Red Bull ended the 2016 Formula 1 season as the best-of-the-rest behind Mercedes, but it was an eventful year for the Milton Keynes-based squad.
With 30 points from the first two races, Red Bull’s season sprang into life in China. Daniel Ricciardo seized the lead from Nico Rosberg at the start while Daniil Kvyat charged into the same corner and frightened Sebastian Vettel into a crash with his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. A puncture dropped Ricciardo down the order – although he recovered to fourth – while Kvyat claimed third behind Rosberg and the irate Vettel.
Things went downhill fast for the Russian driver at his home race in Sochi when he triggered another first lap crash with Vettel – but there was no dispute about who was to blame this time. The incident also wrecked Ricciardo’s race and the Red Bull bosses opted to switch Kvyat with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen for the next race in Spain.
While many decried the apparent ruthlessness of the team’s decision, Verstappen scored a record-breaking win in Barcelona and the rest is history.
Ricciardo, already annoyed at the Red Bull strategy call in Spain that dropped him from the lead to fourth, responded with a sensational pole position lap in Monaco. The Australian driver should have won the race too, but a botched pitstop left him behind Lewis Hamilton and frustrated in second place.
From there, Red Bull’s fortunes ebbed and flowed with the performances of its drivers. Ricciardo had a disappointing run following Monaco, while Verstappen notched up more podiums.
But the Dutch driver began to court more trouble for his vigorous defensive driving in mid-season, just Ricciardo delivered four podiums in five races and a near-win in Singapore.
Red Bull ended the year as comfortably the second-best team, having outpaced Ferrari at most races from China onwards, but questions remained over its strategy calls, particularly in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
But in a season when Mercedes was generally untouchable once again, it was Red Bull that picked up the pieces if the Silver Arrows faltered. After Verstappen’s triumph in Spain, which followed the Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg lap one crash, Ricciardo won in Malaysia after the Briton’s engine failure.
Ricciardo vs Verstappen
Ricciardo drove superbly throughout 2016, other than his post-Monaco blip between Canada and Silverstone, and his pole at the Principality was one of the highlights of the season. Others were his spirited charge after Rosberg in Singapore and his robust defence from Verstappen, which sealed the win in Malaysia.
Verstappen’s world-class 2016 performances confirmed what many suspected when he joined F1 aged 17 in 2015. He certainly had some negative moments – such as his Monaco crashes, the incidents with the Ferrari drivers in Belgium and the lap one spin in Abu Dhabi – but he put in many stunning performances, capped off with his win in Spain and wet-weather master class in Brazil.
What did you make of Red Bull in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.