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F1 mid-season review part two: Red Bull and Ferrari fight to be best-of-the-rest

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F1 mid-season review part two: Red Bull and Ferrari fight to be best-of-the-rest
Aug 9, 2016, 4:27 PM

In the second part of our 2016 Formula 1 mid-season review, JAonF1 examines the contrasting fortunes of Red Bull and Ferrari in their battle for se...

In the second part of our 2016 Formula 1 mid-season review, JAonF1 examines the contrasting fortunes of Red Bull and Ferrari in their battle for second place in the constructors’ championship.

Before the 2016 season got underway, Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne outlined his expectations that the Italian team should build on its three wins in 2015 and take the fight to Mercedes from the first race.

Ferrari did indeed get into a position where it challenged Mercedes for the victory in the Australian Grand Prix – although this was largely thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s rocketing start to get by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – but a conservative strategy call cost the team during that race’s red flag period and Vettel ended up third.

Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Raikkonen finished second to Rosberg in Bahrain while Vettel’s engine failed on the formation lap and the pair then collided at the first corner of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Vettel was punted out the following Russian race by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, which ended up being the 22-year-old’s final race for the Milton Keynes-based team. Another costly strategy decision meant an additional victory slipped away from Ferrari at the Spanish Grand Prix that was won by Kvyat’s replacement, Max Verstappen.

Raikkonen crashed out in Monaco, where Vettel finished some way adrift of the front runners, and although the German driver lead the opening stint in Canada, he did not have the pace to beat Hamilton’s Mercedes to the top spot.

Kimi Raikkonen

A second place for Vettel in Baku and a fortunate third for Raikkonen in Austria have been the team’s best results in the last five races as Ferrari slipped to third the constructors’ battle.

A resurgent Red Bull squad, which has become the team mostly likely to challenge Mercedes for Grand Prix victories since Hamilton and Rosberg collided Verstappen won in Barcelona, has usurped the Scuderia as F1’s best-of-the-rest.

The team’s Tag-Heuer branded Renault power units are slowly getting on terms with Mercedes and Ferrari’s own efforts and there has been no repeat of the engine saga that dominated its 2015 season.

Russian Grand Prix 2016

The early part of Red Bull’s season was characterised by a debate over its driver line-up after it promoted Verstappen and demoted Kvyat to Toro Rosso following the Russian’s disastrous home race, just one event after he had finished second in China.

Daniel Ricciardo, who had scored four fourth places from the first five races of 2016, then demonstrated the strength of Red Bull’s chassis by beating the Mercedes drivers to pole at Monaco, where he was only denied victory by a disastrous delay at his second pitstop.

Red Bull was further away from the ultimate pace at the power circuits of Canada, Baku and Austria, but its form in the final three races before the summer break yielded a second and third for Verstappen at Silverstone and Ricciardo at the Hungaroring, before they both finished on the rostrum in Germany.

Max Verstappen Daniel Ricciardo

Pace progression

Looking at Red Bull and Ferrari’s best times from qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix – the first purpose built track F1 visited this season – versus the qualifying result for the German Grand Prix last time out demonstrates the reversal in their position relative to Mercedes.

Ferrari has gone from being 0.5s behind the German team in Bahrain to over 0.7s adrift in Germany, and Raikkonen was also 0.3s behind Ricciardo at Hockenheim. Red Bull has improved by almost one second, but it should be remembered that Rosberg was carrying more fuel than necessary on his final lap in Germany and could possibly have gone faster.

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Team Driver Bahrain time Grid spot Difference to pole
Mercedes Hamilton 1m29.493s 1st N/A
Ferrari Vettel 1m30.012s 3rd +0.519s
Red Bull Ricciardo 1m30.854s 5th +1.361s

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Team Driver Germany time Grid spot Difference to pole
Mercedes Rosberg 1m14.363s 1st N/A
Red Bull Ricciardo 1m14.726s 3rd +0.363s
Ferrari Raikkonen 1m15.142s 5th +0.779s

Driver highs and lows – Daniel Ricciardo:

The high point of Ricciardo’s season was undoubtedly his final qualifying lap in Monaco where he produced a virtuoso performance to claim his first ever F1 pole. He almost certainly would have won the race were it not the pitstop delay.

Verstappen outpaced him in Montreal, and at Austria and Silverstone, and although he recovered in Hungary and Germany he’ll be hoping to match his teammate’s race win before the season is out.

Max Verstappen Daniel Ricciardo

Kimi Raikkonen:

Raikkonen drove well to secure podiums in Bahrain and Russia and pushed Verstappen hard for victory at Barcelona. His consistent performances, and a little misfortune for Vettel, mean he’s above his teammate in the drivers’ standings.

The Finn’s low point has to be Monaco, where he crashed by himself at the Lowes hairpin early on and was forced to retire as a result.

Sebastian Vettel:

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel should probably have won in Australia and although he has since been unlucky with both reliability and crashes costing him points at times, the four times world champion has admitted his performances have been too up and down so far in 2016.

His high point is probably pushing Hamilton hard for the win in Canada, with a poor showing on his way to ninth at Silverstone the low.

Max Verstappen:

Verstappen’s meteoric rise to F1 was capped off with his Spanish Grand Prix victory, which made him the sport’s youngest ever winner.

Max Verstappen

His attacking drive to finish third on the road in Britain was also a highlight, one that was made better by a post-race penalty for Rosberg promoting him to second, while his two crashes at Monaco brought him back down to earth just two week’s after the high of Barcelona.

Looking ahead

Red Bull will hope to take the fight to Mercedes for the rest of 2016 and cement its position over Ferrari in the constrictors championship. The team will be targeting more street circuit success in Singapore where Ricciardo will be looking to go one better than in 2015 and take the victory at a circuit where Mercedes struggled last year.

Daniel Ricciardo Singapore 2015

Ferrari, which parted company with its chief technical officer James Allison a few weeks ago, appears to be facing behind-the-scenes upheaval but the team must look past this and to score better results in the second half of the season.

Both teams will be hastily calculating when to shift their full focus to their 2017 cars, which will feature substantially different aerodynamic packages as well as wider tyres, to try and finally defeat Mercedes next season.

Sebastian Vettel

What have you made of Red Bull and Ferrari so far in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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