Red Bull ‘can fight Mercedes on slower tracks’

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Daniel Ricciardo believes Red Bull can challenge Mercedes on circuits where downforce takes priority over straight-line speed.

The RB10s were the slowest cars through the speed trap in qualifying in Malaysia – over 12kph down on the Mercedes – which Ricciardo said will hold them back more at some tracks than others.

“We know we’re a little bit down on straight-line speed and that really hurts somewhere like Sepang,” said Ricciardo in an interview.

“Though through sector two [the twisty section] we were strong all weekend and on the pace of the Mercs. We’ll see how Bahrain treats us but once we get to China and – even better – Barcelona, I think we can really take the fight to them.”

Ricciardo’s race was spoiled by an incident at his third pit stop where he was sent from the box before his front-left wheel had been fitted properly.

“I got the green light and went,” he explained. “I’ve watched the video and it’s clear that as soon as I started to move, the guys knew the wheel wasn’t on.”

“The team have the best pit stops in the paddock so it’s pretty rare for something like that to happen but it does and it’s just one of those things.”

Earlier in the race Ricciardo was advised by race engineer Simon Rennie to drop back from team mate Sebastian Vettel to look after his tyres. Ricciardo wasn’t receptive to the suggestion at the time, saying he wanted to keep in touch in case he had the chance to gain a position.

“If something’s going on I want to be a part of it,” he said on the radio. “I’ll be sensible with the tyres but I won’t lose any unnecessary time.”

Ricciardo explained his position afterwards: “My engineer was keen for me to look after the tyres. At that time it wasn’t completely decided if we were two or three-stopping so the idea had merit.”

“But I didn’t think I was killing the tyres and I was happy with my pace. I didn’t want to break my rhythm as that can cause problems of its own.

“I could also see the Merc ahead wasn’t escaping and it looked like Seb was catching Nico Rosberg. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity if they got into a battle.”

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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71 comments on “Red Bull ‘can fight Mercedes on slower tracks’”

  1. I’d love to see Hamilton v Vettel battle in equal performance machinery. One team dominating is not good, but two teams dominating is not so bad as we saw in 2007 and 2008.

    1. Agreed. That would be massive.

    2. @osvaldas31
      So strange that not many are rooting for this, especially Seb’s fans.

      1. @jason12 I am Seb fan. :)

        1. @osvaldas31
          That’s exactly my point, so few of you…..

          1. You need every single one to post? I’m a Vettel fan and I’d love to see it too.

          2. I’ve wanted them on the same team for ages.

          3. You wanted all of his fans to reply, so that’s all three then.

            Seriously though, stop it.

      2. It has the potential to be the next big battle after Alonso retires… better yet, I would want to see Hulkenberg in on the action! That could be a massive three-way battle..

        1. @fastiesty agreed . I think Hulk can push Hamilton and can even do one better . just love the way he places the car while defending.

      3. @jason12 So that is two Vettel fans but no Hamilton fans…?

      4. Why wouldn’t Seb’s fans want him fighting at the top?

      5. i just dont want vettel to get another title. so hamilton dominating is ok for me.

        1. @sato113 Isn’t that the essence of a bad fan? You want someone else to NOT win a title. You think it is ‘ok’ for a driver to have a car a full second faster than anyone else? Be it Vettel or Hamilton, it is never good for this sport. The predictability of 2013 has just continued into 2014.

          1. 4 years of vettel has got to me! forgive me for not wanting him to win again. I think he’s had it too easy for too long.
            a good fight between rosberg and hamilton will do me nicely thank you very much.

          2. lol a bad fan….@ardenflo I guess Im a bad fan for not wanting Vettel to grab another championship. In the company of his generation (Alonso, Hamilton, Kimi etc) the record book will show 4 titles in their face & atm moment head and shoulders above them all? The charade could continue the next few years…hopefully not, at least with Mercedes domination we will have 2 drivers fighting each other. Meanwhile at red bull…

          3. Can we just be happy and enjoy it despite who wins it?

          4. @sato113, @vuntoosree

            lol! You guys win the prize for twisting words. Hoping for a particular driver to lose is fine and dandy. But claiming that domination by team ‘X’ is bad for the sport and distorts the apparent skill of the driver, then turning around and saying that you’re glad that team ‘Y’ is even more dominant this year is hypocritical. It’s just as bad for the sport, and distorts the drivers’ skill level just as much.

            And as for the Mercedes drivers fighting each other, it will NEVER happen. Rosberg has already proven himself as supremely compliant to team orders, and maximum constructors points is what it’s all about.

          5. lol you honesty think of Rosberg like that? this is his best chance for the title. you really think he’s gonna just pull over for Hamilton if asked?

    3. I think you have a good chance of getting that battle this year. Red Bull should out develop Mercedes, and come the mid pint of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Red Bull front row lockouts again.

      If only Ferrari weren’t so incompetent, this season we could have had an epic 3 way battle amongst the 3 best drivers on the grid.

      1. @todfod 4 best drivers if you include Alonso ;)

        1. Yes, because Raikkonen has performed so well the last 2 races. And second half of 2013.

      2. If only Ferrari weren’t so incompetent, and McLaren so mediocre.

        I really wanted to see Button and Magnussen do well, but they seemed to whimper in Malaysia after a ‘best of the rest’ performance in Australia.

        1. To be honest. Mclaren has a front running car, probably really close to Red Bull.

          I just don’t think the drivers are capable of showing it’s strength. Magnussen will get better over the season, and will show the true potential of the car, but I don’t think Jenson has what it takes

          1. @todfod

            Mclaren has a front running car, probably really close to Red Bull.

            I just don’t think the drivers are capable of showing it’s strength.

            “I think Ferrari has a frontrunner car, but neither Raikkonen nor Alonso are capable of showing its strength.”

            See how easy it is to put driver preference above the facts? ;D

    4. I’d love to see that, would be mega

  2. Hm, so we have McLaren saying they expect to shine in Monaco and Canada. And we have Red Bull, but also Lotus saying that they expect to do better at slow and twisty bits too. Lets wait and see.

    1. @bascb to some extent they’re probably all right. The biggest differentiator this year being engines, the tracks that are less engine dependent will probably see a closer fight. That said McLaren already have the same engine as the team that’s dominating, so their ability to be more competitive at different tracks seems to me a bit of a fantasy unless they make a big jump in aero development. Red Bull are the team I expect to be the most competitive (after Merc) once the slower tracks come along. Monaco in particular with such low strain on the engines will be fascinating this year. All that torque is difficult enough for the best drivers in the world to control on a wide open Tilkedrome, inches from the barriers in Monaco it’s gonna be out of this world! How many safety cars & red flags will we get in Monaco this year?

      1. How many safety cars & red flags will we get in Monaco this year?

        I’m hoping the drivers will have a handle on it by then. We will obviously see crashes & safety cars (it is Monaco). I think it will be marvelous to behold the best drivers with so much torque judging how best to lay it down. It will be awesome!

    2. I think it’s partly bigging up their own team (like “ok we had a poor race here, but these next ones will be better”) and partly because they are comparing themselves to different teams.

      Redbull are saying they will be more competitive compared to Mercedes, and i think that makes sense, i expect them to be able to compete at Monaco at least. Whereas McLaren are really comparing themselves to Redbull, Ferrari, Williams and Force India – i think they realise they need a significant step forward to fight Mercedes, on any track.

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    1st April 2014, 18:45

    True, but the problem is that the only tracks that I would really class as “downforce tracks” between now and mid-season are Monaco and Silverstone, but even if Red Bull can win those races, if we get the inevitable formulaic Mercedes domination in Bahrain, Shanghai, Barcelona, Montreal and Spielberg, it could already be too late for Red Bull. I predict a championship dynamic between Hamilton and Vettel similar to that between Button and Vettel in 2009, with the Brawn of Button dominating in the first half of the season, but with Red Bull taking the initiative later on. Hopefully Vettel will still be within realistic title contention by the Red Bull domination starting flag of Singapore.

    1. And 2009 was weighted towards the early season races (not as many tilkedromes late on in the season then).. whereas now we have more late races than ever before (double points in Abu Dhabi).

      1. @fastiesty
        It’s worth noting that both India and Korea have been dropped from the calendar.

        1. @kingshark True, which is a saving grace.. also my notifications are not being flagged up for some reason.

    2. I remember saying quite a while back that I could see this year being similar to 2009 in that Team Brackley dominate early on, but with Red Bull clawing their way back as the season goes on. It could be an interesting watch later on…

      Although I say that, and I’d like to see a close title battle as much as the next person, I wouldn’t mind seeing Hamilton secure this title in a stress-free manner (unlike 2008!). I only say this as a Hamilton fan. I can’t see it being stress-free though with Vettel, Rosberg and Alonso all ready to pounce!

    3. I’d say Barcelona is more of an aero track than Silverstone, although it will be more interesting this year because there was no testing with the new cars there.

      Monaco isn’t a ‘downforce’ track either, it’s a street circuit – all the cars run with such high downforce and at such low speeds that it’s irrelevant.

  4. It’s a tough balance– lap time might be faster with more downforce, and you’ll even qualify higher, but in the race you cannot pass at the easiest places which are the straights using DRS. (Good think Vettel has such great racecraft for passing in other places.)

    Two years ago, RB always had the most downforce, then last year they seemed able to use the least at some of the high-speed tracks, so I bet a lot of it is purely their option based on the track. They do seem to have less engine power than Mercedes, but that only means they are the ~4th fastest team in the speed trap, and the rest is only their decision for the race. If they can get back to where they were last year, getting the balance seemingly perfect for all the races, then they can definitely take it to Mercedes at some of the tracks.

  5. I’ll be double angry if the title is decided by the double points rule.

    1. I’ll be double glad if the double points rule effectively secures Vettel his 5th championship, because that will then be the end of Double Points;-)

      1. Haha, I think you may be right, but I don’t think the double points rule was introduced to stop Vettel per se, it was more to prevent any driver from securing the title before the final race to keep the season exciting towards the end. But it’s such a silly way of doing it. It almost certainly won’t work and if it does have an impact by snatching the title away from another driver we won’t hear the end of it.

  6. ““Though through sector two [the twisty section] we were strong all weekend and on the pace of the Mercs. We’ll see how Bahrain treats us but once we get to China and – even better –”

    Does Riccardo not realise Hamilton was 3 tenths quicker than Vettel in the high speed corners of Malaysia?

    They are quicker in every way at the moment.

    And how is China better? It has one of the longest straights in the sport, you’re going to get demolished in that sector alone, never mind in the twisty parts.

    Riccardo’s words remind of previous years when Hamilton thought they could challenge RB in a particular up an coming race, only for RB to blitz the field when it matters.

    PS. This whole ‘one team dominating isn’t good for the sport’ is a load of crap. No one started switching the MotoGP off when Rossi won 9 titles. Nobody switched the footy off when Man U where dominating, nobody switched the Tennis or Golf off when Federra/Woods where dominating. If anyone switched off during the domination of RB, its because they either don’t like Vettel or RB, or they just arnt genuine motorsport fans.

    1. RB still have the best car in the fast corners – Barcelona plays right into their strong suit. Mercedes are best on the straights, and Vettel was best in S2 in Malaysia. Granted, Hamilton was not on full pace most of the time (setting a fastest lap late on 1 second clear). So Mercedes could eclipse RB’s 9 in a row, but it’ll be interesting to see when RB can strike back.

      Domination where it is merited is enjoyable to watch. Domination by factors other than skill (e.g. money or car) turn people off. Rossi’s wins were felt to be from skill and not his bike.. MSc or Vettel both have the skills to win in even competition but if their car hands them the title it gets boring fast. In this case, we need Rosberg to take the fight to Hamilton (think 1988).. Else after a few years we’ll get an anti-Hamilton brigade big enough to match the current anti-Seb one!

      1. “RB still have the best car in the fast corners”

        No, not at the moment, Hamilton was 3 tenths quicker than Vettel in the high speed (high downforce) corners.

        “…Sector One includes two longish straights from a low-speed corner, and engine power and acceleration are the predominant performance definers there. The Mercedes was 0.4 seconds quicker than the Ferrari, and 0.5secs quicker than the Red Bull.

        [b]However, Mercedes’ advantage is not all about power.

        Sector Two in Malaysia is the part of the track with the highest average cornering speed. It is where efficient downforce really matters. There, Hamilton was 0.3secs quicker than Vettel[/b]”

      2. @fastiesty: Merc domination is so merited right now. Merc as a F1 team has done the best job, in the part of the F1 competition which is the engineering competition: creating the best race car within the regulations. Merc must enjoy their domination for as long as it will last, because sooner or later it will end.

        1. I prefer no dominations, a healthy amount of cars fighting for wins 4-6 would be amazing.

        2. @palle True.. and looking at the history of F1, a dominant period for Mercedes-Benz was overdue.

      3. We need Hamilton to take the fight to Rosberg who is currently leading the championship. Rosberg can afford to come second in the next 2 races and still be in the lead. Of course, we are assuming Redbull won’t be blowing past both in the next few races.

    2. I switched off MotoGP when Rossi won 9 titles and I did it when RBR were dominating… I switched off tennis when Djokovic started dominating (even though I’m Serbian)…
      So, I hope RBR won’t catch up anywhere, let alone so early in the season…

      1. You switched off the tennis when Djokovic was dominaiting? Wow, you missed an amazing amount. Even in the year he won three slams there were some incredible matches, the final of the French, (which he lost) and the semi and final of the US open were both incredible.

        You are the only person I know who switched off, Tennis is going through one of its most golden periods, it was amazing, it still is. You missed out dude.

      2. So you don’t appreciate it when someone is just awesome and uncatchable, then? How miserable is that?

        Good job you weren’t a darts fan before 1990 then, since Taylor won 16 world titles between then and now..

        Sometimes you just have to applaued when people come along in sports that are just unbeatable.

  7. “The team have the best pit stops in the paddock so it’s pretty rare for something like that to happen”

    I made this point last year too: better to be 0.2s slower in every single pit stop than mess it up once.

    1. @andae23: You are so right, but by being 0,2s slower, do You have a guarantee against f…-ups like this? Sometimes it just happens, even if You deliberately slow down just a fraction. And it is maybe happening because the pit-crew feels sorry and responsible for Ricciardo due to the fuel sensor scandal, so they thought: Now we have to make sure that we don’t fail his pitstop, or what?

    2. They are the fastest, but with these errors occurring so much, I cant call them the best.

    3. Was it twice this happened to Webber last year? Some teams made no such mistakes, and i think Ferrari’s stops have been faster this year too. It is uncanny how it never seems to happen to Vettel, but i guess a sample size of 3 isn’t enough to start any conspiracy theories….or is it? ;)

      1. Looks like it must be!

  8. Wrong side of the box Ricciardo, webber’s crew was prone to missing wheels as well.

    1. @peartree I think the pit crew is same for both drivers

      1. Correct. Mechanics/Engineers from both sides of the garage.

  9. …so basically the roles are reversed from last year, when it was Mercedes that were better off fighting for wins on the slower tracks (which is where they mainly won) against the all around faster RBR. Also it’s funny how one driver is saying that heaven and earth are being moved over at IRBR in the name or progress on this years chassis, while the other driver at the same team is just looking toward slow races to win.

  10. I would rather Mercedes dominate and win than Red Bull win the title. Because red bull winning (however close the battle) would be 5 years too many.

    Also we have to realize that in 5 years no team has had a better Aero than red bull. That to me means that other teams are always starting on the back foot due to the Newey factor.

  11. Ricciardo strikes me as a smart guy. His technical feedback is also meant to be second to none. I wanted to be a little sceptical at first, and it’s very early, but he’s perfect guy to fill Webber’s boots, and more, in my opinion.

  12. Now i am seeing the reason why Jenson Button says he will be alright if Hamilton Leaves Mclaren but will be worried if Paddy Lowe goes with him.
    Paddy Lowe has helped Mercedes finetune their 2014 car so much so that it left the whole field including almighty Red Bull wondering what magic finger has touched the Mercedes known as fast qualifying but tyre eating beast that falls from pole position to the middle of the grid on lap one on race day during 2013 season.

    1. Mclaren were never fantastic with their tyre preservation and Lowe had been there a long time.

  13. I don’t endorse Danny’s logic. Mercedes having substantially more power and/or ability to use less fuel, translates into the ability to run more downforce and/or less weight. Mercedes’ answer to any special downforce advantages by RBR will be to turn up the wick a bit an use more wing. They have power and top-speed to spare. In the olden days, Renault and Mercedes engine power were roughly comparable, so RBR’s slowness on straights simply was evidence that they were focusing on maximizing downforce. Now it just means they got no power or use too much fuel. Unless Renault shapes up RBR will have to wait for street courses to get a look in.

    1. Or haven’t optimised their ERS-H/K

  14. Michael Brown
    2nd April 2014, 9:03

    I’m hoping that the Renault debacle will lead Lotus joining McLaren , with HONDA PUs…

  15. is it only me that there is too much Dani speak nowadays…

    1. It looks good whenever :Daniel speaks . I don’t understand why oral B or Colgate don’t cash in.

  16. RBR is faster than other teams than Merc, there are other teams with Merc engines and we have seen STR do a good job of mixing it up in top 10 positions. To simplify everything on Merc engine is not the right way to look at this, Merc team have got some great people on board who have won races & championship before. they have got the best aero performance too. RBR prolly needs to reduce some drag to get more top speed, but RBR has always built cars with not very high top speed and yet they have won 4 championship…. Merc have found a way to get the right balance with downforce and top speed and hence they are leading. Other Merc engine teams are only doing well because they got the right aero performance to be there. Saubers & Lotus are a mess, once they sort out their issue we won’t hear too much of engine talk. All engines seem to be there performance wise, just reliability & drivability needs sorting won’t be too long….

  17. If they do then the Monaco Grand Prix has the potential to be the most exciting GP this year…

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