Sebastian Vettel Needs Big Response to Daniel Ricciardo's Win After Canadian GP

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Sebastian Vettel Needs Big Response to Daniel Ricciardo's Win After Canadian GP
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

In the week that the 2014 FIFA World Cup begins in Brazil, Australia have gone one-nil up against Germany in the big grudge match.

Daniel Ricciardo's maiden race win in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix is the first truly meaningful blow in his battle with Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel.

The 24-year-old had enjoyed plenty of possession up to that point, coming close with a few chances after missing a sitter at the very beginning of the encounter—but found the net when the ideal opportunity presented itself.

With his name on the scoreboard having silenced the doubters, it's now down to the established champion, the one whose accolades, medals and trophies make him synonymous with glory on the international stage, to launch a counter-attack.

It's a mouthwatering prospect and one that carries the core ingredient of all great rivalries in sport: the young, unfazed charger surprising a battle-hardened counterpart with not only his strong performance levels but the apparent ease at which he can reach them.

The scenario playing out at Red Bull so far in 2014, in fact, is not entirely dissimilar from the situation that occurred at McLaren between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007.

Ricciardo, like Hamilton, has exceeded expectations against his teammate with a handful of podium places gradually building up to a breakthrough win in Canada, by which time his pace is considered the norm.

Meanwhile, Vettel, like Alonso—despite securing a few decent results—is struggling to master the new, unfamiliar equipment at his disposal which, along with the odd mistake or two, has shrouded his true abilities.

Unlike Alonso when Hamilton took his maiden race win in Montreal—the Spaniard finished seventh that day—Vettel was there to meet Ricciardo in parc ferme when the Australian returned from his parade lap.

Mathias Kniepeiss/Getty Images

A fascinating interaction took place between the two Red Bull drivers from the moment Ricciardo stepped out of his car until the Australian, Vettel and Nico Rosberg left the podium.

Vettel made sure he was the first person to congratulate Ricciardo, arriving on the scene before the winner had even fitted his steering wheel back on to its column.

When he'd caught Ricciardo's attention, Vettel then held out his hands as if to say, "you did it!" before dragging his colleague towards him and embracing the Canadian Grand Prix victor, with plenty of back slapping for good measure.

Vettel then lifted Ricciardo off the ground slightly in triumph, something which, despite having good intentions, produced an awkward result, with the Australian's body language—perhaps dazed by the adrenaline rush of his first F1 win—almost pleading with Vettel to calm down by the time he returned to Earth.

During the ceremony itself, Vettel held out his right hand before Ricciardo had even stepped to the top of the podium for another around of congratulations and was the first to applaud when his teammate received his trophy for first place—Ricciardo's own race engineer was disappointingly off the pace—which encouraged those around him to quickly follow suit.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

When the champagne bottles were uncorked, Vettel made the point of spraying a few units on Ricciardo in celebration before appearing to insist that the Australian should remove his cap to allow Vettel to pour some over his head.

The episode reached its end when Vettel book-ended his televised FIA podium interview with Jean Alesi, the former Ferrari driver, with further notes of congratulations to Ricciardo.

The post-race celebrations were a wave of an index finger away from making the result seem like a Vettel victory, such was his enthusiasm in the immediate aftermath of the grand prix.

The lengths that he went to to mark Ricciardo's win were unprecedented and at odds with the widespread suspicion that the 26-year-old has a habit of spitting the dummy out and throwing his toys out of the pram whenever he is beaten by a teammate or one of his nearest rivals.

Perhaps the German's excitement was down to the return of Red Bull to the top step of the podium only three months and seven races after the car had failed to reach the end of the pit lane. 

Perhaps, due to Red Bull's difficult start to the season, Vettel has become more humble in both victory and defeat and is determined to enjoy any sense of positivity in a season in which he is now extremely unlikely to secure his fifth world title.

Perhaps Vettel was thrilled that Ricciardo, a fellow Red Bull young driver program graduate, has emulated his own success and, as the senior driver in the team, felt compelled to revel in his success.

The cynics, of course, would argue that the four-time world champion took advantage of sharing a podium with his new teammate for the first time to put on a show for the cameras, fabricating (or at least exaggerating) a friendship with one of the most likeable drivers on the grid in a bid to feed off Ricciardo's popularity.

Although you would hope that was not the case, Vettel is certain not to celebrate Ricciardo's eighth Formula One win, for example, with the apparent joy with which he marked the Australian's first.

The German will be itching to stop the momentum that Ricciardo has gathered and record a victory of his own as soon as possible, but it's difficult to envisage where that will occur.

A repeat of the double whammy of power-related problems suffered by the dominant Mercedes team in Montreal seems unlikely, while the Silver Arrows' dominant power unit should make them untouchable at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and Hockenheim, the next three venues which all have at least one long straight.

The Hungarian Grand Prix, one of the few F1 races which Vettel is yet to win, arguably represents his best chance to draw on level terms with Ricciardo due to its high-downforce requirements—but given Mercedes' comfortable race in Monaco—which, like the Hungaroring, has a twists-and-turns layout—it doesn't look promising.

After the contagious emotion of Ricciardo's win had subsided on Sunday evening in Canada, Vettel would have settled down and crunched the numbers.

Mathias Kniepeiss/Getty Images

He would, if he didn't already, have noticed that he has been out-qualified by his teammate on four occasions in the seven grands prix so far this season.

He would have noticed that, on the four occasions he and Ricciardo have both finished a race this season, he has failed to get the better of his teammate at all.

He would have noticed that he trails his teammate by 19 points in the drivers' standings, having being beaten to a first win of the season by his teammate for the first time in his F1 career.

And any lingering smile might soon have vanished from his face.

This just isn't the all-conquering, ruthless, unforgiving Sebastian Vettel we've grown to know over the last four years.

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