Formula One refreshed for its race to the crown

You can't see it - but in-form Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo is probably smiling under there. You can't see it - but in-form Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo is probably smiling under there.

Friday, August 22, 2014
5:17 PM

For some people, it will have felt like a very long mid-season break. And not necessarily for the same reasons or emotions.

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Good week, bad week

Pole position – Kamui Kobayashi: Those at Caterham haven’t had much to smile about, but Sergio Perez made a point of calling the Japanese driver “amazing” off the back of their time as Sauber team-mates (at least, that worked until Kamui was dropped for the Belgian Grand Prix by Caterham; Ouch).

Stalling – Sauber: Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has prescribed courage as a way of ending the team’s barren spell. Meanwhile, Esteban Gutierrez is looking to secure a set for 2015 – at his current team or elsewhere.

You can imagine Daniel Ricciardo has been beaming every day of the calendar respite following that superb win in Hungary.

Yet, he would have been itching to get going again too. After all, the Australian is delivering the kind of consistent race craft few would have expected before the season started – and when you’re in that kind of form, you want the next race to arrive as quickly as possible.

“He’s been driving fantastically well from the beginning of the year,” said Lewis Hamilton. “He’s shown his capability and is going from strength to strength. He’s not only one of the nicest guys in the paddock, but also one of the best drivers here, for sure.”

While Hethel-backed Lotus are making positive noises about their work over the summer, it’s probably Hamilton and his dynamic with Mercedes and team-mate Nico Rosberg that’s had us all wishing away the summer break.

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It’s the one situation that has dominated the season so far – and the element that makes this weekend’s return to action at the fabulous Spa-Francorchamps circuit a mouth-watering prospect.

So says Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe: “Of course you’re going to race, that’s what you do in Formula One. It’s a natural thing to do.”

I’ve been critical of how Toro Rosso have led to a number of young, talented drivers witnessing the end of their Formula One careers before they hit the age of 24.

But then, you only have to look at what Daniel Ricciardo is doing this season to appreciate why the team’s path is one to be admired.

And they are at it again, following yesterday’s news that 16-year-old Max Verstappen – son of former F1 driver Jos – looks set to become the youngest driver in F1 history, after joining Toro Rosso for next year.

By that time the current Formula Three racer will be 17 – and replacing Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, who is clearly past his best at the veteran age of 24.

“I am a relaxed guy, so I think I will handle it,” said Max. “I hope to offer a lot of action on the track of course. But I think in the end, I am quite relaxed. For sure you have to work hard for it, but at the same time you can also have a little fun.”

Clearly there’s not a lot of fear there – and the fact Max is already so at home with the words ‘for sure’ means it’s all there for him.

The good news is that Ricciardo’s success this year proves giving the right drivers time to develop can bear fruit. And it’s a path Verstappen will be desperate to now follow.

Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey

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