Ricciardo hopes new power unit sparks change in fortunes
SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo hopes a fresh new power unit will finally spark a turnaround in fortunes for the ailing Red Bull team, following owner Dietrich Mateschitz’s latest outburst against engine supplier Renault.
Having threatened to pull out of the sport earlier in the season if Renault did not significantly improve its engine, Mateschitz stepped up the pressure this week by saying that the French supplier’s lack of performance has “destroyed” Red Bull’s enjoyment of Formula One.
After winning three races in his first season for Red Bull last year, Ricciardo has no podiums this season and a best finish of fifth.
“We’re not in the first two or three races anymore, we’re now in the eighth race of the season so the frustration can start to build,” Ricciardo said after Friday’s second practice session, where he placed 17th and was two seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s leading Ferrari. “We know we’re still at a big disadvantage.”
Ricciardo’s best finish was at the Monaco Grand Prix last month, and that was somewhat illusory because the track is almost impossible to overtake on, and so pure race speed is somewhat nullified.
Two weeks ago, however, Ricciardo vented his frustrations about the under-performing car when a 13th-place finish at the Canadian GP gave a stinging reminder of how much pace Red Bull is lacking.
“We were optimistic we’d close the gap this year,” the 25-year-old Australian driver said. “I think that’s where the frustration comes from.”
But he now plans to step up a gear with a new engine — his fifth of the season — and chassis.
Although he’s not likely to get a better result this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, considering he has to take a 10-place grid penalty for having used up his four allocated engines for the season.
“In a way we’ve now accepted the penalty, it’s not a waiting game anymore and we’ll deal with it,” he said. “Hopefully with the fifth power unit we can now take a few more risks and extract some more power from it. It probably won’t change the world, but it might play to our advantage somewhere.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Daniil Kvyat is on his fourth engine and is also likely to soon take his fifth.
Red Bull is in fourth place in the constructors’ championship: 50 points behind Williams, 126 behind Ferrari and a massive 231 adrift of runaway leader Mercedes.
The frustration has proved too much to take for Mateschitz, especially given how dominant Red Bull was not so long ago when it won the drivers and constructors’ double from 2010-13 with Vettel behind the wheel.
He firmly blames Renault.
“Besides taking our time and money they have destroyed our enjoyment and motivation ... no driver and no chassis in this world can compensate for this horsepower deficit,” Mateschitz told Speedweek in an interview on Thursday. “How many more things have to happen before we lose all enjoyment?”