Still No. 1? Vettel remains overshadowed by Ricciardo leaving Spa

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing sits in his car in the garage during practice ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 22, 2014.

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Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner says that Daniel Ricciardo continued to surprise Red Bull with his form, even after he proved in Canada that he could win races.

Although Sebastian Vettel was ahead in qualifying in Belgium, Ricciardo once again outperformed the German on his way to a third win of 2014.

“In all honesty we never thought he would be as strong as he has been,” said Horner. “We knew he was fast, we knew he was a very good racing driver. But I don’t think any of us, not even Daniel, realized just how good he was going to be. And of course his confidence is sky high. He’s come in, he has no pressure, and he’s driving beautifully at the moment. He’s very economical with the car, with the tires, and his pace is extremely good.

“I think he’s doing a phenomenal job, and he deserved the victory today. Everything we’ve seen of him, I think he’s incredibly calm and incredibly in control. I think he’s obviously marking himself out as a clear championship contender.”

Asked for his thoughts on Vettel’s ongoing struggles, Horner defended the German.

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“A lot of things have gone wrong for him, even this weekend, a spark plug failure on Friday robbed him of a lot of time, so he has to take information from the other car, and we know their styles are quite different. Of course we need to check whether something’s actually broken on the car, because that was extremely unusual, what we saw.

“Sebastian has got the best feeling for these tires, as history as shown. But we have to look into today, obviously there’s something wrong, that he wasn’t able to have the same pace as Daniel today and be harder on the tire. Obviously we missed out on Friday and running of any real benefit to Seb. Of course we need to check whether something is broken on the car.

“We went for an aggressive strategy at the penultimate stop with Seb, which in hindsight… We were effectively racing Bottas, we’d been undercut by Raikkonen, so we pitted to cover Bottas. Bottas obviously stayed out and was able to pass Seb anyway, and at that point you think well we’re dropping back to the cars behind, so we elected to pit again, which gave Seb a bit of work to do in the lasts tint, but he drove fantastically over the last few lines to recover the positions.”