an­grily con­fronted Kvyet be­fore the podium, telling the Rus­sian: “You came like a tor­pedo! If I keep go­ing the same line then I crash. You were lucky this time.”

Vet­tel said post-race that he ac­cepted it was a rac­ing in­ci­dent and apol­o­gised to his team. “Kimi came back from the left, Kvyat came from the back right and I was re­act­ing to him,” he said. “From my side I didn’t re­ally know where to go, I was sand­wiched be­tween Kimi and Daniil. I tried to back out of it, go­ing off throt­tle and hit­ting the brakes, but there was no way, so I had con­tact with Kimi. I am ter­ri­bly sorry for what has hap­pened. Touch­ing the car with the same colours is not right.”

Kvyat added: “It was a log­i­cal move: you see the gap and you go for it. If he [Vet­tel] didn’t have a car on the out­side it would have been okay: I only have two eyes so I couldn’t see Kimi, and it’s his [Vet­tel’s] busi­ness to deal with that.when the emo­tions are hot, you talk about it – but in our case to get on the podium you have to take risks. It was an es­sen­tial move.”

Punc­ture wrecked Ric­cia­rdo’s chal­lenge for the race vic­tory early on

Vet­tel (l) and Kvyat: friends?

Kvyat se­cured his first podium for nearly a year

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