Team and driver review and rating: Red Bull

Motorsport Week continues its annual team-by-team review and ratings. Today we take a look at Red Bull's performance, along with drivers Max Verstappen and Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo.

This was by far Red Bull’s most competitive season of the hybrid era as it took four wins – which really should have been five – and posed a far greater challenge to Mercedes and Ferrari than it did in preceding years. Starting on a stronger foot, compared to 2017, aided its prospects, and it developed strongly, the qualities of its RB14 in evidence at circuits where the power unit had less of an impact. There were negatives. Its reliability was shocking, for a front-runner in 2018, and not all of that can be pinned on Renault. Going forward it enters a new era with Honda and all of its eggs behind the ever-improving Max Verstappen. Lots to be excited about – if it has the power. 

If they were a football team they’d be: Chelsea. Not the most popular, a bit flashy, but always there or thereabouts.

Best Race: Monaco. The RB14 was hooked up, and it should have been a 1-2 Worst Race: Baku wasn't stellar...

The first third of the season was disastrous, the remainder was near-exemplary. Verstappen was over-driving through the first phase of the campaign in a bid to negate Red Bull’s deficiencies but once he reined it in only Lewis Hamilton performed better. His drive to victory in Austria was well-judged, delivering Red Bull its longed-for home win, while a dominant display in Mexico surely provided a glimpse of the future. Gunning for wins, rather than a title, facilitated his approach through the campaign and a couple of moments where his temper came through will have been noted by rivals.  

Where to improve: He improved hugely in 2018, but taking it at 99% some of the time will work well. Oh, and don’t shove rivals. It was box office, but rivals will have taken note.

Surprising Stat: He holds the record for most wins (5) without taking a pole position.

Best Race: Any race from the last chunk of the campaign – but Mexico was impeccable. Worst Race: Any race from the first chunk of the campaign – let’s say Monaco.

Ricciardo had a lot to process through the opening half of 2018 as he mulled over what he referred to as the second-biggest decision of his career. A new challenge awaits – and only time will tell if he has struck gold or made a catastrophic choice. On-track the high points were few and far between, sometimes of his own doing, but often outside of his control. When the main opportunities arose early on in the season he was sensational; his surge to the lead in China perfectly judged, his entire weekend in Monaco utterly exceptional. And 95% of the time he does so with an infectious engaging personality. 

Where to improve: His qualifying pace against Verstappen was dubious through most of 2018 but with Renault he faces a whole new challenge entirely.

Surprising Stat: Ricciardo’s had just five different results in 2018: P1, P4, P5, P6 or DNF.

Best Race: Monaco. Dominant. There was no way he was losing. Even with a ropey engine. Worst Race: Unusually subdued in Singapore.