The Azerbaijan GP was the most action-packed race so far in the 2018 Formula 1 Season. It had it all: overtakes (Perez), wheels banging (Ricciardo and Verstappen), heartbreak (Bottas), another sensational drive from a kid with prospects for the future (Leclerc), good fortune (Hamilton), gutsy driving (Vettel)…. and the third race winner in just four races. It was one race that won’t be forgotten all season, especially for the Red Bull Racing team.
Having already banged wheels twice in the race, the Red Bull drivers crashed out of the race on lap 40 as they battled for 4th when Daniel Ricciardo drove into the back of Max Verstappen as he attempted an overtake into Turn 1. Both drivers were reprimanded by the FIA for their part in the crash, as they were both culpable with Verstappen making two moves while defending which was minor and Ricciardo making his overtaking move on the left too late.
Teammates crashing into each other isn’t alien to Formula 1, especially between teammates jostling for the title or bragging rights. Remember Nico vs. Lewis (Spain 2016), Webber vs. Vettel (Turkey 2010), Prost vs. Senna (Japan 1989). There have been crashes between teammates that were just racing incidents (Toro Rossos crashing in the Chinese GP). It may be fun for passive fans to see two cars crashing out, but we don’t want to see that, especially two cars of the same teams after banging wheels. It’s like a ‘Rule No. 1 for drivers’.
Red Bull has ruled out imposing team orders on the team drivers. Team orders, no matter how little, should be enforced on Daniel and Max, apart from giving the better race strategy to the driver in front of the other. They may be out of the doghouse, have apologized to the team officially, they may have even been fined, but if some sort of team order isn’t imposed, another crash is inevitable and this time it is definitely going to have a ripple effect on the team. This isn’t the first time Verstappen has ended his teammate’s race (Hungary 2017 comes to mind), and fans worldwide were surprised it wasn’t the Dutchman that drove into the rear of his teammate, considering the issues he’s had this season.
It’s a tricky situation for the Red Bull Racing team. Ricciardo is in his last season of his contract. There’s a high probability that he will move to Ferrari or Mercedes someday (highly unlikely next season) and there are only about five or six drivers in this season that are at par or better than the Australian. Both drivers have claimed that there are no issues between them, but we don’t expect all teammates to be like Vettel and Raikkonen either. That would be bad for the sport, considering the backlash Ferrari received for what they did to Kimi in China.
The Spanish GP is next this weekend, and all eyes will be on the red Bull drivers, from Friday to Sunday, watching their every move, with critics ready to pounce on any mistake from the team. One thing is still certain, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are more of rivals than teammates!
By Ekwonye Osy Ernesto