As we head into the the latter end of the 2017 season, one by one at Pit Crew we are looking into each individual team with specific weeks. This we look into the Austrian outfit Red Bull Racing. The drivers continued from the 2016 season with Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who always is a joy to watch with deep braking and has a cracking personality. Dutchman ‘Go big or go home’ Max Verstappen also stays, his first full season in the Red Bull after his halfway season swap with Danil Kyvat in 2016 from Toro Rosso. Many think that Red Bull have the best driving partnership on the grid.
Everyone was optimistic about Red Bull’s chances for the 2017 season. The regulation changes were based on aerodynamics for the season forthcoming and Red Bull always are known for their grear aerodynamics and chassis. It was hoping with that it would outweigh the deficit that the Renault has in terms of horsepower to Ferrari and Mercedes. In the original release of the Red Bull the car looked very basic unlike its rivals, which raised concern. It did have the unique hole in its nose. This did though made the car launch more popular.
In the pre-season tests pace did look promising as day by day additions were coming in from Milton Keynes to adapt onto their RB13. Their car was building well, but again reliability was something that was out of their control. Much like Renault and Toro Rosso their gearbox and engines had problems, so much so they had to revert to 2016 items for the first few races. These were heavier and less powerful which hindered them. The cars still looked very basic compared to the depth of sidepod changes that Ferrari had between 2016 & 2017. They also did not introduce a T-Wing till later in the season. Adrian Newey at this time was away so did not have his full say in the car’s full design.
This was where we first saw the order of the pack, and it showed that Red Bull were in No Mans Land, as per 2016, it seems Deja Vu for the Austrian team. They were too far behind to challenge Ferrari & Mercedes, but too far ahead to be challenged by Force India & Williams. Their race pace was promising but just lack outright qualifying speed. Ricciardo had a weekend to forget, in Q3 he ended up in the wall after a rare mistake. His car then failed twice on Sunday, on the way to the grid, missing the start, and then towards the end of the first sector halfway through the race on lap 25. Verstappen qualified 5th and then finished 5th. He ended much closer to Raikonnen than people expected. Seemed to set the trend that as per mentioned the race pace of the RB13 is strong but lacks outright speed on Saturday.
Driver Points: Verstappen 10 – Ricciardo 0
The Chinese Grand Prix was hindered significantly in its Friday running, when the weather restricted the medical helicopter to fly. Only 20 mins of practice was raced throughout weekend. Reliability gremlins were still in the Red Bull pit area following on from Austrailia but this time it was Verstappen that struggled. He suffered with power deficit and the Shanghai back straight is one of longest of the season, it resulted in him being knocked out in Q1. Ricciardo was best of the rest, qualifying 5th, very much a role reversal from Austrailia.
The weather had a say in the race on Sunday, the majority of the track was dry, but on the main straight and few areas it was still wet from overnight rain. 19/20 drivers started on intermediates. Verstappen due to penalties started 16th, his start was simply amazing! He was up in the top ten crossing the line into lap 2 through passing at the start and midpack collisions. Verstappen was coy and through use of his skill as per seen in Brazil last year and the early safety car he managed to finish an incredible 3rd. Ricciardo was hot on his heels finishing 4th. Great wheel to wheel action but it was kept clean. A much better weekend for the Austrian outfit with a double points finish. Verstappen moved to 3rd in the drivers championship, whilst Ricciardo scored his first points of the season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 12
The form of China carried on into the desert of Bahrain. The team looking closer again to the two in front of them. It was just once again, they couldn’t turn their engine up like them. Mercedes had on average a 2 second difference from their Q1 time to Q3 whilst Red Bull only found a second. They were edging closer though, Ricciardo managed to out qualify Raikonnen’s Ferrari. The car was looking better, new additions around the front end of the car was to blame.
They both started well in the Grand Prix, but then on lap 11 after a pit stop for Verstappen trouble happened, heading to the end of sector 1, the second heavy braking area around the track the car didn’t respond to him, it ground to halt in the gravel. He unfortunately retired due to a brake failure. Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll had an incident as well which brought out the safety car, Ricciardo was caugh among a controversial move by Hamilton. He ended at the end of the period ahead of the British driver. Hamilton turned up the engine and passed him easily along the main straight on the restart. Kimi Raikonnen also passed him later on, as a result he finished 5th. Verstappen due to his non-finish dropped to 5th in the overall standings.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 22
Sochi was moved for the 2017 season, swapping places with Maylasia. This track unlike Bahrain is much more focused on the power of the car rather than outright grip. Williams were much closer to Red Bull as a result, Ricciardo qualified 1.9 seconds behind the eventual pole sitter Sebastien Vettel. Felipe Massa in the Williams managed to split the Red Bull duo, a shade quicker than Verstappen.
The race start was clean, not much contact had occurred on the first lap so far this point of the season, with wider cars, everyone thought that it would be even more collisions. Ricciardo was challenging Raikonnen for 4th, but got caught in, as a result Verstappen got passed the Williams of Massa and Ricciardo into 5th place. The race was very lacklustre after the first lap, there wasn’t any overtakes, except if it does count when Ricciardo’s brake caught alight. It did end up with the Australian failing to finish, back to back brake failures, and their third mechanical retirement of the season. Verstappen finished 5th, a whole minute behind the winner Bottas, a very lonely race for the Dutchman.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 22
Much promise was made of Red Bull, with the supposed RB13B being introduced at Spain. As per mentioned with Russia swapping with Maylasia, Spain for the first time wasn’t the first European race of the season. Barcelona tends to be where the first big set of upgrades are brought. After a disapointing beginning of the season albeit podium places here and there they want to be fighting for the championship. They brought updates, the car looking much less basic than it was back in Australia. Renault importantly also did too, if you look back to this article we wrote earlier in the season about their MGU-K. The Red Bull had a new colour scheme in practice, quite a lot of flowviz paint was used.
The car was much more competitive but once more others could turn the wick on their engine up. It was much better though, Verstappen was only 0.6 seconds slower to the 1.2 seconds they were back in Sochi. Ricciardo didn’t have the best of days on the Saturday, a whopping 0.4 behind Verstappen.
Race day was upon us, Red Bull looked good in terms of matching on certain compounds Ferrari and Mercedes, it was all down to the start. The original launch was good for Verstappen, was making the most of the new settings they follow this year, got up alongside Raikonnen into turn 1, but a bang of wheels plush on resulted in terminal damage for both drivers. This resulting in the iconic small video clip of the boy in the stand crying his eyes out. Ricciardo as a result moved up into 4th following, the two Mercedes and Vettel, but this soon became 3rd as a rare failure on the Mercedes happened as Bottas car pulled to the side with engine failure. Ricciardo finished 75 seconds behind the two championship contagnists, being the only 1 besides them not to be lapped. Ricciardo overtook Verstappen in the championship for the first time this season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 37
The unique race amongst the principality of Monaco was round 6 in the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, much like Barcelona a less demanding power track, much hoped Red Bull could be in with the mix for the victory much like last year if it weren’t for the mishap that Ricciardo had in the race. From the offset they looked competitive with Verstappen 3rd quickest on the Thursday, Ricciardo was there abouts, albeit he didn’t get to do a full on lap in practice 3 due to another brake failure on his car so his true pace wasn’t seen until qualifying.
Qualifying did show a shock with Lewis Hamilton being eliminated in Q2, this did give the Bulls an opportunity to qualify higher than they have done this season. Verstappen was the closest Red Bull got to pole all season, the top four being himself, Bottas and the two Ferrari’s only 0.3 seconds between them. Ricciardo made a mistake on his fast lap, but was best of the rest in 5th.
For the first time since China both drivers finished the race, and much like China one of them ended up on the podium. This was once more Ricciardo, himself and Vettel both used the overcut to effect rather than at any other tracks more than likely the undercut being the best option. Monaco always a tough one to pass around, but through the sole pit stop phase Ricciardo went from behind Verstappen, to passing him and Bottas. A late safety car piled the pressure on Ricciardo from Bottas behind but it was a great drive from him once more. Verstappen not best pleased with the team as he missed out on that opportunity. They outscored the Mercedes team with Hamilton finishing 7th.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 52
Montreal is such a stunning track, the flow of the circuit and scenery that is surrounded by makes it one of the best on the calendar. The track does have many memorable moments, much like Ricciardo’s 2014 victory. Montreal is back to Russia, more a power themed track than out right downforce than the previous two races. Red Bull had a few more new developments here, and their race pace was promising compatable with the speeds of Hamilton and Vettel. They got close to Raikonnen in qualifying, but Hamilton and Vettel were in a league of their own on the Saturday.
Verstappen without a doubt thus far has the best start of the season award, starting on the 3rd row in 5th he managed to climb 3 places, going into the second corner in 2nd place just behind the gearbox of Hamilton. Ricciardo also managed to pass Raikonnen, at the end of the first lap, they were 2nd and 5th. Hamilton couldn’t get away but on to the start of lap 11 and Verstappen suffered another engine electrical failure, amazing from the teenager but once more with nothing to show for it. Ricciardo held onto 3rd, Raikonnen was nowhere in the race, whilst Vettel only finished 0.7 behind the Austrailian. A third podium in a row now for the Australian, he was closing in on 4th in the championship and pulling away from Verstappen.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 67
Red Bull are not where they are wanting to be at this current time. Adrian Newey, the greatest designer in the F1 world was appearing more often at the Grand Prix. His project with Aston Martin and the Americas Cup boat championship has been put aside. A few new boosts to power were showing from Renault and Newey began to adapt his thoughts on the RB13. Our second part of the Red Bull 2017 series will follow shortly, from Azerbaijan to Italy. Will Newey and Renault’s input make way for further success for the Red Bull team?