Formula 1 mid-season review: Red Bull
5 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. In the next instalment, we look at reigning World Champions Red Bull plus how Daniel Ricciardo has coped alongside Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull: 7.5/10
Amid changing Formula 1 regulations, one would expect Red Bull to remain in contention. The team has a sizeable budget, a composed leader in Christian Horner, the grid's most sought-after designer in Adrian Newey and two rapid peddlers in the form of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. The 2014 overhaul, however, revolved around engines, a stumbling block given that it does not have a full factory deal in place and it gets its power units sent over the channel from Renault. As the primary client, some have argued that Red Bull did not do enough to ensure that the French brand's project was on track, but the design and manufacture of the product is ultimately out of its hands. And although this area has caused problems, which are reducing on a race-by-race basis, the squad has again excelled in others to take two victories and a further five podium finishes from the opening 12 rounds of the season. This means it is the closest to Mercedes heading into the summer break, even if fifth straight titles appear out of the question due to a 174-point deficit in the Constructors' standings and a 71-point shortfall in the Drivers' battle with Ricciardo.
Daniel Ricciardo: 9.5/10
Ricciardo has proven his doubters wrong since stepping up to Red Bull's senior team. After being painfully stripped of a dream start on home soil – when stewards disqualified him from second over a fuel breach – and losing another podium shot at the following Malaysian round when the team released him from the pits with a loose left-front wheel, questions came thick and fast as to how he would deal with the situation. But he kept his chin up and responded in the perfect manner. Two fourth place finishes in Bahrain and China were followed by overdue podiums in Spain and Monaco, before he took the elusive next step with a rampant Canadian Grand Prix win. And his form has not dropped, with another top three coming in Britain and a second victory in Hungary. It's the perfect way to enter the summer break and fully vindicates Red Bull's gamble to pick him as Mark Webber's replacement. Like his compatriot, he is fast-becoming one of the most likeable characters in the paddock. But rival drivers must not be fooled by his charming exterior. In the words of former World Champion Alan Jones, Ricciardo "grows horns" when it matters. There's a reason he stuck a Honey Badger, regarded as one of the world's most fearless animals, on the back of his helmet…
Sebastian Vettel: 7/10
Vettel was expected to drive Red Bull forward whatever the scenario this season, having enjoyed a four-year run as the best in the business. But he has so far been overshadowed by new team-mate Ricciardo. Let's make it clear. Vettel did not forget how to drive a Formula 1 car over the winter. Nor did the birth of his first child add tenths of a second to his name. He is simply struggling to adapt to a vastly different Red Bull that, in previous years, was planted through the corners and reacted, without issue, to his every demand. Whilst Vettel is having to step back from a supreme package, Ricciardo has arrived after half a term at the now defunct HRT and two seasons at Toro Rosso, driving significantly inferior machinery. During the first six races of 2014 that both drivers finished (Bahrain, China, Spain, Canada and Britain), Vettel was beaten by the Australian. And he would arguably have lost out at his home race in Germany, the first time he took the chequered flag as the lead Red Bull, had it not been for Ricciardo having to dodge Felipe Massa's flying Williams at the first corner. But crucially, when wet conditions levelled the playing field during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Vettel was the fastest non-Mercedes driver and two tenths up on Ricciardo. The opening Safety Car period and a subsequent spin scuppered his chances of victory, but the weekend proved that he has the pace when an ill-handling car is less obstructive. It is clear, however, that Vettel needs to step up to the plate over the final eight races. The talent is still there, but he needs to prove that it exists when things aren't going his way. All great drivers have done so.
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