RED BULL: BACK IN THE GAME
With upgrades on the way, drivers say multiple champion team can be a force
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.”
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.
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