x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Red Bull should encourage Ricciardo and Verstappen to race despite collision in Azerbaijan Grand Prix

By implementing team rules to avoid such incidents, Red Bull run the risk of holding back their two talented drivers

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in action during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Dan Istitene / Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in action during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Dan Istitene / Getty Images

After 14 years as a team principal for Red Bull Racing, it is unlikely too much fazes Christian Horner these days.

However, he was left furious by the collision between the team's drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen during Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix that ultimately ended both of their races.

Horner has been here before. He had to handle the volatile pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and while it delivered a clean sweep of drivers' and constructors' titles between 2010 and 2013, it also produced acrimony and on-track confrontations that went against team spirit.

______________

Read more:

Hamilton cannot afford to rely on luck all season if he wants to win fifth world title

Ricciardo proves in China he remains Formula One's ultimate opportunist

Ricciardo open to joining Mercedes as Red Bull contract winds down

______________

Sunday was embarrassing for Red Bull. Team owner Dieter Mateschitz would not have enjoyed watching the debris flying from his two expensively assembled cars after Ricciardo hit Verstappen on the rear in the braking zone for Turn 1.

Horner had warned Ricciardo and Verstappen pre-race to give each other space. The team principal was then forced to issue a mid-race warning after the drivers touched wheels when Verstappen rebuffed a Ricciardo overtaking attempt.

Given how his concerns were justified, Horner must have left Azerbaijan extremely frustrated.

Following what transpired in Baku, hopefully the incident does not impact on Red Bull's willingness to allow their drivers to race each other without the implementation of team orders.

Ricciardo and Verstapppen are arguably the strongest drivers' line-up on the grid. Both are terrific chargers, unafraid of going for overtakes and racing wheel-to-wheel, not just with each other but the rest of the field.

Overtaking in Formula One is one of the most exciting components of the sport. Trying to overtake always carries risk as it involves not only the driver trying to execute the movement of his car to perfection, but the car in front avoiding contact while fighting to maintain position. This all while sharing essentially the same bit of track space.

Ricciardo was lauded two weeks ago for some great passes on his way from fifth to first in China.There was a risk in all of those moves, particularly the one that saw him pass Bottas for the lead.

Ricciardo had already passed Verstappen successfully in Baku, and the pair went wheel-to-wheel on three or four other occasions. Given how closely they tussled for positions, it was almost inevitable something would go wrong.

But F1 needs their stars to take risks in order to make the sport entertaining. F1 has earned a reputation for being processional, due in part to regulations that make it difficult for a car to follow another too closely, therefore making passing harder.

It is the nature of racing that not every overtaking move will be a success and drivers will make errors of judgment.

Red Bull were disappointed that their two racers did not give each other more room, but would it have made for such compelling viewing if spectators knew Verstappen and Ricciardo were dialling it back when up against each other?

Probably not. The opening laps in Baku, as they diced with each other, were thrilling to watch, mainly because it could go wrong on any lap. This time it did, but Red Bull should not be discouraged from trusting the pair again in the future.

F1 needs exciting races, and Verstappen and Ricciardo are two of the best. Given they are in one of the best three teams in the field, they will almost certainly be in close proximity of each other again in the races to come.

It will therefore be a huge shame if Verstappen and Ricciardo find themselves in another duel in Barcelona next time out, but are restricted by team rules to engage in a race.

In those circumstances, both the drivers and the fans will be losing out.