Daniel Ricciardo has admitted Red Bull’s hopes of challenging Mercedes and Ferrari will not be realised by a “quick fix” to their 2017 car – as he sets May’s Spanish GP for the begin of their full fightback.
Having been widely tipped to be the team to challenge Mercedes’ supremacy at the begin of F1’s new era of aero rules, Red Bull’s relatively disappointing form has proved one of the year’s early surprise stories with the team qualifying over one second adrift of pole in Australia and China.
Ricciardo says that the situation is “disappointing” but “not demoralising” and hopes the begin of the European season next month is where the first green shoots of recovery are seen.
“We know we’re still not on their pace. It’s not like we’re looking for three, four tenths – we’re looking for more than a second,” said Ricciardo of the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari.
“That doesn’t happen overnight. We always feel once we get to Europe things start to brighten up for us, so I’d like to say by the time we get to Barcelona we can get that [gap] below a second and then try to chip away at it from there.”
“I think we’ve got an update around Canada, an engine one, but right now we’re obviously too far away. But we don’t have a massive cure yet to say ‘yep, by this race we’re going to be on their pace’. It’s going to take steady work.”
There have already been proposals that Red Bull will arrive at the Spanish GP – the venue where teams traditionally introduce their first big car upgrades of the season – with essentially a ‘new’ car around the chassis.
Asked if that level of improvement was what it is going to take for Red Bull to muscle in on the fight for wins, Ricciardo answered: “We are talking over a second – it needs to be something bigger than a new front wing or something like that.”
“I’d love to say it could be a quick fix like that and all of a sudden we’ll find a second [of lap time], but realistically it would be something bigger than that. What it is I don’t know.”
Since the finish of their era of dominance in 2013, Red Bull have won five races – none of which have come in the season’s early flyaway rounds. And, even in the years when they won consecutive world titles, the team often did not hit their full stride until mid-season.
“I don’t think they ever dominated testing, but before my time in the team [pre-2014] that was because they were running 100 kilos [of fuel] and everyone else was running 20! They knew what they had,” added Ricciardo.
“Obviously the biggest change since then has been these V6 [engines] and I’d probably put most of it down to that. I don’t think they’re slacking off over Christmas, I’m not suggesting anything like that, but unfortunately it’s been a trend for the last four years now that we’re not starting off in Melbourne with the chance to win.”