Daniel Ricciardo, the 24 year old and member of Red Bull’s junior driver’s programme, has been picked to succeed Mark Webber next year at Red Bull to race alongside Sebastian Vettel. Other than his Australian counterparts, the decision has been met with little excitement and left certain people more than a little underwhelmed. Over the course of the next year extensive PR Campaigns will have to be put in place by the Red Bull team to create a positive profile for the young driver.
Many believe that there were better options to choose from, such as Fernando Alonso the winner of two championships and Kimi Raikkonen, former world champion.
However, Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, says that what makes Ricciardo stand out is his sheer speed. After coming in 6th place at both Toro Rosso in qualifying for Bahrain in 2012 and Silverstone this year, this is hard to dispute.
Even so, since these impressive results he has performed with much less inspiration. Ricciardo appears to have been holding back, finishing at the same time as Jean-Eric Vergne who was deemed “not ready” for promotion. Is this a question of his racecraft or does it simply come down to the power of the cars?
There are in fact worries that Ricciardo lacks racecraft and the mental strength to survive at the highest level of Formula 1. The greats such as Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel are familiar with the ways of the sport and generally know how to handle themselves, however, they are also entirely unforgiving which gives them the edge on fellow racers. This is a trait that Ricciardo will have to learn, fast. Further to this, the aforementioned drivers have strong media relations which naturally raise their popularity among fans.
Will Ricciardo’s need for speed cause him problems?
When Red Bull ran a car comparative specification at the Silverstone Test, which meant both Ricciardo’s car and Vettel’s car carried the same fuel loads, same tyres etc… Ricciardo was in fact 0.2 seconds faster than Vettel.
Vettel has stated he wants to be pushed; he wants to be challenged to perform faster and better. What he doesn’t want is to be beaten. It’s clear to see that Red Bull is built around Vettel so Ricciardo will struggle if his intentions next year are to usurp him.
Where it is often said that team mates are allowed to race, this has rarely been the case in practice. Webber has been told not to pass Vettel on a few occasions, even when he felt he was faster. What it all comes down to is that Vettel is their most consistent front line performer and if Ricciardo wants to change this, he will have to show he is consistently faster. Until then, Red Bull will aim to keep the peace within the team avoiding any antics that could ultimately lead to disharmony and the need for crisis management, something they naturally want to avoid.
Note: Contribution by London PR agency PHA Media (@phamedia)