Red Bull Racing thanked its lucky stars for a clean weekend in Spain, with Max Verstappen third for his first podium in 2018 – while Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth, also setting the race’s fastest lap.
Naturally, it was a huge relief after Azerbaijan, where Ricciardo drove into the back of Verstappen…ending both their races.
The Australian left his pass far too late, while Verstappen moved twice in defense – leaving Ricciardo with no option, but to break the sport’s golden rule, to never crash into your teammate. And Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner was understandably livid.
"What's annoying is that we've given away an awfully large amount of points today,” Horner said.
To make amends, both drivers apologised to Red Bull Racing factory staff in the week after the Baku smash, while the team reiterated that respect and space is required for hard racing between teammates.
But, Red Bull Racing management was also not blameless with the squad not managing the situation, and firing up Ricciardo to get past Verstappen for a second time after he fell behind at the pit stop.
“Alright mate, you’re going to have to do him again! Let’s get him!” said Ricciardo’s race engineer Simon Rennie over team radio.
It’s an all too familiar situation, with Red Bull famously letting its drivers race each other at the limit – with sometimes catastrophic consequences.
The most infamous incident being the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix – where former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and overtook his then-teammate Mark Webber for the lead.
And while there was plenty of fallout post-race, Vettel only apologised for putting his personal goals above those of the team.
SOUNDBITE (English) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
RED BULL RACING, 2009-2014:
“I told the team straight after, I apologised for putting myself above the team which I didn't mean to do. But, there's not much really more, not much more to say really. I don't apologise for winning.”
At the time, it was also a huge contrast to the way Mercedes managed its drivers in that race – then-team principal Ross Brawn firmly ordering Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to hold position in third and fourth…
… despite the German’s heated requests to pass his teammate.
Red Bull, though, has always made the most of its F1 opportunities through the years – whether that’s letting its drivers race.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“Formula 1 is a sport, foremost and utmost. And a sport, it needs to entertain. [It] Has to be entertaining. It’s got to be man and machine - at the absolute limit.”
Its approach in taking the team to the people, with epic roadshows held in far flung locations like Argentina, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic.
Or its junior team – which was the sport’s first major development program – and one responsible for bringing real talent to the sport.
Thankfully, there’s no personal fallout from Baku, with its two drivers not sharing the animosity that once characterised the Vettel-Webber line-up.
But it will be all eyes on Red Bull the next time Ricciardo and Verstappen are fighting each other – especially if the squad is on for a win in Monaco, with management now ready to intervene.
Both are capable of keeping it clean with the pair two of the sport’s best overtakers but with a title campaign still possible and uncertainty ahead – in whether the squad sticks with Renault or switches to Honda…
…more fire could well be on the horizon.