- The Inside Line
Sandbags and glad-ragsKate Walker March 14, 2014
One of the highlights of writing on the internet is that nothing ever dies. Statements made months and years ago can come back to bite you in the face, thanks to changing search algorithms and aggregators. As a result, bold pronouncements and left-field predictions are often more embarrassing than they are accurate.
In the good old days, when today's newspapers were tomorrow's fish and chip wrappings, the ravings of journalists weren't around for posterity in quite the same fashion. Old articles were still available, but in musty books found in the basements of local libraries, or in newspaper archives hidden in warehouses on the outskirts of town.
During pre-season testing it was clear that Red Bull were experiencing difficulties. All of the Renault-powered teams struggled, but Red Bull's problems were worse than most, thanks to Adrian Newey's appreciation of a tightly-packaged rear end. The Red Bull was hot. Dangerously so.
Also heating up was the anticipation of an exciting and varied season. With the once-dominant team a reported two months behind their rivals in development terms, the early part of the 2014 season was going to be competitive, with race reports that didn't begin Sebastian Vettel led the XXX Grand Prix from lights to flag, opening up a two-second lead over the course of the first lap.
But in the short break between the final Bahrain test and the teams' arrival in Australia, Red Bull was hard at work. As they had been from the very first second it was established that the pace and reliability of the RB10 left a little something to be desired.
And while the first day of the season may be somewhat premature to be making any predictions about the Red Bull's outright pace - or even the car's ability to complete 58 laps of the Albert Park Circuit - a quick look at the timing screens during FP1 and FP2 showed that while there are still a number of sleepless nights ahead for the hardest workers in Milton Keynes, reports of Red Bull's death were somewhat premature.
Both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were able to lap with less than a one-second deficit to favourites Mercedes, a remarkable improvement when compared with the five- to eight-second gap seen during winter testing.
It is testament to just what a well-funded and well-resourced team is capable of when push comes to shove. And it is all the more impressive when you consider that Red Bull are also said to be working on a B-spec car ready for the European season - despite split priorities in the factory, the team was able to resolve (or accommodate…) a multitude of technical errors ranging from miscommunicating electronic systems to general cooling and packaging problems.
But this is Formula One, and there are no guarantees. The chatter in the paddock this afternoon centred on showboating from Red Bull and sandbagging from Mercedes, with the Silver Arrows loath to show their hand this early. Williams, who were not as quick on Friday as had been expected, were thought to be running incredibly heavy fuel loads.
The only certainty is that Sunday's race will not be a marker of performance across the season as a whole. And as fans, whether watching from the grandstands, from home, or in press rooms around the world, what more could we ask for from 2014?