Far from plain sailing in Austin

Daniil Kvyat in the wet in Austin
Daniil Kvyat in the wet in Austin

It wasn’t just the miserable weather in Texas which dampened Red Bull Racing’s mood at a disappointing USGP for the Tilbrook team.

As rumours continue to swirl surrounding the team’s future and their engine negotiations for 2016, a positive start to the race would end up considerably worse.

Daniel Ricciardo leads the way early in the race

Daniel Ricciardo leads the way early in the race

With torrential rain hampering running all weekend, forcing Saturday’s qualification to be move to Sunday morning, both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat would start on the second row of the grid as the RB11 performed well in the wet.

And with conditions improving before the race, the pair fancied their chances of some good points.

Following a collision between Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Turn 1, Kvyat was promoted to second and Ricciardo third. The Australian would inherit second place and then the lead as he dealt with the drying conditions brilliantly.

But with safety car periods and the ever-drying circuit, the power of the dominant Mercedes cars and the resurgent Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel would come back into play, demoting both Bulls back down the order.

Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat entertain the crowd during the rain delays on Saturday.

Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat entertain the crowd during the rain delays on Saturday.

Still wet offline, Kvyat fell victim to the conditions as he crashed into the barriers at the entrance of the pit-lane, ending early a race he felt he could have won if it had remained dry.

“If it was a wet race I felt it could have been a victory today,” said the Russian. “It’s easy to say that, but there’s no point really, because once it dried out we were an easy target for everyone, which was a bit frustrating. We weren’t able to be as competitive in the dry as in the wet so we’ll have to have a look at that.

“In the dry, I was driving a bit over my limit when I crashed, I put the wheels on the artificial grass, tried to carry a bit more speed but it didn’t work out and I’m disappointed with myself.”

Ricciardo, who saw the crash unfold in front of him, was then a victim of Nico Hulkenberg’s damaged front wing as the Force India crashed into the side of the Australian, demoting him out of the points.

Only a late move on a struggling Fernando Alonso’s McLaren would give Ricciardo and Red Bull a point for 10th place.

Ricciardo said: “The beginning was really fun between both Mercs and both Red Bulls. It was a good four-way battle. To see the Mercs not getting away from us was awesome. I was enjoying that. In the lead we were quite quick for a few laps and it felt like old times.

“That obviously didn’t last long and once we put the slicks on we just didn’t have the pace. We struggled with the warm up with the tyres and also struggled a lot with braking today. It was so tricky in the dry and then obviously there were the collisions with Hulkenberg.

“It went downhill from then on. Even though we were on slicks it was never really dry out there. The kerbs were slippery and there was still a bit of a puddle through Turns 9 and 10, so it was definitely tricky.”

Team boss Christian Horner added: “During the first half of the race the performance of our cars looked really encouraging. We were very competitive on the intermediate tyres, which allowed Ricciardo to take the lead and build on it, before we made a double stop, bringing both cars in together. The mechanics worked very well to turn them round with Kvyat in third place.

“So we looked in good shape at that point, but unfortunately, our pace on the dry tyres was simply not as competitive as the Mercedes and the Ferrari. In particular, we struggled to get the tyres up to temperature at the re-starts, especially after the second Safety Car period.

“After that, our race unravelled with Daniil’s accident, which caused the final Safety Car. Daniel was involved in a collision with Sainz and that meant he needed a further pit stop, after which he fought back to grab the last available point on the last lap. A disappointing finish after a strong start.”