Hailed by many as a future champion of the sport, 2017 marks Max Verstappen‘s third season in Formula 1. In the last two seasons of competition for Verstappen, the Dutch driver has made quite an impact, breaking records to become F1’s youngest points scorer and youngest race winner. Verstappen’s career however, has not been plain sailing, with controversy often following the driver wherever he goes over his aggression and defensive driving.
When a young driver enters a team, there can be conflict and tension between team mates, with this being evident across the grid throughout the years. Such rivalries have included those of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost from 1988-1989, and the infamous rivalry of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull Racing from 2009-2013.
Could 2017 mark the arrival of a new rivalry in F1, this time between Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen?
Ricciardo versus Verstappen: A New Age For Red Bull Racing
More often than not, a rivalry between team mates often arises when one driver outperforms another throughout a season. In the case of many rivalries in Formula 1, a rivalry can become more intense when a younger driver challenges an older and more experienced driver for position, particularly in the championship. This was the case at Red Bull Racing in 2010, which caused the heated rivalry between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel which would continue until the end of 2013.
A racing driver’s main aim on a race weekend is to beat the driver in the same machinery – their team mate. Gauging your performance against that of your team mate’s is a key insight to your overall performance in the car, and in the event of one driver outperforming another consistently within a team, one driver can easily live in the shadow of the other.
This situation could very well arise at Red Bull in 2017 between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Although Ricciardo did beat Verstappen in the championship in 2016, throughout the season, Verstappen did often match and outpace his team mate. As well as this, Verstappen’s youth also played into his advantage during 2016, with the youngster often being in the media for ranging reasons.
Due to this media coverage, Verstappen was often hailed and branded as the next big thing, with his performances being recognised a number of times with the driver being named as ‘driver of the day’ by fans alike, with Verstappen controversially taking this honor at the US Grand Prix in 2016 – a race that the Dutchman retired from. Through results and polls such as this, could Daniel Ricciardo be left in the shadow of Max Verstappen?
At the end of the 2016 Formula 1 Season, Daniel Ricciardo did not receive the praise that he deserved, with the Australian arguably being the strongest driver on the grid last year, frequently challenging Mercedes throughout the season and being in a prime position to win a number of races throughout the year such as at Spain and Monaco.
If Verstappen is closer to Ricciardo in 2017 which he should be due to his growing experience, the possibility for a rivalry to ensue could be quite high. When combined with the prediction that Red Bull Racing will have closed the gap to Mercedes for 2017, one cannot help but think that if an intense rivalry does arise, and when put in the context of a close championship battle, that the results could prove to be explosive.
Famously however, Daniel Ricciardo is known to be one of the nicest drivers on the current Formula 1 grid, and many may wonder if it would be possible for such a rivalry to happen simply because of the fact that Ricciardo is a ‘nice guy’ who gets along well with most, if not all drivers on the grid. Ricciardo does however, also have the nickname of the ‘honey badger’ – a carnivorous animal with huge defensive capabilities and a fearless attitude, showing that Ricciardo is not just the ‘nice guy’ as he as presented.
Even in the early stages of 2016, the signs of a potential rivalry were evident.
When Verstappen first arrived at Red Bull ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix last season, readers may remember the pressure that Ricciardo put on himself to beat his young team mate that race weekend, knowing that he had to beat Verstappen on their first race weekend together in equal machinery. This pressure came out in qualifying, when Ricciardo qualified ahead of Verstappen in third place. After qualifying ended, Ricciardo’s relief was clear when the Australian spoke on team radio, expressing his happiness to qualify in third.
Later on in 2016 at the Malaysian Grand Prix, tension did again arise between Ricciardo and Verstappen – this time on track during the race through a very close on track battle between the pair.
With 2017 marking Ricciardo and Verstappen’s first full season together and with there being higher stakes providing that Red Bull have closed the gap Mercedes, a rivalry could very well spark between the pair when both are striving for glory.
We will find out if this becomes a reality when the lights go out for the 2017 Australian Grand Prix on 26 March.