Formula 1

Daniel Ricciardo can lead Red Bull overhaul

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What a difference a year makes, this time in 2013 Sebastian Vettel was in the midst of a record run of nine straight wins and had already sewn up his fourth F1 title.

Now, however, the team has a new leader in Daniel Ricciardo and the man that spearheaded the Milton Keynes-based team rise to the top is heading off at the end of the season to likely join Ferrari.

The changes comes after a year where the dominance of Vettel and Red Bull has been comprehensively ended, instead replaced by a new standard set by Mercedes, and the German is set to go winless in a season for the first time since his debut season in 2007.

With the end of the one of Formula 1's great team and driver combinations, however, what needs to happen next in order to keep Red Bull fighting at the front of the grid?

New approach to car design

With Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull had a partnership made in heaven, a man known as a genius for his aerodynamic innovations and producing some of the fastest racing cars ever seen, allied to a driver who knew exactly how to maximise the potential from what he was given.

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But now Formula 1 is in an engine-dependent era with ever tighter regulations on aerodynamic design and far greater potential to come from development of the new V6 turbo hybrids.

In Renault, Red Bull have what is largely perceived to be the weakest of the three power units currently available and there is no doubt it has been the prime reason for their failure to match Mercedes this year.

At the same time Williams, a team who has been reborn in 2014, has made much of their gain by not only having the best engine but a very slippery car.

As Newey steps back and Vettel leaves then, Red Bull should look at trying to better balance downforce with straight line speed.

It worked in Spa, as Ricciardo capitalised on the Mercedes coming together to win at one of the quickest tracks on the calendar, but regardless of the incident, the Red Bull's were still the fastest in a straight line thanks to a lack of wing.

With the likelihood of Renault not closing too much on Mercedes and Ferrari over the winter, it could be Red Bull's prerogative to try and stop being sitting ducks on the straight.

New faces

The end of the Vettel and Newey era also means new faces in different positions next year.

Vettel's engineer Guillaume Rocquelin, or 'Rocky' as he is better known, is being promoted to the Head of Race Engineering while Dan Fallows moves up to the Head of Aerodynamics as Newey steps back from his F1 duties.

The other new arrival will be Daniil Kvyat who, after just one season, makes the leap from Toro Rosso to the main Red Bull team.

There is no doubt the young Russian is a talent and one to watch but at 20 years old is he really ready to make the jump to a championship contending team?

Pressure on Ricciardo

Certainly his arrival is a long-term move for Red Bull but for now it puts a lot of pressure on Daniel Ricciardo who will step up to the lead driver role.

This, however, shouldn't change too much for the Australian who, many could argue, has led Red Bull all year. Certainly he has proven any doubters wrong about his ability, he is the only man not in a Mercedes to have won a race this year winning three times and seemingly set to finish an incredible third in the standings in his first year with the team.

In Ricciardo too, they have a driver who doesn't need the perfect aerodynamics that Vettel did and that has been much of the reason why he has put the German in the shade over much of the year.

The same will apply for Kvyat who steps up from the very low downforce on a GP3 car in 2013, to the skinny Toro Rosso in 2014 upto Red Bull next year, this also adds to why I think Red Bull can adapt to the weaker engine by having a slipperier car next year.

But to conclude on Ricciardo, here is a driver for whom the pressure of partnering a four-time world champion has proven no hurdle, battling with the best drivers in the world has proven no hurdle so leading Red Bull into the future should also prove no hurdle as well.

Different expectations

In 2015 it will be very different looking at Red Bull without Vettel, but in his absence there will be different expectations at the team.

Of course they will want to be back fighting for the crown they have lost this year, but it is a transition time for the team as they look to build a team around their new star in Ricciardo and continue the rapid development of Kvyat.

Establishing a new design team capable of matching the brilliance of Adrian Newey will also take time but at least there will be some Newey influence in the RB11.

Then comes what to do about Renault, it is believed their partnership will get even closer as the Red Bull becomes almost the works team for the French car maker, but if they can't supply a power unit capable of matching Mercedes and Ferrari then surely alternatives may be looked at.

All so-called 'dream teams' can't last forever, and as Ferrari have shown it can sometimes take several years and a lot of disappointment before you're back where you want to be.

But for Red Bull they have a man capable of getting it done on the track, in Christian Horner they continue to have one of the top team principal's on the grid and so while there might be some pessimism in some quarters looking ahead, I still believe Red Bull will be major players at the front of the grid not just next year but for years to come.

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