Early in 2014, Red Bull’s fresh-faced newcomer Ricciardo settled in quickly and stunned the F1 world by generally outshining Vettel, the winner of the last four world titles and the last nine grands prix of 2013 on the trot.
Vettel performed better with a new chassis in Spain, amid reports the team had discovered the German’s original RB10 was ‘distorted’.
Chief engineer Paul Monaghan, however, played down those reports.
“No one error can be considered an entire explanation and requires further work to that completed prior to and within the Spanish GP,” Reuters quotes him as saying.
Whatever the explanation, it is widely accepted that Ricciardo has been the more impressive Red Bull driver so far this year — a fact not lost on the always-grinning 24-year-old.
“It’s a good feeling to be making Sebastian work for his money,” Ricciardo joked to Germany’s Sport Bild.
Mere podiums, however, are not the only meal on the menu for the Perth-born driver.
“I’m hungrier than ever for wins, and I can eat a lot!” he laughed.
But he is also keen to play down any talk of tension between himself – the easy-going newcomer – and Vettel, the beleaguered world champion.
“We get on really well, for teammates,” said Ricciardo. “We often have breakfast together, and I would say that’s unusual for teammates.
“At the moment it’s going well for me, but I also know that it won’t be long before Seb is getting everything out of his car. He hasn’t forgotten how to drive!”
Reporters, however, made a fuss about Vettel being outpaced by female driver Susie Wolff on day two of the Barcelona test on Wednesday.
“Time for me to quit, then?” Vettel hit back with a wry smile.
In fact, even F1 history is still on Vettel’s side.
In 1987, it was the eighth race before Nelson Piquet won his first grand prix of the season, but he went on to seal his third world championship.
However, in a statistic more sure to please Lewis Hamilton, an F1 driver has never won four races in a row and not gone on to be that year’s champion. (GMM)