IT was only a short bit of running, and the track was very cold and wet, but Daniel Ricciardo has already noticed a key improvement in the 2018 Red Bull over its predecessor.
The team’s new RB14 became the first 2018-spec Formula 1 car to hit the track on Monday, the team taking advantage of one of its filming days to complete a shakedown of the new car amid a maximum of 100 kilometres of running.
Although Silverstone dawned wet for the car’s maiden laps, it wasn’t enough to dampen the good feelings Ricciardo was getting from his new machine.
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“It’s always hard to tell from a few laps but the initial feeling is good,” he said.
“It’s not doing anything that scares me and I can already feel that the rear of the car feels pretty settled, even in these poor conditions.
“Those are encouraging early signs.”
Rear stability was a bugbear of the RB13 early in its development cycle, its snappy handling catching Ricciardo out in qualifying at last year’s Australian Grand Prix.
The reveal is the earliest for a Red Bull car in recent years, the team previously leaving its car unveilings for the opening day of testing in order to maximise the time it could spend designing the car.
But in three out of the last four seasons Red Bull’s opening tests have been hampered by niggling mechanical issues, starving them of vital track time while rivals Mercedes and Ferrari have enjoyed full days of testing.
With just eight days of pre-season testing before Free Practice 1 begins at Albert Park next month, the car’s early completion meant the filming day doubled as a chance to troubleshoot the new car before testing gets underway in Spain next Monday.
“Obviously, it’s been a long day trying to get everything going but a lot better to have that here than in Barcelona,” Ricciardo said.
“Doesn’t mean we won’t have anything in Barcelona but it’s nice to know we’ve got some of the initial challenges out of the way.”
‘ … I REALLY DIDN’T NOTICE THE HALO WAS THERE’
The RB14’s early debut meant it was first F1 car designed to take the Halo head-protection device to hit the track.
Despite the halo’s bulky look from outside the cockpit, Ricciardo noted no major issues from the inside — but avoiding it while getting out of the cockpit could be another story.
“I can see fine,” he said.
“Before today I’d only done a couple of installs with the Halo, so it was pretty new — but I really didn’t notice it was there. Honestly, unless there’s (trackside signage) above, I don’t see any issues at all on a flat track.
“It is a bit awkward to jump in and out — I’m probably going to pull an adductor! — but it’s OK. A small challenge but we’ll get over it.”
Remarkably, the Halo almost managed to take a back seat visually to the car’s stunning launch livery, a nod to the ‘Camo Bull’ colours run during preseason testing in 2015.
The ‘Appetite for Disruption’ colours won’t stay for testing or the racing season, but that didn’t stop Ricciardo from arriving at Silverstone in an Aston Martin DB11 in the same colourscheme.
“I was staying on-trend,” he joked.
“The car looked very cool today: it’s what you want to see when you walk into a garage.”
The next time the Red Bull hits the track will be at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona when the first four-day preseason test gets underway on February 26.