The off-season whispers before last season concerned a serious Ferrari challenge to Mercedes. This time, Red Bull are the pre-testing favourites to take the fight to Mercedes in 2017.
The 2017 regulations are set to release contrarian freedoms on two different aspects of the sport. Firstly, a greater emphasis on aerodynamics will increase downforce levels overall. But these increased levels of downforce will demand even more power, which might be the partial reason for the new freedom found in the in-season engine development department so that teams can find extra-power as they improve their aerodynamic packages over the season too. Even Pirelli have revealed a plan-B to revert to alternate compounds should their initial 2017 tyres prove to be too delicate for the job as the season progresses.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is aware that Renault will have to up their game and match Mercedes in terms of development pace in 2017, and the Aussie believes that Red Bull’s mindset and the aerodynamic prowess of the team will be enough to close the gap to the Silver Arrows.
“With [engine supplier] Renault it really feels like they have fed off their improvements this year and everyone is just like ‘2017, let’s go and push it up’. Obviously, compared to Mercedes, you know they will be quick, but maybe they have the ability to become a bit complacent, whereas we are the opposite of that right now.
We know that with the extra downforce we are going to need even more power than we had this year, but we have got a pretty aggressive approach. I think we’ve got to go for that and try to maximise it. If we go conservative the drag might outweigh it and we won’t be as close as we should be, so at the moment it looks positive and they are pushing a lot.
You’ve still got reliability and stuff to take care of, but we have got time on our side and it’s looking like it’s all going in the right direction. I don’t know what Ferrari and Mercedes are doing, but from what I’ve seen and what they have done in the past, it looks pretty good.”
– Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo finished this season as the runner-up to the Mercedes duo in 2016. Along with Max Verstappen, the smiling assassin is anticipated to be a key protagonist in the title fight of 2017.