Time for Red Bull team orders after Baku disaster
Red Bull's stance on team orders may have received praise from some, but their desire to let Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen race each other needs to stop after Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix debacle.
Team orders have long been one of Formula One's most controversial topics, but the rationale behind them is widely accepted throughout the paddock, particularly at the front of the grid.
Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly number one at Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen plays second fiddle to Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel. And it is a system that delivers results.
However, at Red Bull they are keen to let Ricciardo and Verstappen go toe-to-toe with each other, given their similar levels of ability behind the wheel.
For the second time in as many seasons it has backfired, though, after Ricciardo ploughed into the back of Verstappen in Baku at the weekend.
At last season's Hungarian Grand Prix, the team-mates collided on the opening lap after Verstappen clumsily made a lunge down the inside.
Ricciardo labelled his young colleague "amateur" after that incident and Red Bull held clear-the-air talks to put it behind them.
Fast forward to Sunday and once again the two Red Bull drivers hampered their team's progress.
Having kissed tyres earlier in the race and come close to a second contact on the streets of Azerbaijan's capital, things came to a head with 11 laps to run.
Ricciardo weaved behind Verstappen heading into Turn One before slamming into the back of the Dutchman as the latter applied the brakes, an accident that left both men spinning off the track and out of the race.
Adrian Newey's angry reaction on the pit wall told a story, while team boss Christian Horner said both drivers were "in the dog house", without attributing any blame.
Christian: "We allow our drivers to race wheel-to-wheel, which they have done to great effect during the last two years. Unfortunately, today has happened and there is no blame apportioned to either side."— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) April 29, 2018
Team reaction to the #AzerbaijanGP https://t.co/SLRgF2tqUA pic.twitter.com/6tKNk6p6V0
Both men apologised in the aftermath of the race, but with no points to show from their visit to Baku, Red Bull – who have shown great promise so far – are already cut adrift in the standings.
"We will discuss it prior to Barcelona, but we want to continue to allow the drivers to race," said Horner.
"But they are driving the car at the end of the day and they've just got to ensure that if they are going wheel-to-wheel they allow each other enough space."
While it is admirable that Horner is keen see his drivers push the boundaries, surely it is time for Red Bull to take a stance, otherwise they will never challenge for the constructors' championship.
Throughout the weekend in Baku, Red Bull looked quick and competitive, but when it came to the crunch it was Mercedes and Ferrari battling for the race win.
That will be a theme repeated throughout the season unless Red Bull's approach changes.