On paper, Red Bull’s pace in yesterday’s free practice sessions at Monza looks set to cast the Milton Keynes team into a lonely battle for 5th and 6th.
But a range of penalties – due to mechanical maladies – means Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen may have far more interesting races than originally expected.
Come tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix, it is likely that Ricciardo and Verstappen will take up positions on the final two rows of the grid.
The habit of penalising drivers who utilise more than four elements of their power unit struck Red Bull, rendering Ricciardo’s and Verstappen’s efforts rather mute – although for pairing, there is still something to look forward to, as the Australian Ricciardo relates. ‘Even though I’ve got the penalty I’m actually excited for tomorrow and the race on Sunday, knowing we’ll start at the back we have a chance to have a fun race. Of course it’s disappointing knowing that the chance of a Monza podium is unlikely, but the chance of a fun race is there.’
Alas there is an issue for the duo – and that is an oft-ineffectual Renault power unit, that is down on power (compared to Mercedes and Ferrari at least) and unreasonably frail should your name be ‘Verstappen’. Red Bull’s Class A chassis design – a given for the most part – is clearly an effective machine on circuits where medium-to-high speed cornering is a premium, but there is little of that at Monza. ‘It is hard for us on this track with the long straights, which we have to combine with a very low-downforce setting,’ Verstappen explains. ‘We just try to make the best of it. We will start the race a bit further back with the penalties but hopefully I can enjoy overtaking a good number of cars on Sunday.’
But they knew that long beforehand and while the collective penalties for Red Bull comes to 35 places (20 for Ricciardo and 15 for Verstappen), it makes sense to sacrifice grid position for a race where potential and expectation is already at a minimum. ‘It makes sense to take the penalties here as this track is already not that good for us, Singapore is better for our car so we don’t want to risk anything there,’ continues the young Dutchman.
Ricciardo adds. ‘I expected this a few races ago so at least I was prepared, however I’m excited for the chance to pass a few people on Sunday.’
Ricciardo was keen to emphasise that the RB13 is relatively competitive and only requires minor adjustments, but with a dry race expected, Red Bull will do well to collect take points home from Monza.