Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen have enjoyed a hassle free relationship in the Red Bull garage since the Dutch teenager was promoted to the team in May last year, and the big smiling Australian does not see why it should not continue so even if the pair slug it out for victories and even the Formula 1 world title.
Ricciardo told ESPN, “I’ll be realistic, and naturally if Max and I are fighting for the title, it would be natural for it to become more competitive [between us]. You might feel a bit more pressure, but if I’m honest I always feel like I race with respect and if he beats me fair and square I will just say that, even though I don’t like getting beaten, he deserves it.
“I don’t see any reason to have friction, obviously in Malaysia [when Ricciardo and Verstappen ended up in a wheel-to-wheel battle] in the end that battle was for the win and I think we handled it well — we raced hard and fair. I think it would only change if we let the outside [influences] start to creep into us, otherwise I’ve had fun with Max and I’m looking forward to it and hopefully we’ll have some good battles. I think the team is excited.”
Verstappen was the sensation of the 2016 season, grabbing headlines with his audacious driving style and ballsy approach to racing. Fans either love him or loathe him, as they did when the greats such as Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna were on the scene.
Ricciardo acknowledges, “We’ve seen he races hard and on the limit sometimes, but when it comes down to it he’s fair and clean. We got through with our heads still screwed on.”
“He’s young, but in racing terms I think he’s very mature. He’s been around the sport a long time, and he may have only reached puberty a few weeks ago, but beyond that he’s pretty smart.”
Despite his relative inexperience Verstappen appeared to be faster than Ricciardo on some occasions, although the Aussie was generally better during the race. But in the end the pair are well matched, each raising the bar for one another.
“I think with Max what was impressive is that he’s got quite an aggressive driving style but at times he’s also managed the race really well in terms of not killing the tyres. You think sometimes the way he is driving that the tyres are not going to last, but he’s done pretty well with that and I think he’s handled it better than I probably anticipated,” admitted Ricciardo.
Whatever the case Red Bull under the leadership of Christian Horner has experience handling internal driver strife. During the year in which they dominated, between 2010 and 2013, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were also ”best of mates’.
The team chief proudly declaring at the start of 2010 that Red Bull had the best driver pairing in F1, then along came the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix when they collided, while battling for the lead, whereupon the relationship between Vettel and Webber went downhill, never recovering while the two were teammates.
Vettel went on to win four world titles with Red Bull, while Webber retired with none.