While much of the focus is on the battle between team-mates at current pacesetters Mercedes, there could be a ratcheting up of tensions further up the pit-lane at Red Bull.

In what is one of the biggest surprises of the F1 season so far, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel is struggling to match his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

So far the Australian has beaten the German in three of the four qualifying sessions and three of the four races, discounting various penalties Ricciardo has been given.

In the last three races the 24-year-old has also overtaken his far more decorated team-mate on track with a brave move at the start in Malaysia and two DRS-assisted moves in Bahrain and China.

During Sunday’s race, different strategies meant for the second race in succession Vettel was asked to let Ricciardo through.

However, though he complied in Bahrain, in China Vettel was a lot less co-operative initially telling the team over the radio “tough luck”.

Later, the No.3 Red Bull would pass Vettel into turn one, as the German ran wide, and Ricciardo would beat Vettel over the line by a massive 20 seconds by the finish.

After the race Ricciardo himself diffused any potential tension saying in the team’s post-race press release Vettel had “let me through”, though he was also quoted by GMM as being “not entirely sure” if the move had been choreographed or not.

From the German’s prospective he insists he followed the team instruction despite the “tough luck” radio call.

“When I was first asked, I didn’t understand as we were on the same tyre, so I double checked,” he explained.

“Also I had to realise more and more towards the end that I couldn’t hold him back.”

There is no doubting that after years of blown diffusers and a superior car aerodynamically, Vettel is struggling to adapt to the reduction in downforce seen this year.

Indeed most are suggesting that Ricciardo has the edge because the adjustment has been much less coming from Toro Rosso.

Team boss Christian Horner admitted that Vettel was yet to find the “feel” of the RB10 adding: “We know Seb is very sensitive with the car and how it enters into a corner.”

With Vettel currently nowhere near his best, the man who has watched the rise of both Vettel and Ricciardo is not making any judgements yet.

“We cannot judge where Daniel and Sebastian are at the moment in terms of their duel,” said Dr Helmut Marko. “It’s too early.

“We need to find the setup for Vettel so that he can be the ‘tyre whisperer’ again,” he is quoted by Der Spiegel.

What can not be doubted, however, is that Ricciardo has stepped up his game since arriving at the senior Red Bull team. His qualifying abilities have never been doubted but as the outspoken 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve said: “Now he’s also a strong racer.”

Only luck has kept Ricciardo off the podium at three of the first four races after he was stripped of second in Australia before simply running out of laps to catch Sergio Perez in Bahrain and Fernando Alonso in Shanghai.

After another fourth place on Sunday he vowed on Twitter to “keep chipping away” in the hunt to score his first official top three finish.

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