It’s no lie that Red Bull struggled to make any impressions on the front of the field during recent the Australian Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo suffered technical gremlins during the race while Max Verstappen managed to hold on for an unconvincing 5th place.
Because of this, Formula 1 pundits, in this case, BBC’s Andrew Benson, have started writing articles titled like this: “The key areas where Christian Horner’s team need to improve.”
But, you forget, ever since the V6 Hybrid era, Red Bull Racing have always struggled in Australia, yet, it hasn’t defined their season.
2014’s race saw Daniel Ricciardo’s maiden podium ripped from his grasp following a post-race fuel infringement while Daniel Kvyat fail to even line up for the start in the 2015 and 2016 iteration.
Since 2014, the highest finish Red Bull have achieved in the season-opening Grand Prix is 4th place from Daniel Ricciardo in 2016. On that day, he finished 24.330s behind the pace of race winner, Lewis Hamilton.
Fast-forward to this year’s Australian Grand Prix and Max Verstappen finished one place lower in P6, notably, he was just 28.827s off the pace of Vettel’s flying Ferrari. That’s a contrast of just 4.497s between the two years, which – when you don’t take most other race factors into consideration – is a somewhat minimal difference.
And, despite Red Bull’s weak showing at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, they eventually overtook Ferrari in the Constructors Championship and won two races in what ESPN have now described as an “impressive achievement.”
Funnily enough, the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix was the race where Red Bull first showed the true pace of their RB12. Daniel Ricciardo was rather shocked when he qualified on the front row alongside Nico Rosberg. But, Ricciardo’s shocks hadn’t stopped there, by the end of the first sector on Sunday, he was leading the race.
2016 China actually became a question of ‘what if?’ for Red Bull; a puncture on lap 3 for Ricciardo saw his chances of a race win chopped in half.
And, that’s why China was such a shock. Red Bull arrived in Australia and was applauded for keeping pace with the Mercedes, while just two rounds later in China, they were unfortunate to lose what could’ve have easily been a race win.
This, for me, best shows how we’re wrong to be writing articles about Red Bull needing to improve, even if they themselves are saying it. Max Verstappen agrees, telling journalists in Thursday’s press conference that he is “confident [Red Bull] can close [the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes] over the next few races.”
Because of this, I firmly believe that Red Bull are going to be equal to the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari in China. Australia just isn’t their track, and Daniel Ricciardo has even, coincidentally, said “since I’ve been with Red Bull Racing the circuit has been a real strength of mine.”
Red Bull will hit the track for the first Friday practice session at 10am local time. The forecast is for wet weather, something that will only help the two Red Bulls ultimately spring into action.