had he been on the right strategy, and also
had a Monaco victory in the bag from pole
position before a pitstop blunder, he’s far
from a busted flush. What’s clear – as
Ricciardo admits – is that Verstappen has
made him have a good look at himself.
While Vettel had no response to Ricciardo in
2014, Ricciardo’s had one for Verstappen.
“When Max came in, even though he got
the win in Spain I feel I’ve been doing good,”
says Ricciardo. “With Dani, I always felt I was
on top and going as much as I could, but
then Max arrived. I feel I’ve driven well
from the start of this season, and perhaps
we’ve both really pushed each other now?”
So Red Bull is in a situation that’s
simultaneously exciting and terrifying. It
has two hungry drivers in a hurry, and an
improving car/engine package that has
every chance of being able to challenge
Mercedes for the World Championship in
2017. That’s a recipe for a lot of wins…and
a lot of acrimony. The infamous Senna vs.
Prost rivalry at McLaren pitted a rising star
against an experienced hand, so that’s not
the comparison. Instead, it’s more like
Senna vs. Senna. Explosive? You bet.
Where Ricciardo does align with Prost is
that he’s the older, calmer one. While
Verstappen has infuriated rivals with his
on-track tactics, to the point where his
driving, and in particular his tendency to
move around under braking while
defending, has been addressed in drivers’
meetings. Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen,
Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes team boss
Toto Wolff have all raised concerns.
After the Belgian GP, where Verstappen’s
defensive tactics and aggressive move at
the first turn drew criticism, it’s understood
Horner had a serious conversation with him
advantage has ebbed
and flowed between
believes that it has
special in Verstappen.
Helmut Marko and RBR team principal
Christian Horner – all hold Ricciardo in high
esteem. But the spring reshuffle, when Daniil
Kvyat was demoted back to Toro Rosso,
showed that Verstappen is seen as a
gold-standard driver capable of great things.
For further proof, just look back at the
circumstances of Verstappen being signed
up originally. To fend off competition from
Mercedes, Red Bull went as far as agreeing
to put a guy still in his first season of car
racing in Formula 3 straight into F1 with
Toro Rosso in 2015. Ferrari’s interest
played a key role in Red Bull promoting
Verstappen and signing him up to a new
contract earlier this year. Usually, a big F1
team holds the trump cards in driver
negotiations. That Verstappen was able to
take control is testament to him being a
possible once-in-a-generation talent.
Verstappen’s early RBR successes looked
bad for Ricciardo – although in their first
eight races as teammates the duo
alternated on who had the better result.
But keeping in mind that Ricciardo would
have won in Spain rather than Verstappen,