Red Bull renaissance comes at the expense of Ferrari as the Italian media begins its mauling.
If Red Bull Racing is making some competitive progress, certainly at some circuits that allow its excellent chassis to shine, then Ferrari is slipping backwards, with no wins to its name this year.
It is always a bad sign when the Italian press begins to savage the most famous team in Formula One, and – guess what? The media mauling is underway.
Before the 2016 season began, Sergio Marchionne, the outspoken Ferrari president, boldly indicated that that he would not settle for less than a very competitive Scuderia pushing Mercedes and popping the occasional win.
After all, Ferrari does not want for funding and resources, and has two world champion drivers in Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to capitalise on the capabilities of the car.
But the return so far has been well below expectations. Vettel and Raikkonen have landed just three podium finishes apiece and the sport’s showpiece Monaco GP was unfulfilling for the Maranello men – with Vettel unable to wrench third away from Force India’s Sergio Perez, and Raikkonen binning his machine early.
Ferrari already trails Mercedes by 67 points in the constructors’ championship, with Red Bull just nine points further back.
With the Canadian GP coming up, Ferrari is going all-out to try to have much-needed engine upgrades available to mount a fightback.
Mediocre qualifying efforts are hurting Vettel and Raikkonen badly with the Saturday results impacting the drivers on race day.
The Italian media isn’t missing its targets, with the team and its drivers under fire.
Ricciardo struggling to forget a Monaco lost
Could Red Bull Racing’s pit-stop stuff-up be sheeted to huge crew party the previous evening?
Red Bull Racing owed Daniel Ricciardo a public apology for its clumsy Keystone Cops behaviour that cost the Australian a laydown misere victory in the Monaco Grand Prix.
And team principal Christian Horner conveyed it, unambiguously.
Ricciardo was an angry and frustrated young man fuming after a nightmarish error by his pit crew cost him crucial seconds leading to him relinquishing the lead to Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, who went on to win from the Red Bull racer.
Horner blamed the pit-stop blunder on a combination of poor communication between the pit wall brains trust and the pit crew, and the antiquated Monaco team garages.
“We as a team owe Daniel a huge apology today as we failed to support him,” Horner said.
“The garage is downstairs, (and) tyres are on heat both in the garage and behind the garage,” Horner said. “Unfortunately the set of tyres that were called for weren’t readily to hand and were at the back of the garage.”
One suggestion from someone close to red Bull is that the team had been so intent on helping get Max Verstappen from the back to a points-scoring position that the strategic plays for Ricciardo were not as slick as they should have been.
But F1 broadcaster James Allen has also pointedly asked if the Red Bull team’s big Saturday evening party may have been responsible for the less-than-slick pit stop.
“While it’s great to invite team members and sponsors to dance to an international DJ the night before the race, if you then go out the next day and fail to get the basics right then it’s fair enough for the driver to ask some serious questions,” Allen wrote on his website.
Allen is one of many people wondering whether being screwed out of likely victory at two races in a row might provide the impetus for Ricciardo to look elsewhere for work. Like Ferrari.
But if Ricciardo thinks through this process to 2017 and beyond, he might conclude that the devil he knows is a better medium-term bet, especially with designer Adrian Newey creating the grid’s best chassis, and the Renault TAG Heuer improving.
There is too the feeling that Verstappen is the teacher’s favourite at Red Bull High, although his Monaco weekend suggests he is very much a work in progress.
And, yes, the conspiracy theorists have been in full flight these past eight days, some even suggesting that Dr Helmut Marko, the team’s powerful adviser, doesn’t like Australians and that he somehow influenced the team to deprive Ricciardo of the win.
This is fanciful stuff. Modern F1 doesn’t work that way.
A week after the biggest disappointment of his career, Ricciardo says he is not sure how to move on from the pain of Monaco.
"I took Barcelona on the chin and then took it well but [it’s] two in a row now, and it's not like we're in Mercedes' position, we're not able to win [every] race," he said.
"So to have an opportunity to lead two races in a row and especially here in Monaco - to get it wrong twice definitely hurts.
"I'm not sure where we go from here, what to do.
"Obviously they've got to understand what's going on and learn from it but this win I'll never get back, that's a fact."
Ricciardo is if nothing resilient. A few days after the Monaco disaster, the smile was back when he jumped into the Williams FW07B that helped compatriot Alan Jones win the 1980 world championship.
Ricciardo drove the car, used in six world championship races that 1980 season, at Paul Ricard, which hosted the French Grand Prix that year.
“It was cool!” Ricciardo reported after his brief few laps in a car with a traditional H pattern gearbox and no driver aids.
“The brakes are actually really good. If my downshifts were better I could brake later; I was already braking quite late into [Turn] One, and the car stops really well.
“I was impressed.”