So, things didn’t exactly go to plan for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at Silverstone as the Brit made a disastrous start to the race from pole. He dropped way back down the grid and did brilliantly to come back and secure second place. Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first and has now opened up a lead at the top of the driver’s standings, but it was a disappointing race for Red Bull and now questions are being asked whether they can challenge Mercedes and Ferrari at all.
As things stand, Daniel Ricciardo is fourth in the driver standings, with teammate Max Verstappen two places behind him in sixth. However, even Ricciardo is well adrift of Vettel and Hamilton and now Kimi Raikkonen also has a slender lead over the Red Bull driver. Many people predicted the championship to be a three-way battle between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull; but it seems that number could be slashed to two if things don’t pick up for Ricciardo and Verstappen.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner had poured cold water on his team’s chances of winning the championship or indeed challenging for it from the outset. He insisted that Mercedes were the favourites this season, with Ferrari not far behind, but felt that Red Bull could indeed close the gap and potentially disrupt the stronghold the pair have on Formula 1 right now, especially as the season goes on.
There’s no denying that when it comes to horsepower Red Bull are lagging behind their two rivals. However, as seen in Shanghai when Red Bull switched to a much faster tyre than the Mercedes or Ferrari, Ricciardo showed the car is capable of posting some stunning lap times and can even be quicker than their rivals. There’s evidence to suggest that the Red bull car may have a speed advantage in certain situations but converting this into victories has proven difficult.
As things stand you’d suggest that it would take something remarkable from Daniel Ricciardo to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari rather than the Red Bull car itself. With it currently working at a power deficit when compared with its rivals, the car can only be quicker in certain situations and can’t therefore develop any sort of consistency. Red Bull are likely to get stronger as the season progresses, but the title race will very much be a head to head contest between Ferrari’s Vettel and Mercedes’ Hamilton. In fact, this is already the case, if one checks out all the betting sites. Unibet has decided that only Lewis Hamilton the 11/20 favourite and Vettel the 13/10 second favourite have any real chance of winning the Drivers Championship, with Bottas third favourite at 100/1.
This could all change though in 2019 as Red Bull will be reverting back to a Honda engine which promises to give them enough power to challenge the top two. This will be great news for the team and is likely to be the deciding factor in Daniel Ricciardo penning a new deal with Red Bull, with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season. So, 2018 should be seen as the season where Red Bull move closer, before challenging in 2019.