#F1 Features: Winners and Losers of the Renault Wreck

Brought to you by TJ13 Courtroom Reporter: Adam Macdonald

Naturally, much of the media are drawing on the negatives of the Renault powertrain issues as they trundle around the desert.  However, there will be a select few who can draw significant positives from this.  The failings of Renault could present an opportunity few would have predicted in Brazil 3 months ago.

Keep on smiling

The Aussie for Aussie replacement seems to have been accepted by many as a fair election for the new race seat.  Having proven himself against a fairly inept teammate for the past two seasons, Daniel Ricciardo is being thrown into the shark infested water that is Red Bull Racing.  The Vettel/Marko dream team will be a hard one to survive alongside, as was proven by Mark Webber for 5 arduous years.

Before I’m accused of being a Webber sympathiser or of Vettel hating, it should be known I am a Vettel fan.  However, even I cannot deny the difficulties of infiltrating the Milton Keynes setup to make it his own home.  A year of sub-standard engines will give him a chance to bed-in at the quadruple World Champions while the man from Heppenheim grows more frustrated with every failure.

Even if the engine is fixed by May/June time, Ricciardo will have had a significant period to make a mould for himself within the team.  He may not get a realistic shot at the 2014 WDC title, but in truth this is not such a bad thing for him.  Especially, if the rumours are to be believed, and Vettel is off to Ferrari in the not too distant future.  He would then find himself in the enviable position of being the lead Red Bull driver as well as not having been humiliated the year before by his 4-time World Champion teammate.

Vettel’s expectations of the team could be his biggest stumbling block as we have already seen the cracks appearing in his media facade.  Helmut Marko has also alluded to the fact the German has “expectations.”  Ricciardo’s positivity could be a very useful thing as the driver pairing wait for powertrain updates.

The “no.2” driver tag may not be such an issue this year at Red Bull.

Return of the Banzai

A favourite of many, Kamui Kobayashi returns to the grid in 2014  alongside a GP2 graduate who has bundles of money.  Nobody has expressed great expectations of Marcus Ericcson, expecting the more experienced Japanese driver to beat him hands down.  Although, one has to wonder where this expectation comes from?

A driver who has been out for more than a season is always going to be off the pace.  An unrelaible start to the season will be the perfect remedy for hiding the cobwebs that may be there.  Some will argue that Kobayashi’s Ferrari outings last year will come to his aid, but displays like this below are more likely to haunt him than help him.

Ericcson has every chance of surprising us getting the jump on Kamui, so a faulty Renault engine could prove a god-send for him.

Try, try and try again

Another driver who is being paired with an F1 rookie is Jean-Eric Vergne.  The Frenchman was less than spectacular over the past 2 seasons and will have been worried by the impressive display Daniil Kvyat put in at Austin in FP1.  Posting a time only 0.202 seconds slower than Daniel Ricciardo in his first outing in the STR8 shocked many.

A poor motor could mask the shortcomings of JEV and save his blushes in the face of a charging Russian.  Perhaps I am being too presumptive with Kvyat and his abilities, but to my mind, JEV is fortunate to still have a seat in F1 after not showing anything remarkable so far.

Furthermore, the  team in Faenza will be cautiously optimistic.  The prospect of beating the Senior team is rare, so must be something that is relished and taken advantage of.


Perhaps Renault will spring a surprise on us all and develop their powertrain at an incredible rate, however, this looks doubtful; until then the judgement stands.  So what do you think TJ13 viewers…fair assessment or am I speaking too soon?

3 responses to “#F1 Features: Winners and Losers of the Renault Wreck

  1. I dont agree completely. Vergne showed some good stuff. But unfortunately only if the conditions where wet. He needs to put the same stuff on the track with dry weather, and than he doesn’t need to worry about this Russian boy. But i do agree if he doesn’t do better this year his spot is up to grab for some new talent..

  2. Just one point: I can’t see why you can assume DR would be No.1 if Vettel leaves… which would presumably mean he’ll be joined by an even less experienced driver. I can see Red Bull withdrawing rather than going through it all again.
    If Vettel goes to Ferrari (probably with Kimi because I don’t see Vettel and Alonso together) it is very possible Alonso could move to Red Bull. If Alonso and Kimi both finish in the Championship top-3 (and are still talking to each other) Ferrari could decide they don’t need Vettel – yet.
    I have a sneaky feeling Ferrari could win the Championship, but with NicoR winning the Drivers Championship… (Vettel 4th; Lewis 5th…) which might encourage Lewis to accept a Red Bull offer…
    There are many other possibilities but the deal-breaker could be Red Bull’s level of success by the end of the year – and whether Mateshitz pulls out, because he doesn’t need to be sponsoring a mid-rank team again.
    Either way I can’t see DR leading Red Bull – there are far too many (better…?) options. And if Red Bull have a really bad year DR could even find himself off the grid in 2015.
    Just a thought… 😉

  3. Hi Adam,

    No, it’s not a fair assessment, and yes, you are speaking too soon! 😀

    Regarding Red Bull… there are two basic problems for Mr. Ricciardo to overcome:
    1) Helmut Marko is notoriously impatient with developing drivers. He expects to see a constant rate of improvement that does not stop till the championships are won. Then Helmut expects more continuous improvement after winning the championships, as SV pointed out in his acceptance speech at the Autosport Awards three months ago,

    Contrast that to what Eric Boullier did with Grosjean, taking years to cultivate Grosjean’s skills and confidence till suddenly Grosjean became a top tier driver. Point is that Helmut is closest to the RB team (vs the TR team), and Helmut will have DR under the microscope. The odds are that DR will break. Which would be fine for Helmut, as he will pull up Kvyat anyway.

    2) Red Bull is poised to enter a difficult recovery period for the first part of the season. In such circumstances, while the team is desparate for on track performance, and also occaisionally good feedback for the developement program back at the factory, how closely will they listen to the young new guy versus the experienced 4 time WC?

    Imagine instead that the RB was rolling into Melbourne as a podium level car. In that scenario, the team would be much more likely to listen closely to the new kid on the block, so they can maximize their results to have not just one, but both cars on the podium.

    In such a caustic environment, the best hope for DR is that he keeps his self-confidence… once that is gone, an F1 driver becomes slow. If he keeps it, he has a chance to survive.

    Regarding Kobayashi, he has only been out for one season, not more than one season. Kamui tossing off that Ferrari last season is what he did at Sauber… he was often on the very ragged edge of control, and yet he made it work at Sauber running very close to Perez. In addition to crashing Ferrari’s F1 cars, he was also out flogging their endurance cars, so it would be surprising if he is rusty. Given all that, I think that Ericsson is in a great place grow and make his mark in the F1 paddock there.

    Dismissing JEV’s talents is fairly surprising given that Helmut very nearly chose him over DR. It’s not just Helmut, as it’s likely that JEV is rated higher in the F1 paddock than people may think. But he’ll need to turn his anger into consistent strong performances, or go elsewhere. It’s his consistency that is hurting him.

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