Mid-season review: RBR lonely, but improving

Mid-season review: RBR lonely, but improving

9 August 2017 – GPUpdate.net continues its mid-season review series by reflecting on Red Bull, which is gradually on the rise after a difficult campaign, in which it has lagged behind primary opponents Mercedes and Ferrari.

Red Bull: 7/10
Championship: 3rd
WCC points: 184
Wins: 1 (1 x RIC)
Best qualifying: 4th (1 x RIC, 1 X VER)
Fastest laps: 0
Qualifying duel: VER 7 – 4 RIC


Red Bull harboured hopes of competing for the title, but has instead emerged an isolated third, regularly behind the Mercedes/Ferrari axis, and clear of the Force India-led midfield. On pure pace, Red Bull has typically locked out the third row of the grid, and profited from any incidents affecting the lead duo, as demonstrated in Azerbaijan. Red Bull was anonymous during pre-season, with less running than its rivals, and believed it faced an aero shortfall, accentuated by a narrow set-up window, and an engine deficit, as per previous campaigns. Such expectations were realised during the opening rounds, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen resigned to an initial struggle. Red Bull was substantially off the pace in early events, as it worked through correlation issues, and while it has yet to emerge in the fight for pole, recent gains have lifted the team closer in race trim – particularly in Austria and Hungary. Reliability, though, has been lacklustre, with just three double finishes from 11 starts, exacerbated by a handful of collisions. Red Bull improved substantially over the course of 2016 and, if it can repeat such gains, then it will be well placed heading into 2018; whatever it can learn this year will be beneficial next season – and a three-way title fight is a mouth-watering prospect.

Daniel Ricciardo: 8.5/10
Championship: 4th
WDC points: 117
Best R result: 1st (1x)
Best Q result: 4th (1x)


Assessing the Red Bull drivers is a difficult proposition; Ricciardo – so often the king of pulling a rabbit out of the hat in Q3 – has been subdued in qualifying, and crashed in two sessions, but has often thrived in race trim, the caveat being that Verstappen has suffered a litany of issues to prevent a fair comparison. Ricciardo's season began with a dismal home showing, and the next rounds were so-so, but the Spanish Grand Prix kick-started a run of five races on the podium, including the high of Azerbaijan, when he avoided the drama to capture victory, via a stunning three-on-one move at the restart. However, in the grand scheme of Formula 1, this has been a meandering season for Ricciardo, who, in his fourth season at Red Bull, is again trying to pick up scraps, rather than kick on and fight for the title. Aged 28, he still has some time on his side, but with Verstappen continually improving, there is surely a growing fear that he could miss the boat.

Max Verstappen: 8.5/10
Championship: 6th
WDC points: 67
Best R result: 3rd (1x)
Best Q result: 4ht (1x)


Verstappen's meteoric ascendancy through the ranks has flat-lined in 2017, albeit through little fault of his own. Hungary aside, Verstappen has put in a sequence of mature displays this season, and demonstrated his ability when not restricted by Red Bull's lack of reliability and pace, such as his defence against Vettel at Silverstone. Verstappen has retired from five Grands Prix, and finished third, fourth or fifth in the others. He brilliantly captured a podium in China and victory in Azerbaijan could have been his without another engine glitch. Without the litany of points lost, Verstappen would be on par with Ricciardo in the points standings, rather than only marginally ahead of Force India's Sergio Pérez. His qualifying pace has also improved, leading Ricciardo 7-4, in turn putting him in a better position for races. This may have been a year of setbacks and frustrations, but it will stand Verstappen in greater stead when equipped with a car to regularly fight at the front of the pack.

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