Comparing Daniel Ricciardo, Mark Webber as Sebastian Vettel's No. 2 at Red Bull
When Daniel Ricciardo replaced Mark Webber at Red Bull, he stepped into one of Formula One's most desirable seats.
He also acquired one the sport's least desirable positions—No. 2 to Sebastian Vettel.
Webber was always uncomfortable in the role, but he never truly had the talent to elevate himself onto a level pegging.
Now it's Ricciardo's turn. Does he have what it takes to put the frighteners on Vettel and turn Red Bull into a real two-driver team?
And how will his arrival affect the ambience and balance within Red Bull?
Personality and Manner
Mark Webber was one of the few straight-talkers in F1. Sometimes he kept his opinion to himself but more often than not he'd just say what he was thinking at the time.
He also exhibited a wide variety of facial expressions and body language, ranging from happy to outright fury.
Here he is on YouTube letting us know he wasn't too impressed when the team took his new front wing and gave it to Vettel at the 2010 British Grand Prix.
He arrived at the team as an established driver and was never especially afraid of upsetting the wrong people. Because of that, his responses to events often gave us a valuable insight into the goings on at Red Bull.
Ricciardo is young and relatively inexperienced, and he isn't yet secure in his seat or even in F1 itself. The most noteworthy thing about his persona at the moment is that he smiles a lot.
He smiles when he's happy, he smiles when he's sad. He could get taken out by a rogue elephant on the final corner of the last race of the year and lose the title by a single point to Max Chilton and he'd still find a smile.
Or at least, that's the impression one gets. It's not a true reflection of who he is, and we'll see more of his real personality now he's at a top team.
But for now he's just happy to be there and is unlikely to say or do anything to rock the boat.
Relationship with Sebastian Vettel
There was no love lost between Webber and Vettel. Things first boiled over at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix and from there, the relationship never recovered.
Vettel and Ricciardo? They seem to like each other but have a watch of this interview from Sky Sports:
Even to a layman, the body language looks a bit uncomfortable. It conjures up an image of two acquaintances shoved onto a too-close pair of train seats for a long journey.
So they're clearly not best buddies, don't go on holiday together and maybe don't know each other well at all.
But that's not a bad thing. You don't need to be close to your teammate—as long as you get on reasonably well, you can work together to push the team forward.
And could you imagine Webber doing that interview with Vettel?
So Ricciardo is definitely a better fit at this point in time. But if he starts winning, things may change very fast.
Webber was a very good driver, better than his later record suggests. Most of the difference between him and Vettel was down to how they used the Red Bull's exhaust-blowing technology and superior rear downforce.
Vettel adapted and won. Webber could not and lost.
It's still difficult to say exactly how good Ricciardo is. Certainly he's very good over a single lap, but there are questions over his race pace.
In 2012, he out-qualified Jean-Eric Vergne 15-5. But he only finished ahead in eight races. Vergne was ahead seven times, counting only the races in which both were classified, and the Frenchman scored more points (16-10).
In 2013 it was a similar story. Ricciardo won the qualifying battle 15-4 but in the races he was ahead only six times to Vergne's five. Ricciardo did at least score more points this time.
From that record, it seems race pace is what he needs to work on. Without significant improvement, he'll struggle to keep up with Vettel in the races, perhaps even to the same degree Webber did.
But the qualifying battle will be closer.
Relationship with Red Bull
There are three key men you need to get on with at Red Bull. Owner Dietrich Mateschitz, team principal Christian Horner and influential team adviser Helmut Marko.
They all love Sebastian Vettel, so forging a bond of sorts with each is very important.
Webber had a curious relationship with at least two of those men. He certainly didn't get on well with Marko, and from the outside it appeared the relationship with Horner was a little bit strained as well.
But he remained with the team for four years after the first obvious cracks emerged, so things can't have been that bad. And he did have a closer relationship with Mateschitz.
The team owner knew long before anyone else that Webber would be retiring and didn't even share the news with Horner, who was taken by surprise when the announcement was made.
And he told Autosport last year that Webber would retain Red Bull backing in his new sports car career with Porsche.
Ricciardo, as a graduate of the Red Bull Junior Team, has worked with Marko for years. Before the start of the season, the Australian he told Fairfax Media (h/t grandprix.com) the two have a good relationship.
It's harder to tell how close he is to Horner and Mateschitz, but they must like him—he wouldn't be in the seat if they didn't.
For now at least, it seems Ricciardo gets on with everyone.
After his brilliant performance at the opening round of the 2014 season, the decision to promote Ricciardo to the big time is looking like a good one.
If he can do as well in races as he does in qualifying, there's no reason he can't have a long career in F1. He's definitely good enough to win races in the right car, and he will fit nicely into the Red Bull senior team.
Is he the man to knock Vettel off his perch?
Probably not. Like Webber before him, Ricciardo is good—but not that good.
But stranger things have happened.
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