It’s strange to think the man who beat Sebastian Vettel in a straight fight has yet to fight for a World title. Daniel Ricciardo stepped up to the Red Bull team and took 3 victories in his first season with the team. It looked at that stage as though there would be a new name fighting for the title before long. Since that brilliant first season at the front, Daniel’s fortunes have dropped fairly dramatically.
Red Bull were poor in 2015, and then the Mercedes team were in a class of their own in 2016. Daniel has suffered his fair share of frustration during that period, he could be forgiven for feeling he deserved more.
2017 promised to be the year when Red Bull would be back at the very sharp end of the grid. This was supposed to be the chance for Ricciardo to take his place at the top of the sport. Unfortunately for him, it hasn’t turned out that way. Firstly, the Renault engine is still not quite on a level with Mercedes and Ferrari. Secondly, the car is not as good as many people, including me, expected.
The mechanical troubles that ended Ricciardo’s challenge at his home race were tough, but the Australian’s mistake in Qualifying was the root cause nevertheless. Pushing hard to bridge the gap between himself and the leaders, he found the limit, and paid the price. It’s likely that his car was still suffering from that shunt on race day. The car failed to make it round to the grid in the build up to the start. Incidentally, his team mate Verstappen had no such trouble. The moment he hit the wall, Ricciardo’s weekend was over.
A relentless character.
Moving on from such a disappointing weekend would be difficult for any driver, but you have to back Ricciardo to bounce back stronger. He arrived in China focused on kick starting his season, smiling as strongly as ever, but failing to conceal his determination. This weekend would have to be considerably better than the last. Daniel began strongly enough, out-qualifying his team mate as the Dutchman hit trouble in Q1.
However his Q3 time, which was good enough for 5th place on the grid, was almost a second slower than Raikkonen in 4th. Red Bull have a lot of work to do.
Ricciardo’s race in China was hardly better than what he managed in Melbourne. Having made a decent start, he was up to 2nd place by lap 5. What unfolded during the following laps will have caused the Australian some discomfort. Verstappen, who had started down in 16th, placed a telling move on Daniel and proceeded to pull away with some truly impressive driving.
From that point on, Daniel made no more progress through the order. He managed to contain Raikkonen’s struggling Ferrari, but had no answer to Sebastian Vettel’s onslaught. He ran the majority of the race in an action-free 4th place.
Time to build some momentum.
Being comprehensively beaten by his team mate will have hurt, a lot. He had no answer to Verstappen’s aggression, and struggled to gain a foothold in the race at all. In past races, it was Ricciardo who would pull in the headlines with his fearless, knife edge racing. That limitless precision looks to have deserted him at the moment, all the while his team mate continues to develop his own superstar status.
Ricciardo needs to be careful he is not forgotten in the tracks of Verstappen. The youngster is showing no signs of slowing up. Daniel’s World Championship potential could be in danger as long as he remains in Verstappen’s shadow. At this rate, this Red Bull rivalry could become a very one sided affair. We are only 2 races in, there is a long way to go in this season, but Daniel Ricciardo needs to beat his team mate in Bahrain. He needs to get some momentum in this Championship.
(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)