Red Bull Being Realistic When They Say No Win Is Possible Until Singapore GP

Neil JamesFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Drew Gibson/Getty Images)
Drew Gibson/Getty Images

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he believes the Singapore Grand Prix at the end of September represents his team's next opportunity to win.

Speaking after Daniel Ricciardo's victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break, Horner was quoted by Adam Cooper, saying:

You never know, it might be wet at Spa, and Monza might put a load more corners in! Singapore has to be the next golden opportunity for us, in reality.

I think it will be damage limitation in the next two races, because Force India will suddenly reappear, Williams will be quick, McLaren will be quick, Mercedes will be quick, so we’ve got to take what we can out of the next two races, and then for the flyaways really try and set things up.

It's another defeatist admission from a man used to winningand one which will be proved right in the coming month.

Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Red Bull are not having the best of seasons. Let down by a weak Renault powertrain, the defending world champions have been booted into the midfield by the all-conquering Mercedes.

They can win races, but only if certain factors combinenamely, both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg encounter trouble, and the RB10 is at the head of the chasing pack when they do.

Ricciardo has won twice this year under those very circumstances. In Canada he benefited from twin-control-electronics problems for Hamilton and Rosberg, and in Hungary it was reliability, rain and the safety car working together which hampered the Silver Arrows.

But neither Ricciardo nor team-mate Sebastian Vettel will be in a position to take advantage of any German mishaps at the next two races.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams drives during the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Drew Gibson/Getty Images)
Drew Gibson/Getty Images

The first will be the Belgian Grand Prix, held at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Featuring a lot of quick corners and two significant full-throttle sections, it's a track which places a huge emphasis on raw powerRed Bull's Achilles' heel.

The last time we saw racing on a circuit like this was at the British Grand Prix in July. There, Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes-powered Williams was the clear best-of-the-rest, flying through the field from 14th on the grid to finish a fine second.

Red Bull spent the afternoon scrapping with McLaren and Ferrari. Ricciardo held off Jenson Button for third, while Vettel was fifth.

The RB10 was the third-quickest car; victory would have required both Mercedes' and both Williams' to either break down, crash or hit significant difficulties. Realistically, that was never going to happenit was unusual that two of them failed to finish.

As was the case at Silverstone, Williams should be stronger than Red Bull at Spa. If the Mercs slip up, it's far more likely to be their driversBottas or Felipe Massapicking up the pieces.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 27:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren drives during the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix at Hungaroring on July 27, 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images

The outlook for the Italian Grand Prix is even bleaker. Due to be held at the super-fast Monza circuit, it stands out as the one race of the year where horsepower is needed above all else.

That's bad news for the boys from Milton Keynes.

Thanks to the relatively gutless Renault engine, Red Bull's primary weakness is straight-line speed. Usually they more than make up the difference to teams like Williams, McLaren and Force India by being quicker in the corners.

But when straights are plentiful and corners are few, they struggle. At their home grand prix around the eight-corner Red Bull Ring in June, the Austrian team's cars qualified fifth and 13th. In the race, one retired while the other trailed home in eighth.

Mercedes, Williams and Ferrari were all quicker than Red Bull, who ended up battling Force India and McLaren for the minor points.

Monza has similar characteristics to the Spielberg circuit, with a few more corners but longer straightsmeaning a lack of horsepower will hurt them even more.

Williams, with their Mercedes engine and highly capable car, should again be the second-fastest team. The best-case scenario for Red Bull is that they find themselves in a four-way tussle with McLaren, Force India and Ferrari to be third-best.

Worst case? They'll struggle to score points.

Red Bull scored no points at the 2012 Italian GP after two retirements.
Red Bull scored no points at the 2012 Italian GP after two retirements.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Unless rain, snow or a divine entity interferes, Red Bull will head to Singapore on the back of two podium-free races.

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is one of the slowest on the calendar, with 23 corners and only two straights worthy of any note.

Red Bull still won't to be able to challenge Mercedes on raw pacethey'd need a circuit made up of a single long, medium-speed corner to do that.

But if past form is any indicator, the Bulls will be a long way ahead of the rest.

And if both the silver cars encounter problemsnot entirely out of the questionRicciardo or Vettel will almost certainly be there to inherit the win.