82 JULY 2014
track time in practice. However, there’s no
escaping the fact that it took him time to
feel comfortable with the 2014 car, and
while there were positive signs as the
season moved into its European phase, he
still doesn’t seem to be at one with the
car, as was the case in past years. He
outqualified Ricciardo in Canada, albeit by
a tiny margin, then lost out to him in the
race. Given his record over the past four
seasons, much more is expected from him.
A key issue is the loss of rear downforce
after the outlawing of blown diffusers.
Vettel was the master of driving the car in
that form and, of course, Newey pursued
that route more successfully than anyone
else. But RBR’s resident tech genius agrees
that its loss has posed problems for Vettel.
“There’s a fair bit of that,” says Newey.
“Seb has a very particular way of driving,
and if we can get the car to suit that
driving style, then he’s very effective. If we
can’t, then he’s not able to exploit that. So
it’s a work in progress. We can’t bring the
blown diffuser back, obviously, but
Sebastian was quick before they came
along, so it’s a re-learning curve for him.”
“We have to still work to get a car where
Seb’s happy and he gets his confidence
back,” says Marko. “It’s mainly mapping, but
he also must adapt. He was used to going
to the limit when he had a perfect car, a car
to his liking, but at the moment we can’t
produce a car to his liking. That’s the big
difference: Ricciardo, what he gets, he takes
it and runs with it – and Sebastian at some
stage also has to go for it with what he has.
“Sebastian is a master of making a car to
his liking. But at the moment, if hundreds of
engineers can’t make this Renault engine
work properly, how can he as a driver
solve it? Still, I think he’ll start to adapt.”
Marko says that this fresh challenge
won’t harm Seb: “It’s new and it forms his
character. When you talk to him
immediately after a race, of course he’s
not really happy. But when he goes into it
and sees the reason, then he’s OK.”
You could argue that the two drivers went
into the 2014 season with two very different
mindsets. For Ricciardo, it’s the chance of a
lifetime and the best car he’s ever had, while
for Vettel expectations were downgraded.
He’s known since the first test that the
package he has under him doesn’t come
close to what he had in recent seasons.
And after all his success, it can’t be easy.
Others may have had reservations,
even his supporters, but Ricciardo says he
came into the season with high hopes.
“Put it this way, I came into the team this
year with a pretty clear mind.” he says. “I
had a lot of confidence in myself that I could
get the results that I’ve had. I just knew if
I was putting in the work, keeping fit and
healthy, that the team would form around
me, and they would be more than capable
of giving me a car that could get me on the
podium. I haven’t surprised myself as much
as some people have been surprised.”
But even he hadn’t predicted his form
relative to his illustrious teammate.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, to be
honest,” says Ricciardo. “Obviously, I didn’t
expect to come out and be a second quicker
than him. I’d done some Red Bull tests and
been a bit quicker sometimes, but on a
different day, or different tires, or whatever.
So I’d never really gone head-to-head with
him. Deep down I knew I could get close to
him. Did I think I’d be finishing in front of
him in the first few races? I don’t know...”
Ricciardo’s rise to prominence has been
a welcome feature of the season, and his
success is popular even with rivals, who can’t
help but like the guy. However his friendly
demeanor disguises a fierce determination
to succeed, and no doubt he’ll be doing
everything he can to strengthen his position.
“Absolutely. Beneath the big smile there’s
a hugely competitive and very determined
young man,” says Horner. “Don’t be misled
by the grin into thinking that he’s
‘Mr. Nice’ on the track, because he’s as
hungry as any of them out there...”
“i didn’t know what to
expect. obviously, i didn’t
expect to come out and be a
second faster than [Vettel]”
(LEFT) Moving to Red Bull Racing has put
Daniel Ricciardo in the spotlight, but he’s
handled it well. (BELOW) The smile’s a
near-permanent fixture out of the car, but
he’s all business in it. (BELOW LEFT) “Putting
in the work” off the track, as well as on it.