likely have resulted in a driver civil war
destabilizing the entire team.
Team principal Christian Horner admits
a huge amount of consideration was put
into the identity of Vettel’s teammate.
Eventually, what tipped the balance was a
combination of Ricciardo’s prodigious pace,
both in the Toro Rosso and in a brief test
outing for Red Bull at Silverstone in June
during which, fuel/tire corrected, he was
just as quick as the German, plus the way
he would fit into the team.
“We spent a large amount of time
talking about different permutations,
irrelevant of whether they were available
or not,” explains Horner. “We came to the
conclusion that Daniel was the right guy.
“Choosing drivers is never that easy.
We’ve seen in the past relationships
between drivers being quite disruptive to
a team. What we’ve got for 2014 are two
young guys – one who’s a world champion
who’s won more than 30 races so far
and is still only 26, and we now also
have a 24-year-old who’s served his
apprenticeship and is ready to make that
next step. He will learn a huge amount.”
This is the classic master and
apprentice strategy. It’s a cliché for a reason,
because it very often works. But there are
risks to the approach. In 2007, McLaren
had double world champion Alonso join the
team and took the seemingly logical step of
promoting the long-nurtured Hamilton
alongside him. Hamilton’s pace caused
immediate problems and led to one of the
most acrimonious intra-team relationships
in recent F1 history.
A similar situation arose in 1986, when
Nelson Piquet claimed to have been
promised number one status at Williams.
Nobody told Nigel Mansell, presumably
assuming his performance level would not
be high enough to trouble the Brazilian. The
result was Williams dominating the season,
but McLaren driver Alain Prost stealing the
crown thanks to Mansell and Piquet taking
points off each other. Yet such situations
are in the minority, and usually it pays off.
“Putting a young guy with an experienced
veteran is a healthy way of doing things,”
says Horner. “It has a better chance of
working than putting two guys at
loggerheads against each other.”
While Ricciardo has shown impressive
glimpses of potential, the prevailing opinion
is that he’s seen as a support act to Vettel.
Certainly, that would suit the team. The
Australian faces a huge challenge to get
near to the stunningly consistent Vettel,
already established as a great, over the
course of a season. But teams will always
get behind the better driver. Just look at
Lotus, where Romain Grosjean has, at
times, had the upper hand over Raikkonen.
If Ricciardo were miraculously to be
(RIGHT) Since his
return to F1 in 2012,
Raikkonen has been a
revelation for Lotus,
winning races and
putting himself into
title consideration. But
is he more firepower
than required for
Ferrari’s second seat?
says it always takes the
best driver available. A
lousy 2013 car means
newbie Sergio Perez
hasn’t had the chance
to confirm that against
Jenson Button yet...
(BOTTOM) Vettel leads
Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso. G l e n n
“We spent a large amount of
time talking about different
permutations, irrelevant of
whether they were available”