The pressure is on Red Bull Racing with a major decision ahead on which power unit to use from 2019, to stick with Renault or switch over to Honda; despite Daniel Ricciardo’s stunning win in China.
The former four-time F1 World Constructors’ Champions finished last year quietly confident, with stable technical regulations heading into 2018 - and storming wins for Max Verstappen in Malaysia and Mexico.
SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“You just get the feeling with, at least the last few races, that change is coming. And our car has been working extremely well, the Ferrari has been competitive and it's really exciting to think that maybe there are six or seven drivers that might be going into a Grand Prix next year with the chance of winning.”
To avoid another slow season start, Red Bull also changed its pre-season program, revealing the RB14 five days earlier than normal before shaking down the car at Silverstone to sort issues sooner.
SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I feel there’s a good intensity, everyone’s not getting too excited. We know we've got some work to do if we want to really achieve what we want.”
But in Australia, Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth, Verstappen sixth, neither able to challenge for the podium…
… while in Bahrain, both Red Bulls retired for the first time in a Grand Prix since Korea 2010 – also ending the team’s record-38-race points streak.
Verstappen stopped with damage, Ricciardo out for the fourth time in six races with an energy store failure, just two allocated for the season.
Team principal Christian Horner described it as “brutally frustrating, while Red Bull motorsport consultant Doctor Helmut Marko went further…
"We need a fast and reliable engine," Marko said.
And while Red Bull and Ricciardo won brilliantly in Shanghai – his RB14 suffered a turbo failure in practice, while Renault is still yet to provide the special engine modes it promised for qualifying.
… reckoned to be worth around three tenths of a second per lap.
SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT RACING:
“We know that we still have a bridge and a deficit to overcome on the engine side, and I’m really sure that by working with the best we have the capacity to accelerate and fast-track what needs to be done on the engine side.”
But is it enough to see Red Bull and Renault part ways?
There’s been no love lost between the pair – even during their title-winning years. A divorce narrowly avoided at the end of 2015, after Mercedes and Ferrari refused to supply the Milton Keynes squad.
Honda, though, is yet to properly prove itself at a top level – despite Pierre Gasly’s fourth place for Toro Rosso in Bahrain. And with May 15 the FIA’s deadline for manufacturers to announce which teams they’re supplying for 2019, time is tight for a decision.
Motivation is sky high, though, to return to consistent frontrunning - with the team confident in its own abilities.
SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I believe that they can build the best car out there. We just now need to have the right package.”