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The main storyline of the year has been a fast Ferrari vs. the Diva Mercedes; a re-invigorated Vettel vs. a determined Hamilton and rightly so although the mega battle that we were all hoping for fizzled a bit after Hungary. Still this was the first year the Silver Arrows were actually challenged on real pace and that was a good thing for F1.

I have been watching another storyline closely this year, one a bit more under the radar, but just as interesting, more intriguing and most definitely a good thing for F1. The interesting part is the meteoric rise of Max Verstappen. The intriguing part is what has happened to Daniel Ricciardo’s place at Red Bull as Max comes of age. The good part is that the grid as it stands has a wide range of drivers that are super quick and on any day can truly challenge for race wins given the proper car and conditions.

All year I have been keeping an eye on the Red Bull duo, studying the Free Practice 1, 2 and 3 times, the Qualy battle on Saturdays and of course the Sunday races. I watch and listen for the littlest of things, from each driver’s body language, how nuanced their facial expressions are when interviewed in the news pen and any subtext in what they say.

Conclusion, Max Verstappen is the de facto number one at Red Bull or to put it another way, Max is the new Seb and Daniel is the new Webbo for Red Bull. I mean, is it just me or is it a bit weird that Max hails from an area that is for all intents and purposes right next to Deutschland and that Daniel is an Aussie, or did the universe just randomly set that up? You tell me.

The similarities are undeniable; you don’t even have to look all that closely to see what I am referring to, here are just a few:

– Daniel joined the team earlier – he is the senior driver, then along comes a rookie who by all rights should be junior, subservient, and learning but instead is a young rookie that steals the show; it sounds just like Sebastian coming into Red Bull when Mark Webber was already established there.

-Similar to Seb vs. Mark, there is parts/engine favoritism – Daniel didn’t get the new spec Renault PU and Max did. If the reports are to be believed (and sometimes I wonder), Daniel was not even aware that Max was getting an engine upgrade in Austin. I wonder how that felt, to find out after the fact and via the media no less??? Red Bull tried to explain it away but at that point I would say the energy drinks company was a day late and a dollar short.

– Lastly, and I am going out on a limb on this one, but I’m anticipating a report any minute that Adrian Newey starts to take into consideration Max’s driving style and the new RB chassis is designed with the Dutchman in mind.

There are other reasons, such as Max has already been retained till 2020 and Daniel has not. Yep, Verstappen has already re-signed with Red Bull and Daniel was not only not offered a new deal first (and as of yet still has not been re-signed) but he would say to the media the timing of the announcement was a bit surprising. Subtext ???

To be fair Daniel still has another year on his contract and he may be in discussions right now but also may not. Either way the timing of it all has raised a few eyebrows.

A recent article quoting Christian Horner in classic F1 speak say Red Bull will wait for Daniel’s choice but if he does choose to move on they have Carlos Sainz Jr. as a “safety net.” Now I don’t know about you but that sounds like, “Well, if you do go Danny, it was fun while it lasted and btw don’t let the door hit you on the way out…” Maybe I’m reading more into it, what do you think???

One thing is without doubt, Max’s star is on the rise, Daniel’s is bit tarnished. You know I commonly try to work into my posts a few silly little tag lines. I do it for my own amusement and hopefully it causes you readers to crack a smile, if only slightly. On of them is the carbon fiber quip, the other is the NBC line in their advert, “Life moves at the speed of F1,” or whatever subject it is I’m riffing on. Well, Max’s time in F1 is most definitely moving at the speed of F1 and while Daniel’s at some point was moving at the speed of F1, right now it seems to have slowed not quite to the speed of a Yugo, but you get the idea. Daniel seems to be well and truly in the shadow of his young teammate.

Currently there is no way to speak about Max Verstappen without also saying future drivers champion (multiple champion). Hamilton might have won his fourth title but Max is sucking all the air out of the paddock. What did Hamilton just say? “I need to raise my game for Max…”

By contrast, despite the fact that Daniel notched up a GP win this year in Baku, somehow it has been lost in the noise of Max’s second career win in Malaysia. And now that Max has notched his third career win (second this season) in Mexico with a Senna-like “Real F1 drivers go for the gap” pass on Vettel, one would have to say the Aussie’s Baku win has all but been forgotten. Well, no one ever said F1 was fair.

The one thing that Daniel does have in spades is consistency. But despite the points tally in the Aussie’s favor 192 to 148, Max has had the measure of Daniel all year. The qualy battle is 12 to 6 in favor of Verstappen, where they have both been able to finish a race together Verstappen again holds the advantage 4 to 2, and lastly, the one that really matters is 2 wins to 1 – advantage Max. There is no other way to spin this except to say that Max is just that much faster.

I have said this time and time again – the fastest drivers, the ones that get the top drives, are the drivers that can eke out those few extra tenths, even hundredths, on a regular basis and so far this year Max has been that guy at the expense of his seasoned team mate.

Vettel vs. Raikkonen, Vettel vs. Webber, Hamilton vs. Bottas, Hamilton vs. Button, Alonso vs. Raikkonen, Alonso vs. Fisichella or Massa, Schumacher vs. all his teammates, and now Verstappen vs. Ricciardo. It is what it is…

It must be a weird feeling for Ricciardo to be on the other side of the equation now, after stealing Vettel’s thunder in his first year at Red Bull and being the one more clearly able to adjust to the post-no-blown-diffuser era. Some would even say he pushed Vettel out of the team due to the fact that he clearly had the measure of Vettel all year long when they were at Red Bull. Switch! Positions are reversed. Right??

It is never lost on me how F1 treats its drivers and by that I mean that the drivers are arguably the most important assets of F1 but are commonly treated by the teams, by each other, or by the fans, like absolute, insert any word you like

No driver, not even the greats, are at any time immune from the wrath of a team principal, or the fans, or the sport itself. Does anyone remember Michael getting booed on the podium with Rubens at the Austrian GP? Those should be Michael’s people! I think it was for winning at the last moment only because Rubens was forced to yield the position. Continuing with Michael, Luca di Montezemolo all but kicked him out of Ferrari to make room for Raikkonen who in turn was kicked out to make room for Alonso, and then Luca was kicked out by Marchionne. Did I happen to say no one is immune???

Does anyone remember Damon Hill getting the boot from Sir Frank for Heinz-Harald Frentzen? And after Damon had just won a championship no less! Ross Brawn tired to renege on a deal that he had with Jenson Button after winning the drivers title. Button’s championship-winning car was promised to him provided he won the championship or something alone those lines, which he did, but Ross somehow did not want to give up the championship-winning car. Button finally got his car but really Ross, you’re going to pull that move???

So it would seem Daniel is getting the short end of the stick, similar to Mark all those years while partnering Vettel or maybe this is just the way it goes in F1 – one day you’re the talk of the town, the next day your yesterday’s news.

It is not all doom and gloom for the champagne out of the boot, big smiles, big heart driver, but for sure it has not been the best year for the driver racing #3 and as a recent F1 expert said:

Ricciardo saw off the incumbent at Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel – who headed off to Ferrari in 2015 – and then got landed with Verstappen as a team mate. The teenager exploded into F1 and has since underlined his credentials as being fast, aggressive and controversial. Nothing has really changed, other than he has gained some more experience of how to set up and drive F1 cars. The net result is that Verstappen has been a shade faster than Ricciardo this season. -James Allen-

We all know how cutthroat F1 can be. Red Bull, under the dictator Helmut Marko, Mr. “You’re only as good as your last race,” it is even more so. And while it looks more and more the case Ricciardo will be staying at Red Bull next due to the fact that the Reds and the Silver Arrows will not be changing their driver line up, this should make for an interesting case study next year over at Milton Keyes. Yes sir, it is going to be something to watch how it all goes down…

  • So … a self fulfilling prophecy. Red Bull thinks Max is the better driver and so invests in his car etc. But what if they were to invest in Daniel instead? What if Max is a flash in the pan?

    • McSerb

      But Red Bull don`t care what you don`t care about. I am not a fan of either driver, and especially not of Red Bull, but Verstappen will soon become mature while already being fast and Ricciardo is already mature but will never get any faster. He is an opportunistic driver who just picks up the points, like Button. Jenson outscored Hamilton one year in a similar way but even then he was outraced by Lewis. Hamilton went on to become an all time great, as expected, while Button has already been forgotten. It looks like the same will happen in the Verstappen-Ricciardo pairing. I like Dan but he is just a solid driver, not a super talent like the Dutch kid I don`t like much.

      • jakobusvdl

        Button’s not forgotten!
        Ricciardo is way better than ‘just a solid driver’, but he is in an era when there are a ridiculous number of super talents, and not many competitive teams, bugger :-(

        • this is a very good and often not written about point in my opinion. Right now the driver talent is the best I have every seen in F1. the depth is incredible.

          • mrvco

            Not to mention, success in the current era over a race weekend is dominated by qualifying performance and Max definitely seems to have the edge on Daniel in that department.

        • p1ngu

          Button is desperate to be remembered, but even his closest friends and most loyal supporters would concede that he only ever had one chance to win the World Championship. Kudos to him for taking it, obviously, but let’s not kid ourself that he was ever one of the best. In the Top 5 of his era, I’d say, but probably no higher.

          • jakobusvdl

            In that case he’s achieved his ‘desperate’ aim, rest easy JB.
            I remember other drivers who may not have been ‘one of the best’ too, some not even in the top 10 in their era. Sad but there you go.

    • your point is well taken, Verstappen is inconsistent – but surely red bull feel they can shepard him into a more mature, more tempered driver that is very very fast….

  • WHASSA-MADDA-U

    Both super quick but no doubt MV has the upper hand. It’s also strange to hear Ricciardo commenting how he would like to measure himself against Hamilton in the same car when he’s having trouble against his present teammate.

  • Boycottthebull

    The devil is in the details. Rarely anyone quotes the stats where Ricciardo has more podiums for example or where its consistency that wins out over barge and shunt tactics. People like to quote that Verstappen has had more reliability issues but that now after two more in a row for Ricciardo that isnt the case. Also the all too common qualifying numbers no one ever mentions that only Ricciardo has had reliability problems in qualifying (Just like Mexico where even the replacement engine for the race was a dud) and also pit blunders like that in Monaco that affected his qualifying. So I challenge this assertion that Verstappen has outperformed Ricciardo this season. The points say otherwise. Lets not forget one of Dans DNF was a Verstappen blunder.

    That said the Webber comparison is fair and true. The bias and favouritism is there. The incident where Verstappen took out his teammate wasnt met with a team rebuke in fact Horner went out of his way to say it was no ones fault just a racing incident. Even look at the pit stop times where Verstappen is up to a second quicker. There are apologies galore when Verstappen has reliability issues but Dans latest two in a row are met with “oh well he had good run at the beginning so he has to expect it comes back to him”, even though Ricciardo had had several other mechanical failures including the very first race. Marko Horner and Mateschitz all saying how they want to win the championship with Max but never once is it said of Ricciardo. If we were to single out Marko then the favouritism knows no bounds nor does he even hide it, like one greatest moments of his career was Max’s first win. Ricciardo had three wins prior to that and not much from Marko after any of them.

    The joke this month being Horner claiming Dan will be No.2 anywhere else. May as well be No.2 at another team just like Red Bull and at least get paid for it or the prestige of wearing Scarlet.

  • Brian

    Raikkonen in his prime was faster than all these clowns. How stupid to mention his name in this article in a era where he hates the regs and he is 38 years old….

    • Sempre Davanti

      A bit touchy. Kimi was also mentioned in terms of kicking Michael out. How much more praise than that can there be?

      • Brian

        Point is Ricciardo is in his prime and slower than a pre prime Verstappen

      • very true…

    • did not mean to offend, just stating the current state of play…

  • I think the point JP has raised in his editorial here is an interesting one given Dan said recently he has a few ace’s up his sleeve for negotiating. I’m curious what those are and why he wold even need them to be honest unless he means they are cards to be played for a ride at another team. Now that might be interesting and if it were Merc or Ferrari, the comparison to Max may not be much of a debate given the performance advantage but for Dan, it’s tough situation. What does he do? Stay or go? Would Merc even consider it as a replacement for Bottas? Since Valtteri isn’t getting Lewis all freaked our and swollen like Nico did, they may enjoy the harmony there and the lubricant that Valtteri represents to more Lewis titles.

    • hey NC
      I saw that headline and thought hum…. what is DR referring to…Maybe a secret agreement to replace Kimi in 2019???

  • B52Rocklobster

    I’m not sure I agree with the premise of the comparison. Where is the proof that VET had any parts favoritism? Yes Webber had a year (or maybe 2) where he had worse reliability, but that’s most likely just bad luck. Where is the proof that Newey was designing the car for VET? And why didn’t he do the same in 2014 when VET was clearly not happy with the RBR car and got outscored by RIC?

    VES getting a new engine last race is one of the first documented times I can remember where a teammate actually had better parts at RBR.

    Either way, if reliability was equal between VES and RIC I think it’s clear that VES would have come out on top in the driver’s standings. It’s an unfortunate situation for RIC but it’s one that happens over and over in F1.

    At the very least RIC can sleep well knowing he’s already a better #2 driver than Kimi :).

    • Kjkb

      Rear wing turkey 2010 front wing silverstone 2010 Plus Adrian newey actually admitted Vet was getting parts for his car that Mark was unaware of, they are just three of the top of my head. Also this year Dan knew max had extra bits on his car at malaysia I think as he mentioned it in an interview then there is the engine which is said to be worth 2-3 tenths that is a non issue as it had to go to someone but deliberatly not telling Dan knowing full well he will be asked by reporters about it amounts to playing mind games which would possibly affect dans focus Don’t kid yourself into believing all is fair the car will be desingned around max’s driving style even now, he will have the best of everything in the team you only have to listen to comments coming out of RB to see it. They want max as the youngest ever WDC You have to remember RB racing is a Marketing tool full stop. And they will do everything they can to maximise that return and no one can argue the hype that Max generates dwarfs Dan by a long way. excluding the lower teams only 2 come to mind that I have seen as giving equal treatment to both drivers Mclaren and Merc

      • McSerb

        True. Ferrari was all about Schumacher and now Vettel. Red Bull wanted not just to win but to win WITH VETTEL. Now they want to win with Max and I think that is the status they promised him to sign a new contract. Dan will get a take it or leave it offer and the truth is he doesn`t have a lot of options. No other top team wants or needs him. Vettel does not want him in Ferrari so he is out of there, Mercedes has no reason to change a very good #2 driver and risk ruining the harmony in the team and McLaren will try to introduce Norris as soon as possible (Alonso probably wouldn`t welcome Dan either).

        • I am so tire of this practice…. the sport is so much richer when a team has two top drivers, Pique/Mansell, Ham/Rosberg, of course Senna/Prost, throw Alonso/Ham (even though ham was a rookie), so many more paring throughout the years….

      • this is exactly what i have in mind Kjkb…

  • jakobusvdl

    Austrian’s hate being mistaken for Australian’s. Webber and Ricciardo are Dietrich Mateschitz’s subtle revenge against all Aussies.
    Build them up, then drag them down…….
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b6d1041e8b87322373492b92816ef2a9e2f02e41f5af0db757029b4c329ce469.gif

  • Guy Fawkes

    Max has one thing in common with Sebastian that isn’t mentioned here: A tendency toward being a loose cannon and a crybaby who is seemingly incapable of taking blame when it clearly falls on him. Some of that can be blamed on the climate at RBR. Max has been deemed “Heir Apparent of the Universe” and can do no wrong. On any given day I believe, with equal equipment, Daniel is as good as anyone on the grid, and IMHO better than Vettel as it currently stands. The long-term question will be whether or not Max can stand up to the pressure of all the expectations that are being placed on him. So far I’m seeing cracks that lead me to say “No”.

    As for where Daniel goes from Red Bull, I’d have to say that I could easily see him in the Merc in the future. He is easy going, which fits with the needs of Hamilton, and consistent which fits the needs of the team. Bottas has struggled quite noticeably during the second half of the season. If he’s not holding his end up pointswise I can see Toto handing him his papers and bringing someone else in. Which logically at this point would be Ricciardo. Mercedes didn’t sign Bottas to a one year contract by accident. And remember, Riccardo just said he “holds a few cards” in his Red Bull negotiations.

    • i my self would love to see Ricciardo at Merc, partnering Ham instead of Ocon.

  • Salvu Borg

    “Conclusion. Max is the de facto numberc one at red bull, or to put it another way, Max is their new Seb and Daniel is the new Webbo for red bull”. Correct and fully agree, couldn’t have put it any better myself.
    Everybody on this discussion forum knows or can calculate my love for red bull, BUT the decisions taken by those managing the team for their way forward is a right of theirs.
    Pushing out statistics/believes and what not will not change the way those managing a teams operate, as they operate and takes/makes decisions on what they believe is best for their team.

  • rabbit

    Totally agree. The win for Ricciardio this year was a fortunate one at best. He’s also known as a joker, and while most fans like that, more likely team principles responsible for spending 100s of million to win don’t.
    In some ways it’s a shame but Ricciardio seems caught between the generations of the Verstappens and Ocons and the Hamilton and Alonsos.
    Williams on a three year deal will probably be the best opportunity. It’s all about the money at the end of the day and the security to continually earn it.

  • jakobusvdl

    Verstappen and Ricciardo are still about the best driver pairing of any team on the grid, they’re both very quick, and great racers. Hopefully RBR don’t alienate Ricciardo in their haste to build Verstappen.
    If they do threaten him with calling Sainz in, I’m sure Renault would have an No1 seat for him.

    • I feel this is what RB want – just skewed toward the dutchman, and the is going to start to be untenable for Ricciardo…

    • Kjkb

      They actually wanted him over Sainz as part of the deal to end the engine contract with TR early

      • jakobusvdl

        That might be one of the cards he’ll be playing come RBR negotiation time ;-)

  • fk Bobby Turkalino

    I guess my head is turned by the observations that Ferrari does not seem to absolutely love-love-love Vettel, that Ricciardo kicked him to the curb at Red Bull, and favorable contract timings with respect to Kimi. Also, at least Ricciardo sounds Italian, no? Daniel to Ferrari seems to make more sense than signing as a lap dog for Red Bull if he gets the option. Whoever runs with Max is gonna have that to deal with.

    • Salvu Borg

      And whoever runs with either number 44 at Mercedes or number 5 at FERRARI will have to deal with what, what will the difference be from that at the red bullies apart from the red bullies utterly disgusting way they treated their drivers over the years.