Being a part of the Red Bull driver programme is seen by many as the holy grail for young single-seater stars of the future. While the guidance of Dr Helmut Marko has proved crucial to both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, Marko’s School of Hard Knocks has ended many F1 careers prematurely. Daniil Kvyat’s recent demotion from Red Bull to Toro Rosso could eventually see the Russian added to the list of drivers axed from the programme at the final hurdle.
One element of the Verstappen and Kvyat seat switch which has been missed by many is the indirect effect it could have on Carlos Sainz Jr’s career. The Spaniard has been overlooked by the senior team on this occasion and as Jean Eric Vergne will testify, that doesn’t bode well.
Following their domination of the 2014 campaign, Mercedes picked up in 2015 from where they left off. Once again, the Brackley based squad were the class of the field, from the moment the W06 rolled out and completed an astonishing 157 laps on the opening day of testing, to the season finale and the team’s 17th win of the year. It was a campaign where their victory t-shirts were never far away, but also where the men and women in red came back to the forefront, with Ferrari surprising the competition to emerge as Mercedes’ closest challengers.
A year where the sport’s power players took center stage and where Brand Hamilton stole the show.
Central to Toro Rosso’s very existence in the sport is its influence on bright young talent. Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat all excelled in the Toro Rosso proving ground and based on the evidence of the first ten races of 2015, the team’s current duo have all the hallmarks of recreating the success of the aforementioned trio. While Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr have been sensational this season, credit should also be given to Toro Rosso’s technical team, who have delivered one of Faenza’s greatest ever products for their young star’s to play with.
Lead time on engine development is always longer than chassis improvement but Red Bull’s 2015 campaign is somewhat dependent on a power-pack boost. Some promising dyno testing at Renault’s Viry-Chatillon headquarters has suggested that relief for the two Red Bull teams is incoming, but as Christian Horner has expressed, the team needed the upgrade “yesterday”. Will pressure from the partners see the supplier press fast-forward on the updates.
Just when critics limber up to lament another predictable outcome, Formula 1 has the ability to throw a surprise. Lewis Hamilton may have taken four consecutive pole positions, but it was Nico Rosberg’s time to shine, as he dominated qualifying to take top spot by a relatively comfortable margin. The German was imperious today and has achieved the result which has the potential to launch his 2015 title tilt in earnest. Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel’s third place was courtesy of a typically efficient performance but teammate Kimi Raikkonen failed to deliver and was duly engulfed by his rivals and will start P7. Toro Rosso proved that their practice pace was no fluke, with Sainz sensationally lining up in P5, and will be joined on the third row by his fellow rookie Max Verstappen.
12 points on the board, two bright talents behind the wheel and one of the best looking cars on the grid, 2015 has started well for the team from Faenza. Despite their first and only race victory dating back to 2008, when Sebastian Vettel’s heroics in Monza confirmed his status as a World Champion of the future, (how right we were), the team have slowly worked their way to the front of the ever competitive midfield. Their aspiration to finish with fifth place in the constructors seems very achievable.
Red Bull have been rather vociferous during what has been a hugely disappointing start to their 2015 campaign. They lie sixth in the constructors standings on just 11 points after two races, with conflicting arguments regarding the reasons behind the downturn in form coming from chassis builder and engine supplier. In short, they are not a group of happy campers at the moment and today, the big boss Deitrich Mateschitz has issued another threat that the drinks manufacturer could pull out of the sport if their fortunes do not turn around soon.