Thoughts on Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo



There is nothing the Formula 1 paddock loves more than a bit of intrigue and speculation. That’s why the Red Bull story about who will become Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate was the main topic of conversation throughout the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

People would walk up to each other, throw out a quick nicety (“Good holiday?”) then without waiting for an answer or giving any room for a three week reminisce launch straight into: “Do you know any more about what’s happening at Red Bull?” I saw it happen several times and I always find it funny that because I speak to the drivers, people think I have a secret stash of knowledge. Sometimes I do but sadly not this time.

So in that case let’s speculate!

Many people believe the Red Bull deal with Daniel is done in that he obviously wants the seat and it has been offered to him. What then is stopping them announcing it? Are they hoping to hear from Kimi Rӓikkӧnen again, even though talks have reportedly broken down from Kimi’s side? Are they hoping that Ferrari don’t meet Fernando Alonso’s standards and he fancies a move in order to add another title to his CV? Would Red Bull even be interested if that was the case? It would be great to see Alonso and Vettel in the same car but why risk the unsettling the team and Alonso is not going to arrive quietly and let Vettel keep number one status. Neither is Kimi which is apparently the problem at the moment. Also with all the changes coming in 2014, there is no guarantee that Red Bull will still be the force they are now.

If either of the above do want to join, Red Bull could scrap the Ricciardo deal. He wouldn’t lose a seat in that he’d still be at Toro Rosso but he wouldn’t gain the dream drive.

And what about Ricciardo? It was always thought that he and Jean Eric Vergne would be battling it out to replace Mark Webber and it’s never looked like there was much between them. The Australian was stronger on a Saturday whilst Vergne seemed to be able to battle hard on a Sunday. Even at this stage of the championship there is just one point between the Toro Rosso drivers and it is Vergne who is ahead.

The closeness of their talent goes back further. If you speak to Trevor Carlin who ran both in British F3, he’s always said how impressed he was with both drivers. Ricciardo won the championship in 2009 and Vergne in 2010.

For some reason it seems like Daniel Ricciardo has been around a lot longer than just two seasons. He stepped into a Hispania and made his debut at the British Grand Prix while still carrying out his Toro Rosso test driver duties and competing in World Series by Renault.

Despite only being 24, he carries a maturity and calmness beyond his years. His attitude is great and he is a pleasure to interview and generally spend time with in the paddock. A winning smile and a happy demeanour doesn’t entitle him to the best seat in the house but if Red Bull liked what they saw over all these years, invested in him and helped him develop, it would seem foolish to stop now.

They took a chance with Vettel and stepped him up and it worked. Yes, he was a race winner but as he said to me at the weekend, “Was I ready to move up when I did? I’m not sure!”

The Red Bull Young Driver programme is notoriously tough. Support is given, but also taken away in a flash and it’s great to see some ex-YDP drivers doing well without the Austrian support. Canadian Robert Wickens won his first DTM race this month. Brendon Hartley has made an impressive jigsaw of drives from GP2, to Mercedes development work and now is racing in sports cars. Lewis Williamson is back in GP3 after being dropped last season. I do understand that you can’t reward talent if it isn’t there but all these guys are talented and are proven winners in various categories and that is what attracted Red Bull to them to begin with.

To not give Ricciardo a chance would seem a harsh decision. It’s not like he can go to another team to gain more experience, get on the podium and then go to Red Bull. If they do believe that what they saw years ago was the mark of a future world champion and worth investing in, then they should take the risk.

Yes it would be great to see world champions in the same car, but maybe if Mark Webber’s replacement is given a chance then we just might see two world champions battling it out in the future.

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