Previously in my first post I briefly looked at the possible fortunes of Mercedes (you can catch up here) and how they would fair in 2017. Today, I’ll be moving down the grid and look at the two teams that have been the ‘best of the rest’ for the last 3 seasons; Red Bull and Ferrari.
A Load of Bull – Red Bull
When Sebastian Vettel announced in 2014 that he would be leaving the team that provided him with his 4 world championship titles, I’m sure Red Bull were feeling rather nervous at the prospect of what would become of them without him. At the time his team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, had only been at Red Bull for a single season, and only in F1 for two years previously with Toro Rosso; hardly the seasoned veteran Red Bull Racing would like to be left with. He was partnered with Daniil Kvyat for 2015, who was some what unceremoniously swapped with the young protegé Max Verstappen after just 4 races in 2016. Remarkably, Max went on to win his first race in Spain, and became the youngest ever race winner in the process. This was also Red Bull’s first win since Ricciardo won in Belgium in 2014. 2016 almost held good fortune for Ricciardo too – had it not been for a major pit stop malfunction he surely would have won the next race in Monaco. He did, however, go on to win in Malaysia, taking the lead from Hamilton whose title hopes arguably went up in the smoke that came pluming out of the back of his car.
So that’s a brief history of Red Bull for the last few years, but looking to the future, what does 2017 hold in store for them?
If you said that Red Bull had the strongest driver duo with Ricciardo and Verstappen, few would argue. Both have shown spectacular driving ability in a range of conditions. I’m sure that Verstappen’s incredible drive in Brazil 2016 where he went from 16th to 3rd in 15 laps in near monsoon conditions will be talked about for a long time to come.
They are in the best possible place that they could be, considering the Mercedes domination of recent years. Two strong drivers, rule changes that favour the Red Bull design philosophy and a Renault engine (which is labelled as TAG Heuer), which is only going to improve now that Renault have a works team once again. If Ricciardo and Verstappen can improve on their performances from last year, Mercedes had better be keeping an eye on their wing mirrors, especially Bottas who’ll be more used to seeing the Red Bull from behind. Aside from a complete failure on car design (unlikely), there’s every reason to think that both Ricciardo and Verstappen could be getting poles and winning races this year, and that would be excellent to see. Maybe, if fortunes go their way, both of them could be in the title race! Who would you rather see win the championship? Now there’s a tricky question…
From Bulls to Horses – Ferrari
If there was ever a brand synonymous with success, it’d be Ferrari, right? Well…. not so much recently if we’re honest. They have not won a race since Singapore 2015 – that’s a period of 17 months (at time of writing), and no world championships have come their way since 2008 when they won the constructor’s championship. Their last driver’s championship was 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen, the first time round he drove for them. Such a fall from grace – if you’d told them that in 2002 when Schumacher was at his peak, they’d have laughed you out the door! But, here we are, nearly a decade after their last championship victory, pondering what will come in 2017. It’s amazing that they’ve not had success with their current driver line up, Vettel and Raikkonen. 5 championships between them, but only winning three races (all Vettel’s) since they became team mates in 2014. Everyone employed by the Maranello team will be praying for a better performance in 2017, especially as the powers that be in Ferrari have been rather trigger happy with firing people; even Vettel’s been warned that he need’s to ‘earn his drive’ . He’s not been doing any favours for himself either as he’s been particularly mouthy this past season… With the highly respected James Allison leaving to join Mercedes, things are looking rather bleak for the Red Team and they’re only hope is that their 2017 car, presumably the SG17-H (unless they pull a McLaren) is a real masterpiece. The best they can realistically hope for is to be fighting for podiums, rather than picking up the scraps like they did in 2016.
It could be Vettel’s last season at Ferrari, and it’ll take a stellar performance from both driver and car if that’s to be extended. If not, well we could well be seeing Vettel somewhere else – McLaren perhaps… As for Raikkonen, well who knows! The Ice Man is so hard to read, though I doubt he’d be hugely bothered to be dropped – he’s got plans for a karaoke bar, so that’ll keep him busy. I bet even karaoke doesn’t make him smile…
Felipe Massa and Mark Webber 2011 Malaysia.jpg by Morio is licensed unedr CC 4.0
Next Time – Force India and Williams