2017 review: Red Bull surges after slow start

2017 review: Red Bull surges after slow start

20 December 2017 – GPUpdate.net continues its team-by-team review with Red Bull, which emerged as a competitor for victories after mid-season gains, after making another slow start, scuppering its title ambitions.

Red Bull: 8/10
Championship: 3rd
WCC points: 368
Best race: 1st (2 x VER, 1 x RIC)
Best qualifying: 2nd (3 x VER)
Fastest laps: 2 (1 x VER, 1 x RIC)
Qualifying duel: VER 13 – 7 RIC


Red Bull regarded the regulatory overhaul as its opportunity to re-emerge as a title force but pre-season concerns were duly confirmed early on, when its RB13 was proved to be the third-best package, substantially adrift of Mercedes/Ferrari, but clear of the midfield. Red Bull attributed its poor display to correlation issues, estimating it cost them two months of progress, while Renault once again lagged behind its power unit rivals. Red Bull improved once Formula 1 returned to Europe, performed strongly at venues with a lesser reliance on power, and was genuinely competitive at most circuits after the summer break, winning two races courtesy of Max Verstappen. Lessons learned early in 2017 can be applied for 2018, due to stability in the rules, prompting optimism that it can avoid the slump that cost it dearly this year. Renault's commitment to the sport also provides encouragement on the engine side. However, this year was about the threes – three wins for cars 3 and 33, third overall for the team, and 13 retirements for the RB13. Next year should be better.

Daniel Ricciardo: 8/10
Championship: 5th
WDC points: 200
Best R result: 1st (1x)
Best Q result: 3rd (2x)


Ricciardo's Red Bull career has been spent mostly in a holding pattern of 'just wait until he gets a title-winning car', but in 2017 the dynamic shifted somewhat. There were still scintillating displays, none more so than his three-on-one move in Azerbaijan, to claim victory in a crazy race, while his manoeuvre on Kimi Räikkönen in Italy was astonishing in its bravado and execution. These are the moments that make him brilliant. However, having seen off Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat, the rise of Max Verstappen is proving harder to arrest. Ricciardo was beaten across one-lap for the first time in his career, making some uncharacteristic errors (Australia, Azerbaijan) and occasionally appearing completely lost (Mexico). When the RB13 was on the pace later in the season, it was more often than not Verstappen who extracted the performance, and it is he who has a long-term contract. Ricciardo, though, is no fool, and knows what he needs to improve, which makes 2018 a tantalising prospect already.

High point: Well done Baku
Low point: Off-pace in Mexico before early exit


Max Verstappen: 8.5/10
Championship: 6th
WDC points: 168
Best R result: 1st (2x)
Best Q result: 2nd (3x)


Verstappen had grabbed Formula 1 by its neck during his first two campaigns but his third was a more measured season – demonstrating that he had fully arrived as a front-runner, rather than forcing his way in. It is easy to tarnish Verstappen as an unrestrained, wild driver, but only in Hungary did he err, and he fronted up to his mistake with maturity. For much of the year he was brilliant, keeping his head down amid first half reliability setbacks, with a couple (Canada, Azerbaijan) costing him strong positions. When the opportunity to win presented itself in Malaysia and Mexico, he seized it with both hands, following up strong qualifying pace with race-winning moves. He also chased Lewis Hamilton to the flag in Japan and put in a spectacular recovery in the United States (just don't mention the aftermath). He still has some rough edges to smoothen in the high-pressure, relentless nature of a title fight, but nothing in 2017 suggests he cannot do so. Sixth in the standings does not do justice to his impressive year. Simply lovely.

High point: Dominant drive in Malaysia
Low point: Recurring issues through Baku weekend


Statistics
Average qualifying gap: 0.142s (in Verstappen's favour)*
Biggest qualifying gap: 4.054s to Verstappen at Silverstone**
Smallest qualifying gap: 0.021s to Verstappen at the Hungaroring
Average qualifying result: Verstappen 5.35, Ricciardo 6.1
*Three rounds excluded (Australia, China, Britain), Azerbaijan data taken from Q2 due to Ricciardo's Q3 crash
**Ricciardo completed minimal running in changeable conditions prior to a PU issue. Next largest representative gap was 0.873s to Verstappen in Mexico


Retirements:
Verstappen 7
Ricciardo 6


Race head-to-head: Verstappen 5 – 2 Ricciardo

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