‘Ironic, isn’t it?’: Red Bull’s savage jab
RED Bull boss Christian Horner continues to show absolute glee at seeing rival Renault and former driver Daniel Ricciardo endure a nightmare start to 2019.
The Red Bull team principle has been critical of Ricciardo's decision to move to the French team since it was first announced last year following Red Bull's decision to cut ties with Renault and switch to Honda power units.
Right now, with Ricciardo suffering two DNF's to start the 2019 season and with Red Bull appearing to have made some ground on championship front-runners Mercedes and Ferrari, Horner is looking like an astute judge.
And he knows it.
The English boss' long-running criticism of Renault-powered engines was escalated again after the Bahrain Grand Prix on Monday morning (AEST) when he savagely joked the French outfit's failures were to blame for his own team's failure to snatch a spot on the podium - just as he claims they were to blame last year when Red Bull were running with Renault engines.
Max Verstappen's charge past struggling pole-sitter Charles Leclerc in the dying laps was thwarted when Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg retired from the race without making it back to the pits, allowing Leclerc to limp home and retain his spot on the dais.
"Renault blowing up unfortunately didn't help us see the podium," Horner said.
"It's ironic, isn't it? Whether they're in the car or out of the car."Unfortunately for Ricciardo, Horner's cheap jab would have been low on his extensive list of headaches after Bahrain.
Ricciardo's bigger concern than a slow car with engine reliability issues is that his struggling team chose to put his teammate Nico Hulkenberg on a much quicker strategy than himself.
Lacking confidence, Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul's team hedged its bet by putting Ricciardo on a one-stop strategy - starkly at odds with the rest of the field - while Hulkenberg, who started down in 17th, was put on the faster two-stop strategy.
Ricciardo led the race briefly when he was the only car on the track yet to pit, but his late stop saw him return from his first stop 13th on the track and he never recovered.
Hulkenberg, on the quickest strategy, darted through the field to sit in sixth spot just three laps from the finish while Ricciardo dropped down the field on his older, slower tyres.
It came after the pair made contact with each other when jostling for position in a moment that would have left the entire Renault garage with their hearts in their mouths.
"What was that? he hit me," Hulkenberg said on the team radio.
"I gave him so much space."
Hulkenberg took the position to add further insult to Ricciardo's nightmare day.
Ricciardo was furious about his team's poor strategy - but his German teammate was thrilled with how his car performed on a two-stop strategy, before they both suffered engine failure at the end of the race.
"I felt like we got past a point in the first stint where it was too late to come back (from a one-stop strategy) and it was pretty much at that point I knew it wasn't the best thing to do," Ricciardo said.
"If we then did the two-stop we would have come out behind everyone else so we had to commit to it. In hindsight, well even during the race, we knew it wasn't the best thing. We tried it. That was the idea. But I think a two-stop would have been much more preferred.
"At that first point, maybe I was questioning if it was too late already. So we'll have a look to see if we could have salvaged something. If we were in that kind of limbo again, we'll try to make the right decision out of the two."
Hulkenberg even praised his team's decision to put him on a two-stop strategy.
"The team did a great job on the two-stop strategy today and we can take positives from that," he said.
"We have to be cleaner going forward and make sure we don't face anymore disappointments like this."
Abiteboul admitted his team's one stop "gamble" for Ricciardo "didn't work".
Nico Hulkenberg says his forced retirement after driving through the field to climb 11 places was "brutal".
He was on track to finish sixth and collect important championship points for Renault before his engine failed.
"It came also without any signs or problem before. It just happened from one moment to another," he said of the moment his car lost power.
"Obviously it's a bitter one, a hard one to swallow. A brutal moment that can happen in racing.
"But on the positive side we had decent pace in the car today. Just yesterday and today the problems prevented really good results."