Red Bull Racing will be looking to kick start its 2014 season after a disappointing Australian Grand Prix ended with neither driver officially finishing the race.
Reigning champion Sebastien Vettel struggled all weekend, failing to make it into Q3 and only lasting three laps before his power unit forced him out of the Grand Prix. It was an entirely different story for team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, however.
Making his debut for the Red Bull Racing team, Ricciardo qualified on the front row of the grid for his home race, a position he would hold until the chequered flag, taking a popular second placed result in front of his home fans. He would later be disqualified for a fuel flow discrepancy. The result is still being desputed.
“Despite the eventual outcome in Melbourne, I still feel really good about my performance in the race and throughout the weekend,” said Ricciardo. “Obviously it would be nice to get the 18 points, but I’m happy that I still stood on the podium and that was a great feeling. I know I did a good job and I can take that with me to the next race in Malaysia.”
Both drivers know that a main challenge this weekend will be their physical conditioning, with heat and humidity likely to push them to the absolute limit.
“I first drove at Sepang when I was 16 in a four-day Formula BMW test and you couldn’t really say I was prepared for it,” continued the Australian. “Until you’ve experienced the heat in the cockpit, it isn’t something you can fully appreciate, no matter what people tell you. I was drinking six litres of fluid a day and I still suffered. It’s something you prepare for better as you come back again and again, though it’s still one of the most physically-challenging races. If you’re not correctly prepared then the last 20 laps of a grand prix will be difficult and the physicality of the race can hit your concentration in those latter stages.”
With new rules still dominating much of the headlines, Friday practice sessions have become increasingly crucial for teams in order to get an idea of where there car stands in the run up to the weekend.
“All the teams are on steep learning curves,” said Chief Designer Rob Marshall. “We all have to get to grips with the new power units and how to operate them, but it would be easy to neglect all the other “conventional” stuff we do week in, week out to add performance. We cannot forget that.
“Sepang will be very hot and humid with a risk of monsoon rains that will make you wish you had last year’s downforce on the car if it catches you out by surprise. There are high speed corners and long straights, so it will be important to strike the right downforce/drag balance for cornering performance versus straight-line speed.”