2017 expectations vs reality
The expectations for Red Bull are always, publically at least, to win races. Privately, the Milton Keynes outfit would have been expecting to use the 2017 regulation changes to close the gap to Mercedes and keep themselves ahead of Ferrari.
The reality is, though, that they have fallen behind, especially in one-lap pace. Early power issues were to be expected, as the Renault unit in the back of the Red Bull has never been a match for the Ferrari one, never mind Mercedes’ monster. However, Red Bull’s chassis and aeropackage has frequently been the envy of the paddock and if they were going to compete in the era of higher downforce, that was where their dominance would shine.
Except, it didn’t really happen. Very quickly it became apparent that Ferrari had absolutely aced their winter, and that while the Mercedes was perhaps the aerodynamically complicated machine ever made, it still worked like a dream in clean air.
As a result, Red Bull found themselves in a very lonely fifth and sixth place for many parts of the season. Not quite able to hang with Ferrari and Mercedes, but well clear of Force India and the rest. There were many races where Red Bull were hardly seen after the first few laps.
However, that doesn’t mean it has been a dull season for them. Daniel Ricciardo went on an absolute tear in May and June, rattling off five consecutive podium finishes, including a win in Azerbaijan. Sometimes he was the beneficiary of other people's bad luck, but he was also amazing in wheel-to-wheel racing and pulled off some spectacular moves, as well as great defence, to secure his trophies.
Prospects for the rest of 2017
Red Bull have already admitted that the gap to the two top constructors is too big to overhaul this season, and with their spot in third place secure they could soon start to shift serious resources to developing the 2018 car.
Still, there are some tracks where their machinery can work well. There are aspects of Spa that suit them to a tee, and Daniel Ricciardo has claimed victory there before, not to mention it acts as Max Verstappen’s home race. Singapore is also a track that should bring them closer to the front as it promotes handling and balance over power. On the other hand, places like Monza, Mexico, and America will see them at a disadvantage; however, their drivers are good enough to take advantage of any slips or changeable conditions.
|Race||Daniel Ricciardo||Max Verstappen|
|Australia||Q: 10 R: Ret (Fuel cell)||Q: 5 R: 5|
|China||Q: 5 R: 4||Q: 19 R: 3|
|Bahrain||Q: 4 R: 5||Q: 6 R: Ret (Brakes)|
|Russia||Q: 5 R: Ret (Brakes)||Q: 7 R: 5|
|Spain||Q: 6 R: 3||Q: 5 R: Ret (Crash)|
|Monaco||Q: 5 R: 3||Q: 4 R: 5|
|Canada||Q: 6 R: 3||Q: 5 R: Red (Electrical)|
|Azerbaijan||Q: 10 R: 1||Q: 5 R: Ret (Oil pressure)|
|Austria||Q: 5 R: 3||Q: 6 R: Ret (Crash)|
|Great Britain||Q: 20 R: 5||Q: 5 R: 4|
|Hungary||Q: 6 R: Ret (Crash)||Q: 5 R: 5|
The battle between the two drivers has been intense all year. Max Verstappen slightly edges the qualification battle when they both have clean runs, and walks away with it due to the two errors Daniel made in Australia and Azerbaijan, but when it comes to race day he is easily the more consistent of the two. Verstappen’s season has been highlighted by incredible first laps and his usual aggressive defence, but there are also three first lap incidents that have cost him, including locking up into turn two and taking out Ricciardo in Hungary.
I expect their relationship to have soured somewhat, especially given Ricciardo’s rather explosive radio message at the time. However, the summer break and a team atmosphere that fosters competition should keep things steady in the short term at least.
It’s hard to pick who has had the better season so far; Ricciardo has the results, but Max has retired from in front of him three times due to reliability issues as well. It’s boom or bust for Verstappen, even-keel for Ricciardo.
Driver review: Daniel Ricciardo
After having the home-race from hell in Australia, Ricciardo bounced back remarkably well and his performance in the European season was remarkable. His double overtake of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll at the restart in Azerbaijan was masterful and a huge reason why he was able to capitalise on the errors made by Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
He has made two charges through the field this year, in Azerbaijan, and then at Silverstone where a turbo failure in Q1 forced him to start from the back. Watching him scythe through the field has been incredible fun, and the 'shoey’s, for me at least, haven’t gotten old.
Driver review: Max Verstappen
It’s been a frustrating season for Max Verstappen, who has lost several promising race positions due to reliability. He could well have had a podium finish in Bahrain and Canada but for reliability problems, and his first lap in China was perhaps the best piece of driving we’ve seen all year.