(Bernard Asset - Renault Sport F1)
Formula One 2014 is well underway with Mercedes dominating the opening three race's of the season. Reigning world champions Red Bull Racing, who have won four back to back title's have struggled so far this season.
Despite their struggle's in the early stages of the season, it would appear that new driver Daniel Ricciardo is the man to watch within the Milton Keynes based team this season and not Sebastian Vettel. Let's have a look at the result's. In the opening race of the season Down Under in Melbourne, Ricciardo out-qualified the reigning world champion starting the race from 2nd on the grid while Vettel started from 12th.
Ricciardo finished the race on the podium before being disqualified from the race, the appeal is due to be heard in Paris next week which could result in his podium and point's being reinstated so we shall wait and see what happens. Vettel retired from the first race of the season with a power unit failure.
In Malaysia, it was Vetel'd turn to start from the front row, the German went on to finish on the podium in third place behind the two Mercedes. Daniel Ricciardo started the race from 5th on the grid but retired from the race. He was handed a ten place grid penalty for Bahrain after an unsafe release from his pit box.
In Bahrain, once again Ricciardo out-qualified Vettel with a fantastic third place however he started the race in 13th place which promoted Vettel into the top ten after being knocked out in the second part of qualifying.
In the race, it was Ricciardo who came out on top in the team battle. Vettel was asked to let his team mate past him as Ricciardo was faster then him, he obliged and Ricciardo went on to finish the race in fourth place between the Sahara Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg while Vettel finished the race in 6th place.
So Vettel, who has won the championship from 2010-2013 would appear to have come up against a driver who is capable of beating him. However, this is Sebastian Vettel, who cannot be written off at any time but it will come as a major boost for Ricciardo that he has been able to show that he can beat Vettel in the same car.
Vettel is currently 6th in the Driver's championship on 23 point's while Ricciardo is 10th with 12 point's. If Ricciardo and Red Bull are successful in their appeal on Monday the Australian will be collect 18 point's which would leap frog him above Sebastian Vettel in the championship. It is believed however, that the team's appeal will not be successful. One thing is certain however and that is that Daniel Ricciardo is an extremely quick driver and with both him and Vettel in the team they will be challenging for regular point's, podium's and win's once Renault have got their engine sorted.
It is very probable however that by the time the team arrive in Spain for the first race of the European leg of the season it could potentially be extremely difficult for team to catch Mercedes and challenge for the championship.
Red Bull Racing are currently 4th in the Constructors championship on 35 point's, 76 behind championship leaders Mercedes. We'll have to wait and see what happens with the appeal on Monday but one thing is for certain and that is that Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo are at this point in the season extremely evenly matched.
Ricciardo will once again be behind the wheel of the RB10 in Bahrain later when on the second and final day of the first in-season test ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix next weekend.
©Ben Johnston 2014