While the Formula 1 field takes a well-earned moment to rest and recharges its batteries ahead of the second half of the season, the RichardsF1.com team has taken the opportunity to review each driver and team and their performances over the first eleven rounds of the season.
Today we take a look at the defending champions, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
Even though the wholesale changes in the technical regulations should have had something of an equalising effect on the grid, logic says that Red Bull Racing should have remained in contention to lead the 2014 charge once again. The team is blessed with talented personnel and drivers, a successful partnership with Renault and an enormous budget.
But the biggest stumbling block came in the pre-season when the new Renault V6 power units were found wanting; all the French marque’s clients felt the pinch, but the Red Bull RB10 felt it worst of all. The brand new car could barely turn more than a couple of laps without its tightly packaged innards overheating. Some pointed the finger at Adrian Newey being too aggressive with his design choices, Red Bull failing to adequately manage Renault’s development of the new powerplants; others shifted blame squarely in Renault’s direction. The evidence perhaps suggests it was a combination of all three, but it seriously put the team’s pre-season preparations on the back foot.
It hit a further speed bump with Daniel Ricciardo being stripped of his hard-fought – and surprising – podium finish at the Australian Grand Prix, and then compounded its misery with an appeal to the FIA Court of Appeal that it didn’t have a hope in hell of winning. It smacked of both arrogance and desperation, and the final outcome was a sobering reality check for the team.
Renault’s engine issues were quickly ironed out over the coming races; there was improved power delivery and reliability which have seen the defending champions slowly chip away at the gap to the frontrunning Mercedes’ and claim seven visits to the rostrum. If the Silver Arrows have stumbled, the team – principally Daniel Ricciardo – has been there to capitalise, claiming two popular and widely-applauded wins.
The team heads the charge behind Mercedes in both championships’ stakes, although it would seem that a fifth successive sweep of the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship standings is undoubtedly beyond reach. It just took too long to iron all of the issues out.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 7/10
|Rank||Constructor||Races||DNS||Poles||Wins||Podiums||FL||Laps Led||Laps Raced||DNF||Pts.|
|2nd||Red Bull Racing||11||0||0||2||7||1||35||1225/1396||4||219|
The Smiling Assassin has been one of the revelations of the 2014 Formula 1 season. He’s stepped up brilliantly into Red Bull’s senior team, despite encountering some serious punishment in the first two races in Australia and Malaysia, where he had podium-winning drives go begging: disqualified in the first, and then released from a pit stop too early in the second.
He could have become downbeat amid sentiment that he had inherited the Aussie curse of his predecessor Mark Webber, but he bounced back in style. He ran at or ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s pace from the start, netting a pair of fourth-placed finishes in Bahrain and China before earning his first genuine podium when the series hit Europe. He backed it up to again lead the ‘best of the rest’ honours in Monaco behind the two Mercedes’.
Given Red Bull Racing’s woes, a visit to the top step of the podium might have looked like a possibility no sooner than 2015, but he pounced on Mercedes’ misfortunes next time out at Canada to claim a popular maiden win. He’s enjoyed two more podiums in Britain and in Hungary, with the latter being another win off the back of an outstanding drive.
He’ll enter the second half of the season brimful of confidence and looking to achieve more of the same. And to have done so while completely thrashing a four-time World Champion teammate says plenty for just how far this youngster from Perth has come.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 10/10
It’s been a very unflattering crash to earth for Sebastian Vettel. Three retirements and two podium finishes have left him a distant sixth in the Drivers’ Championship standings and with no hope of equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of five Drivers’ Championship titles in a row.
Let’s not make this a complete ‘doom and gloom’ exercise, however: Sebastian Vettel has not suddenly forgotten how to drive a Formula 1 car. Simply, he’s found it harder to adapt to the 2014-style Formula 1 car that we now see: a car with inconsistent turbo power delivery and far less aerodynamic and mechanical grip. He’s had the benefit of four years of outstanding cars that would bend to his every whim – teammate Ricciardo, by contrast, has never driven a brilliant F1 car – and he’s not happy having to deal with an inferior package.
Cue some of the more outspoken comments from Vettel, particularly about the sounds of the new engines or the relative (and apparent) lack of speed and danger in F1 2014.
Cue the radio whinges about the driving standards of his rivals, which rather smack of hypocrisy given his antics in previous years. It’s all a bit of a desperate smoke and mirrors exercise on his part.
The statistics so far have been pretty damning: of the six races where he and Ricciardo have both finished, the Australian has crossed the line ahead of him five times – even then, the one time he beat Ricciardo (at Germany) was probably only because Daniel was delayed at the first corner.
Ricciardo also has a 7-4 head-to-head qualifying advantage over the German.
Vettel ended the first half of the season with a fighting performance in Hungary, and perhaps he could have won were it not for missing the chance to pit during the first Safety Car and/or spinning wildly when he exited the final corner. He’s shown plenty of spirit during his championship-winning years when his back’s been against the wall (think 2010 and 2012), so there’s no reason why he can’t unlock more of the same once again.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 7/10
Images via Bleacher Report, Independent, Sutton Images