Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Engine Blood Ranks The 2018 Contenders: 8. Lucozade and yes we do make that joke every time

HISTORY: Originally an attempt to weld a mediocre energy drink to high-performance thrillseeking, Red Bull started as a motorsports sponsor (including of Sauber in Formula One) before branching out into team management, snapping up the ailing Jaguar team from a grateful Ford.

Several years of mediocrity with David Coulthard followed, before they nicked two key assets from feeder team Toro Rosso: Renault engines and a young up and comer called Sebastian Vettel.  Roll on four consecutive World Drivers' Championships in the first half of this decade.

It's not like they've been bad since - solid top three basically every year - but the rule changes for 2014 caught them trouser-free, and Vettel would soon be off to Ferrari.  Cue several years of whingeing about their underpowered Renault engine whilst making phenomenal cars from an aerodynamics perspective, helped by their master designer Adrian Newey.


From BBC Sport.
I mean, it's alright like, but their "special edition" livery that was axed even before testing was really cool and progressive, and they clearly should have gone with it.  In fact, here it is, so you can be the judge:

See?  Much better.




Australia's sweetheart, and a damn sight more personable than Mark "The Canberra Milk Kid" Webber, Ricciardo is the eternal neutral's choice.  Whether drinking a "shoey" on the podium or climbing forlornly from his car after one of his regular mechanical failures last year, it must be remembered that he looks a bit like an Easter Island head, and that's alright with us, since it's good for a cheap laugh.

Meanwhile, Verstappenmania is running wild, brother...  These writers remember being at Spa-Francorchamps back when Max was in Toro Rosso and beholding a sea of orange.  Surely a return for the Dutch Grand Prix can't be far in the future, as they're burning money until that day comes again.

With Ricciardo looking set to depart for McLaren at the end of the year, Verstappen will have the chance to carry the team on his shoulders, probably with Gasly or Hartley as his teammate - this year will be make or break in terms of him building the maturity to show he is capable of more than occasional fast laps, shunts and temper tantrums.

LAST YEAR: 3rd in Constructors' Championship, 368 points.

3. Daniel RICCIARDO (AUS) - 5th, 200 points, best finish: 1st (Azerbaijan).
33. Max VERSTAPPEN (NED) - 6th, 168 points, best finish: 1st (Malaysia, Mexico).

See, there's all the proof of Verstappen's youth you need right there - wins more races, still finishes behind his teammate in the championship.

The Red Bull was hardly bulletproof last year, and would probably have stacked up better against Ferrari had the Renault engine had a tad more poke, and they certainly caught up by the halfway point, becoming spoilers in the title fight - quite literally when Verstappen cost Vettel a near-certain victory at Singapore with a naive move off the grid.

PROSPECTS: This one's all about the engine.  It's amazing that a team can stay a solid third in the title hunt and snipe race wins from Mercedes and Ferrari with a phenomenal but underpowered car, and if Renault deliver, all bets are off.

Driver motivation will also be key, with a whining brat and a want-away being a difficult portfolio to manage - but look for their complaints to suddenly dry up if Renault deliver.

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