The Red Bull Racing drivers had very different races in Spain, but ended up finishing third with Daniel Ricciardo and fourth with Sebastian Vettel. Australian Ricciardo started and finished third, but for Vettel, the German started a very lowly fifteenth after a weekend of mechanical issues that restricted his track time but rose to fourth at the chequered flag.
Ricciardo had a relatively quiet race to the podium. He lost a place to the Williams Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at the start, but reclaimed that spot at the first round of pit stops, and then was untroubled until the chequered flag. He knew the pace was not there to compete with the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the front, and believed throughout the weekend that third place would be the best result for him and the team if the Mercedes remained reliable.
“The race was not overly exciting, although I don’t know how it was behind, maybe there were a lot of fights going on and for viewers there was a bit more to watch, but for us it was a good result,” said Ricciardo. “We knew we could not catch the Mercedes, but we believed we had better pace than the guys behind, so before the race we’d said that third was going to be a good day. It’s nice to stand back up on the podium – I actually still feel a bit awkward up there, but I’m sure I will get more comfortable.
“It seems at the moment it’s Mercedes who are battling between themselves and they are doing a tremendous job. With Sebastian coming through the pack for fourth today, it seems we have been the second best team this weekend. I think it is still going to vary a bit, but maybe it will be a battle for that last place on the podium with me and Sebastian in Monaco, we will see. Monaco should be okay for us and hopefully we can get a bit closer to the Mercedes there. It will be interesting and we will try as much as we can to catch them!”
Team-mate Vettel’s weekend was far less straightforward. He had a mechanical issue on Friday that restricted him to four laps, then a problem with the gearbox on Saturday during qualifying saw him qualify tenth. Tenth quickly became 15th when he was penalised five spots on the grid for having to change the gearbox, but a fighting drive through the field saw the four-time World Champion climb to an excellent fourth on Sunday.
“All in all I think that was the best that we could do today; the start was not so great and I lost a place, but then I was able to get it back towards the end of the lap; it’s always tricky when you are further back,” said Vettel. “It was a very busy first lap. I was then sort of stuck in the train, so I couldn’t really feel how far we could go today and how quick we were, but once we came in I was on the harder tyre and was able to stick with the people in front and even catch them a little bit.
“I think we realised that the pace was there and after that we had two fresh sets of tyres from yesterday, so we could go even further up the road! I enjoyed it a lot and I think fourth was the best we could do today. Daniel drove a good race today and I think, from a team point of view, third and fourth is what we could get today.
“Mercedes is very strong – they have a phenomenal engine, two very good drivers, a very good car, and a very good team, they’re doing a good job so it would be wrong to complain and moan about how dominant they are – they worked better than everyone else in the winter and deserve to be in that position. Hopefully, from our point of view, rather sooner than later we’ll give them a hard time – that’s our motivation.”
Team Principal Christian Horner was full of praise for his two drivers, and felt despite not winning that it was an encouraging race for the team, especially after Vettel’s storming drive through the field.
“A great team performance today,” said Horner. “Daniel is thoroughly deserving of his first official podium having been faultless all weekend. Sebastian, after a nightmare start to the weekend losing all of Friday, a gearbox failure on Saturday and a further five place grid penalty, produced a fantastic comeback drive to come back through the field. With the help of a strong strategy and great team work, including the fastest team pit stop of the day, Sebastian moved back up to fourth place and got the fastest lap, so all things considered, it was a positive race.”