RED BULL, RICCIARDO AND THE WAY FORWARD
Daniel Ricciardo or “Honey Badger” as he is fondly remembered in the F1 world is parting ways with Red Bull after 5 years, 7 wins and 29 podiums post the 2018 – 2019 Formula One season. The Aussie came to Red Bull as a replacement for his former Australian counterpart Mark Webber and challenged Sebastian Vettel right from the outset by emerging third in the driver’s championship to Sebastian Vettel’s 5th position, prompting Vettel to switch to Ferrari in 2015.
Ricciardo’s switch to Renault comes as a major surprise given the fact that he was almost certain to sign a contract extension with the Red Bull Aston Martin outfit. While his switch to Renault F1 team does provide a sense of optimism for Cyril Abiteboul’s team, Ricciardo’s fans should be well aware that a Championship win is yet a distant dream for the Aussie who has lost faith in Red Bull’s ability to deliver a championship winning car till at least 2020. Moreover Red Bull has signed a new engine deal with Honda which must have cautioned Ricciardo as McLaren had to endure three frustrating seasons with the Honda engine. Red Bull’s team Principal Christian Horner has more often than not voiced his disappointment of the underperformance of the Renault engine publicly. In such a scenario it is interesting to see his team partner with Honda for engine supply up till 2020.
Honda has been supplying engines to Red Bull’s sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso and Horner believes that with a few upgrades to its current engine, Honda can compete with the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari. However, an interesting point to note is that this deal with Honda would in all probability not run post 2021 and is viewed by Red Bull merely as a short-term fixation to the “Renault problem” as it is no hidden secret that Aston Martin (Red Bull’s partner) aspires to become an engine supplier itself should conditions prove to be favourable for them in the sport. It is this short-term strategy adopted by Red Bull that prompted Ricciardo to switch teams as he has frequently pointed out that given his age and experience he feels he has underachieved in the Red Bull team.
For a driver who is a champion prospect, to win no championships till the age of 29 is a cause of concern. Ricciardo’s competitors, as well as the F1 fraternity, see him as a champion driver but age, agility, and emergence of young drivers is often a fickle thing in the world of Formula One. Renault being a works team might just prove to be an ideal fit for Ricciardo who aspires to be a Formula One Champion. Renault is like the sleeping giant on the verge of achieving something big in years to come. Adding to this Renault is a works team with tremendous potential and data at its disposal from customer teams like McLaren. It's aspirations coupled with Ricciardo’s ambition to win as soon as possible should help both of them, in the long run, to achieve greater heights in F1.