Mid-Season Review: Disappointing Times at Red Bull

Last season, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were two of the most exciting, aggressive drivers on the grid, both of them looking to get into that exclusive top bracket of Formula 1 driver that only Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso currently frequent. But the Red Bull car hasn’t delivered.

2017 was described as a heavy aero-era, whetting the appetite for Red Bull fans across the world as it looked to be a possible title-fighting year between two great drivers in cars designed by Adrian Newey and co. Early signs in pre-season quickly extinguished any hopes of Red Bull taking the fight to Mercedes, with many technical-minded onlookers pointing out the simplicity of the RB13 when compared to the W08 and SF70H. The car rolled out in one of the better launch videos that ran on the theme of luck given the number of the model, revealing this year’s challenger and its glorious nostril…

The screeching black cat, smashed mirrors and solitary magpie in the launch video were all omens for the season to come. It started with Ricciardo’s retirement from his home Grand Prix on the opening weekend and then moved over to Verstappen’s side of the garage. The young Dutchman has suffered five retirements so far this season, the only other driver on the grid to match that tally is Fernando Alonso. Verstappen has suffered more attrition than 50% of McLaren’s driver line-up this season – let that sink in.

The young Dutchman has suffered five retirements so far this season, the only other driver on the grid to match that tally is Fernando Alonso. Verstappen has suffered more attrition than 50% of McLaren’s driver line-up this season – let that sink in.

It has translated to falling into the clutches of Force India in 4th, rather than pushing on and challenging Ferrari and Mercedes. Whilst team boss Christian Horner has set the target of outscoring Ferrari in the second half of the season, the team have acknowledged that the two teams ahead are unreachable in the Constructors.

It looks like the rest of 2017 will be about holding 3rd, but the tenacity of their drivers will push on for opportunistic victories if the other teams falter. Marina Bay remains the only circuit in the second half in which Red Bull could get on the front row in Qualifying and win on pure merit, unless Mercedes or Ferrari take a drastic wrong turn in development.

BEST RACES SO FAR:

Shanghai: Ricciardo 3rd – Verstappen 4th

The second race of the year provided Red Bull’s best return of championship points with both drivers able to beat the Finnish duo in the top two teams. Ricciardo had an awesome scrap with Vettel in the final sector, but was unable to hold the Ferrari off.

Baku: Ricciardo 1st – Verstappen DNF

One half of the Red Bull garage won’t be happy that we consider this one of the team’s best races so far, but Ricciardo’s cool head in what was a frantic and crazy race can’t be ignored. It may end up being Red Bull’s only win of the year, but Ricciardo was outstanding, especially due to the fact that he started mid-pack in 10th amidst the chaos and carbon fibre.

WORST RACE SO FAR:

Budapest: Ricciardo DNF – Verstappen 5th

The golden chalice of Motorsport sins occurred on the opening lap after both drivers made gains on the start. Verstappen locked up and hit Ricciardo, ruining both drivers races. The Aussie wasn’t happy after the race and suggested that Verstappen was a sore loser.

Replays later showed that whilst the Dutchman wasn’t malicious, it was a very amateurish mistake that cost Red Bull some crucial points. The Hungaroring suited the car as the power deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari wouldn’t have been as telling, but it was over in a flash. Max recovered for 5th, but it could have been a much better race for both drivers.

RATING THE FIRST HALF: 4/10

A low score given the expectancy this season. Most anticipated Red Bull to at least be fighting for the title, but Ferrari have taken their place. On top of that, the amount of retirements have been shocking and have avoided criticism largely due to what’s happening at McLaren. Whilst they will probably be able to keep Force India behind, this isn’t the 2017 season Red Bull were expecting and it’s a shame that the audience has been denied two highly capable drivers fighting for race wins.