Max Verstappen’s breakthrough victory at the Spanish Grand Prix took the motorsport world by surprise. His already lofty stock has risen considerably in the past two weeks. The teenager’s new team Red Bull are certainly returning to form, out-qualifying both Ferrari’s in Spain and are preparing to fit an upgraded Renault powerunit into the RB12, which promises to deliver around half a second per lap of performance.With the update impressing drivers during the post-race test, Renault have decided to accelerate the introduction of the upgrade. While it will debut in Monaco, two weeks ahead of schedule, timescale constraints mean that the French marquee can only bring two units to the Principality. One will be reserved for the works team while the other sent to Red Bull.
While it is widely anticipated that Kevin Magnussen will benefit from Renault’s unit, the recipient of Red Bull’s is an intriguing topic. Will Max Verstappen cash in on his triumph in Spain, or will the elder statesman Daniel Ricciardo take the unit by virtue of being the lead driver in the championship?
The latter is surely in pole position to debut the updated unit. His succession of fourth place finishes this season has meant that Ricciardo has notched 48 points, putting him ten clear of his 18 year-old teammate, despite his 25 point haul in Barcelona. In addition, the Aussie can call upon his two years of experience with the team and three victories to support his case.
Verstappen’s claim to the update is also negatively effected by engine element numbers. Having switched drives with Daniil Kvyat – who moved in the opposite direction to Verstappen, back to Toro Rosso – the Dutchman takes over the Russian’s former powerunit allocation.
As such, given Kvyat’s reliability gremlins while at Red Bull, Verstappen is on his second energy store and third control electronics element of the season. Therefore, placing the upgraded powerunit in his car a race early would add further strain to an already stretched engine allocation, given that a measly five engines have to last an entire season.
It would be astonishing if Ricciardo did not receive the updated Renault powerunit for Monaco. Almost as astonishing as Max Verstappen’s victory on debut for Red Bull. In this sport, you just never know.