This week, we are assessing the individual driver performances in each team to see who is living up to expectations. A pulsating start to the season has already put a cat amongst the pigeons at Red Bull.
The season so far
Max 3 – 2 Daniel
Max 33 – 47 Daniel
When Max Verstappen was promoted to take Daniil Kvyat's place ahead of the 2016 Spanish GP, Red Bull were placing all their faith in F1's youngest and most sought-after driver.
The decision also kick-started an exciting and dynamic driver pairing which team boss Christian Horner insisted was the strongest on the grid as Verstappen joined Aussie Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen was the record-breaking rising star while Ricciardo was the smiling assassin who had seen off Sebastian Vettel but struggled against Kvyat.
Stats (Since partnership started in 2016)
| ||Daniel ||Max |
|Qualifying Head to Head||20||21|
The reason for including their total stats in a 2018 comparison is simple: to understand the bigger picture at Red Bull you have to look past the immediate media bias towards Max Verstappen. This is a kid who is adored by the media and in many people's eyes can do no wrong because of the entertainment he brings to the sport - if you class a catalogue of mistakes as entertainment.
He has made contact with other cars in all five races this year, which tells you everything you need to know about his temperament and aggressive driving style. You could excuse one or two of these as racing incidents. But his mistakes are impacting on other's fortunes, most notably preventing Vettel from making the podium in China and ultimately costing Ferrari six-eight points.
Verstappen may not be interested in the psychological aspects of F1, but honing the mental skills to measure risk and reward in split seconds, seeing the bigger picture beyond just the next corner, and showing patience and verve, are all integral parts of the sport.
In a championship decided by fine margins, it would be a shame for it to be settled by one driver's recklessness.
The stats show his qualifying his pace is good and perhaps he has more raw speed than teammate. But in race trim he has picked up 80 fewer points over the same time period as Daniel. And they have both been plagued with reliability issues so that can't really be used as an excuse.
Towards the end of last season, Verstappen committed his long-term future to Red Bull by signing a new contract. It was a welcome announcement for the team, but also created further intrigue over Ricciardo's position.
Verstappen and Ricciardo's contracts were both set to expire at the end of this season, so was this a sign that Red Bull were more keen to lock-in their youngster rather than a driver they admitted was on the market? Was this a sign of favouritism?
If you’re a big team boss, you would put your money on Ricciardo over the course of a season, and that appears to be what Ferrari are trying to do, with the driver in a period of exclusive negotiations with the Italian team until August. As a result, this could well be the duo's last year together. If Max loses to Daniel again this year, it will be the benchmark that F1 critics measure him against for many years to come, whatever he achieves in his career.