Red Bull Racing have one of the most envious driver partnerships on the Formula One grid. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were without question both stars of the 2016 season. Verstappen ignited the Formula One grid and stole the show on many occasions, with highlights including an incredible win on his debut in Catalunya and a wet weather Senna-esque drive at Interlagos that earned a standing ovation from the Brazilian fans.
Despite the proportionally correct hype surrounding the young Dutchman, Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed his best season to date and secured most of the Red Bull points tally. The Aussie’s accomplishments went under the radar given the headline-grabbing actions of Verstappen, but we think Ricciardo will edge his promising teammate in 2017 and here are the reasons why:
Ricciardo’s ability to finish in the points at every single race excluding an 11th in Russia has been quite understated. He finished in the points more often than Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and has the desired trait of keeping out of trouble on-track. The Aussie has been in Formula One for much longer and Verstappen is still to have a full season at a top team given that he was driving for Toro Rosso a the start of the season.
RACE STEWARD DECISIONS
The race stewards were collectively criticised last season for over-policing. Their efforts in penalising drivers for overtaking got so bad that it seemed they would hand out a time penalty to any driver even thinking about pulling off a move. Verstappen would have been on first name terms by the end of the season given that he was involved in many incidents that the stewards deemed to be dangerous. Verstappen has stated that he will not change his driving style, the stewards are even less likely to budge.
The Dutchman’s aggressive style shouldn’t really be under the criticism that it has been, but the reality is that the complaints of other drivers are considered too genuine, and never tactical. Ricciardo will surely benefit from this and collect points in 2017 thanks to his teammates battles off-track with the stewards. It isn’t how it should be, but it is how it is.
RED BULL CONSTRUCTOR AMBITIONS
If Red Bull are anywhere near Mercedes next season and have a chance at claiming the Constructors, they will definitely take the tested route of a 1-2 driver system. Given Verstappen’s occasional proneness to mistakes but moreover, Ricciardo’s great consistency, the driver who has the edge early on in the season will surely claim the number one driver status by the season’s halfway point. It could be Verstappen, but Ricciardo’s consistency has been too good to discount him.