Max Verstappen is the people’s favorite at Red Bull Racing, not only internally but among fans. Verstappen’s driving is exciting and he fits the bill perfectly of the next-great driver spot in Formula 1. But there is a guy who is one of the most charismatic F1 drivers ever and a thrilling one when it comes to overtaking, that is Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian will compete for Red Bull in 2018 for the fifth year of his career and will face the Dutchman for the third year as a teammate.
Red Bull’s 2018 “mayhem”: Verstappen or Ricciardo?
Both of these drivers are nicely balanced in terms of qualifying speed and race pace. Verstappen seems to be tougher in races because of his approach. Ricciardo is as strong as anyone can be when the Grand Prix offers chances to succeed.
Last season was similar for them, if you think about the first part of the year, you will see Ricciardo in front and Verstappen suffering all types of issues with his RB13. However, it was the other way around in the second half of the year. The Australian struggled in qualifying and the race with the reliability of his Power Unit. His teammate took advantage of the clear improvement on luck.
Trying to compare these drivers is a tall task. They are, surely, two of the best drivers on the current grid and with the right car, both can become F1 Champions in a heartbeat. Take a look at what they have done so far in their respective careers.
Ricciardo smiles at the experience
Ricciardo’s career in F1, precisely as a part of Red Bull Racing, has been a remarkable one. It is difficult to find fans who do not like the Aussie’s personality and he feeds on the love of the public. Ricciardo’s stint with the energy drink squad started in 2014 when he replaced his fellow countryman, Mark Webber.
His first year at Red Bull would not be easy as he had one of the hardest tasks any F1 driver has faced in history: Beating his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, who was a four-time World Champion in his prime.
A four-time champion was never beaten by his respective teammate prior to 2014. Juan Manuel Fangio won his fourth championship in 1956 and his fifth in 1957, before participating in two races in 1958 and walking into the sunset. No one was able to beat the Argentine as a teammate.
Alain Prost won his fourth crown in 1993 with Williams and retired immediately. While Michael Schumacher did lose to a teammate (Nico Rosberg) after being a seven-time world champion, the German was far from his prime. It was not the same level of accomplishment than the one Ricciardo achieved in 2014.
Ricciardo beats Vettel in 2014
In 2014, the Australian handled Vettel very well. If you think about the three wins Ricciardo had (the only wins by a non-Mercedes driver that year) you will realize that in all of them Vettel was ahead and, simply, could not get the job done. Canada, Hungary, and Belgium were all won by Ricciardo, in every one of those events, the German started ahead and was not able to match his teammate’s speed.
In Canada, Vettel started P3 and finished P3, meanwhile, Ricciardo started sixth and climbed his way up to victory. In Hungary, the German started on the front row and ended up seventh. While Ricciardo began fourth and won the race. The same happened at Spa, with the Australian moving from fifth to the top and Vettel, mistakes included, was second at the first climb at Eau Rouge and finished fifth.
That year tells a part of Ricciardo’s remarkable career so far. He became the first teammate to beat a four-time champion in his prime and did it fair and square. He ended 2014 with 238 points, 71 ahead of his teammate’s tally of 167. Ricciardo was the only driver (apart from the Mercedes duo) that year to score more than 200 points and recorded eight podiums.
As a 2018 preview, you must think that Ricciardo’s experience is clearly an advantage on his side to try and beat Verstappen, once again. Also, keep in mind that the Dutchman is widely recognized as a really fast driver on Saturdays. But still, the Australian has had his number (as he did with most of his teammates in qualifying). Ricciardo leads his teammates 86 to 45 (19-18 against Max) in qualifying battles throughout their F1 journey.
A fantastic year awaits Verstappen?
When Verstappen arrived on the F1 scene, many people thought that it was a risky move (and it was) but nobody can say it wasn’t the right one. He was promoted to Red Bull for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, after spending 23 races at Scuderia Toro Rosso with Carlos Sainz Jr.
At Spain, he took advantage of a crazy race and went home with his first victory in stunning fashion. In the 23 races with Sainz, he beat the Spaniard 13 to 10 on race day and qualifying. Not a big margin but a margin nonetheless.
At Red Bull, he has completed 17 races in 2016 and scored 191 points to 220 from Ricciardo. Also, Verstappen lost the qualifying competition to the Aussie 11 to 6 that same year.
2017, a season cut in half
Last season (2017) he had too many ups and downs and his overall performance is really difficult to dissect. Starting with the races he won, Malaysia and México, there is no doubt that he was supremely fast on those Sundays. Both times he won after starting from second place (in Malaysia’s qualifying he was third but started P2 because of Raikkonen’s woes).
Those races dictate a lot of what the future can bring to F1’s young gun. But there is nothing that can be taken for granted. Verstappen has everything to become a great champion, but at the other side of his garage resides experience. Something you just can’t have while enjoying youth.
Even though Verstappen lost to Ricciardo on points (168-200), he was on top on race day (11-9) and qualifying (12-8). The last two mark the third time (out of four) he leads his garage partner on Saturdays and on race day.
He is behind Ricciardo in both departments so far. The Aussie leads the race war 19 to 18 overall and qualifying by the same number. Despite those stats, since they have shared the same colors, the Dutchman has won three races and Ricciardo two.
Choices to be made
The two young guns of Formula 1 have enjoyed a good personal rapport and relationship off the track in their two seasons together. If Red Bull is one of the top teams in 2018, will the friendship between the two teammates survive a tough title battle?
In terms of picking one of these two to reign on top of the other in 2018. You need to consider certain things. A) It is not a foregone conclusion and B) In F1, normally, things do not go according to plan.
It is Ricciardo’s experience versus Verstappen’s drive for F1 greatness in the next championship. After the checkered flag is waved at Abu Dhabi in 2018, who will finish on top? Make your choice. Just remember, maybe you are not picking who is going to be Red Bull’s top driver. Perhaps you are selecting the 2018 Formula One World Champion too.
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