In Spain, Mercedes’ mistake afforded Red Bull the opportunity to snatch victory. Just two weeks later it was Red Bull who, having dominated the weekend, made a costly error to allow Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to take his 44th race win.
Such is the speed at which fortunes can change in motorsport, pole sitter Daniel Ricciardo saw his maiden win at the Principality slip away, when a miscommunication between pit wall and garage saw him arrive in his pit-box, while his mechanics were still fumbling over which compound of slick tyres to fit.
Elation on Saturday became heartbreak on Sunday for the Aussie.
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.
Mercedes’ Barcelona test schedule has been modified ahead of the second day’s running, as reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein has replaced Esteban Ocon, who was billed to get his first outing for the Silver Arrows on Wednesday. Mercedes have cited the fact that they wanted a “driver with race experience” to complete a programme which involves testing of development parts.
The late change is a rather telling move by the reigning champions.
Occasionally, sport will provide a storyline which defies belief. Max Verstappen has completed the impossible, writing his own fairytale by winning his first Grand Prix at the tender age of 18. He has not only broken Sebastian Vettel’s record as the youngest ever race winner, but managed it in his first race with Red Bull. There is not a superlative to do justice to the scale of the achievement.
It was, however, made possible by the latest drama in the Mercedes camp. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided on lap one, with both ending the race in the gravel trap at turn four, following decidedly aggressive maneuvers.
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.
Red Bull Racing know how to drop a bombshell. News that Sebastian Vettel was set to leave the team at the end of 2014 and be replaced by youngster Daniil Kvyat, certainly came as a surprise. The announcement that 18 year-old wonder-kid Max Verstappen is to replace Kvyat in the Red Bull senior outfit with immediate effect broke on Thursday morning, delivering an even greater level of surprise.
With Kvyat moving back to Toro Rosso – the junior squad in the unique Red Bull structure – some have deemed this as a demotion for the Russian. However, the story is as much about the excellence and market value of Red Bull’s teenage superstar.
Daniel Ricciardo certainly capitalised on home advantage last weekend, as he took his Red Bull RB12 to fourth position. However, being in Australia had no bearing on the power output of the TAG Heuer branded Renault powertrain, as Ricciardo was seemingly able to compete on the straights – something the team have been unable to do in this era of the sport.
Having finished just 24 seconds off the lead despite being on a decidedly compromised strategy, Red Bull seem set for a stronger 2016 campaign.