Stable management at Racing Bulls is causing trouble

How the Racing Bulls team management escalated at the 2024 Formula 1 opener in Bahrain and how the new team boss Laurent Mekies feels about this situation.

“Are you kidding me now?” This is what Yuki Tsunoda blurts out shortly before the end of the 2024 Formula 1 opener in Bahrain. Because his team Racing Bulls has just told him that he should let his teammate Daniel Ricciardo pass. And this message is not well received by Tsunoda.

He explains: “I was just about to overtake Magnussen. I was side by side with him on the home straight. And then I’m supposed to swap places. To be honest, I didn’t understand what the team was thinking. “

Tsunoda could have guessed it

But actually Tsunoda could have known or even should have known. Because “we talk about things like this before a race,” says Ricciardo on Sky. “We sit in the strategy meeting together. There are no secrets.”

“And it was clear: There was a very good chance that I would finish the race on better tires. And if I arrived with a speed advantage, then there would be a stable management.”

This is exactly the situation that occurred: Ricciardo drove on fresh soft tires in the last stint, Tsunoda had hard tires on the car. Ricciardo therefore got over half a second per lap closer to Tsunoda, who was stuck in P13 behind Magnussen.

And Ricciardo put pressure on the radio: “I don’t want to lose this. Let’s try something.” Whereupon his engineer announced the position swap. Combined with the note: “Let’s use this and intercept the three in front of us and score the points!”

The radio message comes, but no response

Eight laps before the end, a simple radio message went out to Tsunoda: “Swap position, swap position.” Which Tsunoda acknowledged with the saying already described – and didn’t immediately make room.

Ricciardo realized what was going on in the car: “I don’t have to say anything,” he radioed. Then, audibly disappointed: “We lost a whole round!”

Finally, after another request, Tsunoda let him go, but not before sending another snarky comment: “Thanks, guys, I appreciate that.” And as soon as he was behind Ricciardo, he told him indirectly over the radio: “Then he should press it!” And: “He’s not fast at all!”

This apparently upset Tsunoda so much that he allowed himself to swerve against Ricciardo on the run-off lap after the race. Ricciardo on the radio: “What the hell is wrong with… Sorry, I’ll save it. We’ll talk about it!”

No direct conversation between Ricciardo and Tsunoda

But immediately after the race, Ricciardo deliberately avoided his teammate. Reason: “He should calm down first. We know what he’s like. At that moment he’s very… He’s Yuki. But when we sit in the meeting room, he’ll be completely okay.”

He himself is “okay, of course,” emphasizes Ricciardo and explains: “I think in the long term, and we have a long season ahead of us. That’s why we have to be able to work together. So I don’t want to go in with an angry attitude. We just have to be very honest and realistic about it “It shouldn’t have happened like that.”

What team boss Mekies says about the situation

The new Racing Bulls team boss Laurent Mekies also sees it that way, despite understanding Tsunoda’s starting position: “It is always frustrating for a driver when he is asked to change places, especially in a situation in which he is currently attacking. You I still want more laps to do it.”

“However, we were the only team with a car on fresh tires,” says Mekies on “Sky”. “[Den Platztausch] Not to do that would have been a mistake.”

Tsunoda will also recognize that in retrospect. “I understand the emotions at the moment, but I’m sure it will be different if we look at the situation and the data together,” says Mekies.

Tsunoda demands explanations

And Tsunoda himself is actually keen on reappraisal of the stable’s management: “It’s hard for me to understand. Maybe there was [beim Team] certain thoughts. I have to understand that. We need to look at this because I really don’t understand it.”

But question marks remained one way or another, Tsunoda continues. Firstly, Ricciardo “didn’t overtake” and secondly, there was no change of place before crossing the finish line: Ricciardo finished in P13, Tsunoda took P14.

Tsunoda is asked whether he expected to be let past again in the end. Answer: “To be honest: Yes. On the other hand, it was outside the points.”

How Ricciardo justifies staying ahead

Ricciardo uses the same argument to justify why he didn’t give the position back to Tsunoda: “Whether I’m 13th or 14th, I don’t think a driver cares about it. Not me. If the team had meant, I would “If I’m supposed to let him pass again before the finish line, then I would have done that. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“But as long as we’re not in the points, who cares? It’s really only relevant when it comes to points,” says Ricciardo.

“If he had let me through for P9 and been tenth, then maybe they’ll turn it around again if I can’t get P8. But that didn’t matter today.”

From his point of view, it’s all the worse that this little collaboration didn’t work on the route. “There was nothing to lose because we were outside the points anyway. He could have just let me go,” says Ricciardo.

What went wrong at Racing Bulls

But that didn’t happen, and here Ricciardo recognizes several omissions: “I think the instruction [zum Platztausch] came a lap too late. And when he reacted, it was too late.”

“With these soft tires, every lap is crucial. So I think I probably lost two and a half good laps with these tires. That may have made the difference,” says Ricciardo.

“Could we have gotten Stroll to P10? No. In the best case scenario, we might have been able to attack Zhou. So points would have been difficult, but we just had to try something. The team made the decision, but then it’s up to Yuki, place close.”

Ricciardo doesn’t want to let the conflict escalate

But this “small conflict” shouldn’t be carried beyond the debriefing, says Ricciardo: “It was the first race of 24 and that shouldn’t set the tone. We’ll talk about it. And hopefully he can say when he’s calmed down: ‘Yeah, okay, I should have made way a lap earlier.'”

In his first statement after the race, Tsunoda “actually didn’t want to talk about it” because it was “difficult to understand” for him. But he is open to constructive criticism: “We have to look at it for the future.”

Tsunoda questions his racing strategy

The same applies to the strategy in the Grand Prix: Coming from P11, Tsunoda only finished 14th and says: “With every stop we went backwards. That’s pretty painful, but we’ll learn from it. Hopefully. So that we can avoid something like that in the future.”

“There’s probably a reason why the strategy didn’t work. Maybe I need to improve myself and stay up to date with what the tire situation is like [das Team] The strategy is optimal.” In any case, it wasn’t because of the pit stops: “The mechanics were good. I think it was more about the strategy itself.”