By Steve Aibel, Senior F1 Writer
The Grand Prix of Monaco has always been the crown jewel for Formula 1. It’s the place you want to be, if you want to be seen hobnobbing with the cool crowd. From the cockpit, it is the race that drivers want most to win. One that defines a career. And if you want to make a statement, pole position at Monaco is the place to do it.
Red Bull made that statement today when Daniel Ricciardo grabbed his first ever F1 pole position besting both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
Red Bull Racing has been involved in Formula 1 since 2002, first as a sponsor for Sauber and in its current form as a constructor since 2005. With Sebastian Vettel winning 4 consecutive championships, Red Bull Racing has experienced the sweet taste of victory at the top level of motorsports. Their DNA will accept no less and they are clear as a crystal in defining winning as their only reason for participating in the sport.
Recently, however, Red Bull has been struggling with an underpowered Renault power unit that has relegated them to 4th position in 2015; behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams. In 2014 Vettel left the team to race for Ferrari, perhaps giving indication that they glory days of Red Bull were to be replaced by trying times of growth and reconstruction.
As Red Bull struggled, some of the luster was shed. Adrian Newey stepped down, but retained a developmental role of car design. Team Principal Christian Horner warned that owner Dietrich Mateschitz was contemplating removing not only Red Bull, but also Toro Rosso from the championship. Finally, the overt and often bitter complaining about the poor pace of the Renault power unit showed an ugly side of Red Bull Racing. For a team that was all about freedom, fun and winning, Red Bull appeared to have lost its way.
But the sign of a champion is not how they fall, but rather how the get back up. Red Bull may not be just rebounding, but they could be the one team that will usher in the new era of Formula 1!
And the face of the new era appears to be Max Verstappen.
The young Dutchman was destined to occupy a top seat in Formula 1, but his call up to Red Bull mid season was surprising to say the least, at least for most of us. Now watching the peripheral developments in the sport, the mid season promotion of Verstappen was a way to insure that Red Bull is smack dab in the middle of the next era of Formula 1.
At first glance, the Verstappen seat seemed to be earned on merit and a great deal of frustration over the performance of Daniil Kvyat. Now, it seems more to be a strategy cushioned between some peripheral deals that set Red Bull up to be in the thick of Formula 1 promotions for years to come. Don’t get me wrong, Verstappen was a logical choice and moving him forward secured him as a Red Bull driver when other big teams were courting his services.
The question that remains surrounds Verstappen himself. The race victory in Spain will go a long way in justifying his promotion and coupled with his internal, steely confidence, Max should weather quite a number of growing pains that the teenager will inevitably go through such as crashing in Monaco over and over.
With Heineken entering the sport in a long term multi-million dollar deal, it appears that Formula 1 is working hard to bring together a new look for the sport that has been criticized for being a bit long in the tooth and out of touch. Heineken has a reputation for connecting with the trendy niche of fans that Formula 1 so desperately needs. And the kicker is, they are Dutch based…the same as Verstappen.
So there you have it, the faces of F1 will be Red Bull, Verstappen and Heineken.
The next year and a half will define Max Verstappen and may very well define the next decade for Formula 1.
Image: Red Bull Content Pool