David Croft: This was the Austrian Grand Prix 4 minutes spent reading
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David Croft: This was the Austrian Grand Prix

David Croft

Formula 1 expert David Croft looks back on an exciting Formula One weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

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Proving that there’s no business like ‘shoe’ business sometimes, for Martin Brundle the moment of truth finally came this weekend. As expected from one that will ‘heel’ to no man and always drink what’s in front of him, whatever it’s ‘laced’ with, he stared Daniel Ricciardo in the eye and on the podium in Spielberg, sipped the champagne from the Australian’s boot!

He is not the first of course. Sir Patrick Stewart, no stranger to pungent odors having taken on the role of the Poo Emoji in “The Emoji Movie”, faced up to the challenge in Canada. Mark Webber and David Coulthard have both had to swallow their pride—and a touch of Aussie ‘Vintage Sweat’—recently. And you could understand why Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel didn’t want to know, they’ve been there before and are aware that the ‘shoey’ does rather alter the sweet taste of success.

Drivers and podium interviews aside, we all love the ‘shoey’ and what’s rather refreshing is that we’re now getting plenty of opportunity to witness it. After his usual record—Daniel has never been on the podium in the opening four races in any of his six full seasons including this one—the Australian has now made five podium visits in the last five Grands Prix, including, of course, his brilliant win in Baku.

This equals his longest podium streak in Formula 1, and who’s to say that at Silverstone this coming weekend he won’t hit the opposition for six and keep the run going? Having survived a few races which they stated weren’t exactly their strongest, Red Bull now go to a track which, based on recent evidence, should suit the strengths of their car. It’s also not as power-dependent as tracks like Baku and Montreal. That could prove a welcome relief, if some of this season’s engine-related comments are anything to go by.

 

Silverstone was where Ricciardo made his debut, replacing Narain Karthikeyan at HRT. Hardly a car to make an instant impression in, but he was never going to be at HRT for long anyway. Helmut Marko had already made plans for Dannys ascent on the Red Bull ladder. In fact talking to Marko this weekend I learnt that those plans were made very quickly, following the Australian’s test to see if he was up to the demands of the Red Bull junior program.

Asked if it were true that in a two-day test it had taken him only one day to conclude that Ricciardo was worth taking on, Marko replied: “No, that’s wrong. It took me only one lap!” Apparently Daniel had emerged from a corner sideways, at full speed and in total control, convincing Marko that he was an exciting talent who should be brought into the fold.

This weekend will be Ricciardo’s 119th Grand Prix. His podium tally now stands at 23, with 5 wins. None of those wins has come from a top 3 position on the grid, in stark contrast to his old teammate Sebastian Vettel, who has won all of his races from inside those positions. When he needs to get his elbows out, either in attack or defense, Ricciardo seems quite happy to do so: when the opportunity arises, he’s more than ready to step up and seize the moment.

In Austria, he was right on Sebastian Vettel’s tail from lights out, did not quite make it past the Ferraris into Turn 1, but shoved one down the inside of Kimi Räikkönen into Turn 3 and never looked back. It was as aggressive as his move on the two Williams after the red flag restart in Baku: chance seen, chance taken. Ricciardo’s win in Hungary in 2014 was not dissimilar. Where Nico Rosberg had found himself stuck for far too long behind Jean Eric Vergne, Ricciardo made swift work of the Toro Rosso driver and put himself on the road to victory.

Ricciardo has talked of this being a big couple of years for him. At 28—he celebrated his birthday on July 1st—he feels ready to be fighting and winning world championships. Podiums are good, wins are lovely, but it’s titles he wants. At Red Bull, is he perhaps in the right team at the wrong time when it comes to championship silverware?

Hence the rumors and speculation that he might decide to head off for pastures new. Much of the focus this weekend has been on Verstappen and the chance he might depart to Ferrari in the future. In fact it could be Ricciardo who follows the path trodden by Vettel, especially if he beats Verstappen in the Championship again, which looks likely following the Dutchman’s recent horrendous run of bad luck. Five DNFs in seven races is no justice at all for the unfortunate Verstappen.

At any rate, Verstappen could be locked into his Red Bull contract for longer that Ricciardo is locked into his. And although Verstappen is a fine driver, Ricciardo would be a far less expensive option for Ferrari to buy out of his current deal.

Ferrari president Sergio Marchione has stated publicly that the ball is in Vettel’s court as far as his future with the team is concerned. But if the rumors of a pre-contract agreement with Mercedes prove true and the four-time world champion moves to the Silver Arrows, Ricciardo would presumably be a potential candidate, especially if his current run of success continues.

If the ‘shoe’ fits, as they say.

Crofty

David Croft