Red Bull aren’t expecting Monza's 'Temple of Speed' to be a particularly happy hunting ground for them in 2018 – and with that in mind, the team have decided to roll the dice strategically by fitting out their outgoing Australian star with a new Renault power unit for the Italian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo is set to be the first runner to use Renault’s ‘Spec C’ engine this year – including Renault themselves – when he has it installed in the back of his RB14 for Monza. Mercedes and Ferrari ran their own ‘Spec 3’ power units in Belgium.
The change to Ricciardo’s car will see him fall to the back of the grid, with the team making the call to sacrifice grid position in Monza rather than at the proceeding race on the twisting streets of Singapore – typically a track that suits Red Bull’s downforce-centric design philosophy. Ricciardo’s team mate Max Verstappen will also take on new components, but has enough allocation left to take on a penalty-free new internal combustion engine and MGU-H unit.
“Daniel is going to be taking an engine penalty for sure next weekend,” said Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner in Belgium. “Max will be taking his third unit as well there, hopefully without penalty. So we’re going to try and get ourselves into the best situation we can going to Singapore, which is probably our next chance of being able to give Ferrari and Mercedes a harder time.”
Red Bull struggled for outright pace around the power-sensitive Belgium track last weekend, with both Ricciardo and Verstappen seen to run an extremely shallow rear wing angle in the race to make up for their lack of grunt – a factor which left the third place-finishing Verstappen nearly half a second down on the ultimate pace through Spa’s downforce-requiring Sector 2.
That situation is not set to improve at Monza, with the drivers on full throttle for more than three-quarters of the lap around the legendary Italian venue.
Despite that, the Australian will be cheered by memories of last year’s race, where he faced a similar situation with engine penalties, starting from P16 before putting in a stellar drive to finish just off the podium.
“I’ve done some of my best overtaking moves [at Monza],” said Ricciardo ahead of the race, “and I plan on doing plenty more this week as it looks likely that I will be taking some engine penalties. It’s obviously not ideal but Monza is a power track and one that we haven’t been hugely strong at in recent years. It does mean plenty of action and fun for me in the race though. Last year I finished fourth from 16th on the grid, so it won’t be boring if I have to do the same again this year."