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GP Week : Issue 198
18 GPWEEK.com // 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: I don’t think I’m the only one who noticed Daniel Ricciardos’ statement of intent in Malaysia on sunday. The young Webber replacement, in the space of a lap, let the world – including S. Vettel and H. Marko – know that he’s not going to be a lame, easily dealt-with number two at Red Bull. Turn 1 was superb. On the inside, he lifted slightly off the brakes, wheeling into the corner and pushing inside both Ferraris as he did so. Tick. Around the corner and, hey, there’s Sebastian, trying the outside move to keep the Ferraris at bay. The two Red Bulls slid into the tight left, exiting out and off towards Turn 3 side-by-side. In fact, Daniel had to firmly edge his team-mate over a bit to create his own racing room. Tick. Love it. It went on, Ricciardo keeping his possibly shocked senior at bay until DRS came into play, and Vettel rocketed down the inside into Turn 1. From there, the champ asserted himself, easing away a few seconds – almost losing it on the first stop ‘undercut’ – until Ricciardo’s race came to its unfortunate end. Never mind. Point made. To me, it’s those first few corners, few laps, which define whether a driver is ‘up and about’. After that, the engineers take over – “save fuel”, ”look after your tyres”, Setting X (in Daniel’s case a “Default 1-3” got a few laughs – is that the new ‘Multi’ code?) and so on. Call me a cynic, but after witnessing what RB did to its previous Aussie, I have no doubt it (and other teams) is quite capable of enforcing speed limitations on drivers so subtly that no-one notices ... So yes, those first few laps are what counts for me, and Daniel Ricciardo, you beauty, you said more in those few minutes than any press conference! Such a shame, then, that a team error should initiate his demise. Left-front not on correctly; push-back; fix; drive-through penalty. Then the front wing fell off. More mirth – if not Webber ’s car, then it must be his old front wing ... Anyway, having accepted all that as philosophically as the man himself, I have to confess to being deflated to see a few hours later that there’s a second penalty – and a big one. Ten grid spots in Bahrain. Really? Punished twice for the same offence? And yet again, driver penalised for team error? And Kevin Magnussen gets a single five-second pit-stop add on for clanging into Kimi’s left rear (driver error) and screwing the Finn’s race? F1 is fascinating, but sometimes it’s just plain and simple unfair and stupid. Surely, this is a team infringement? Ricciardo has already taken a drive-through, so surely the remaining penalty should be team oriented? $100,000 or something. Surely? I hold onto a probably vain hope that the FIA enquiry re the fuel flow monitors will retain its punishment of the team (Constructors’ points) yet do the right thing by the driver, and re-instate his result and points. But the more I read their rivals’ holier-than-thou tut-tutting over it all, the more that hope fades. Never mind Daniel. You may not have a point to your name yet – and none of it your doing – but after Malaysia’s opening laps they know you mean business. DOublE JEOpARDy OPINION OPINION CHRIS LAMBDEN