Last year’s Spanish Grand Prix was indicative of the problems that led to the end of Red Bull Racing’s run of four drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
The car of Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was stuck behind the Williams car of Valtteri Bottas in the early laps of the event at Barcelona in the fight for third place.
The Australian was almost falling over the back of the Williams in the slow corners of Circuit de Catalunya, such was the impressive mechanical grip of the RB10.
But, despite his clear speed advantage, whenever Ricciardo lined up to pass Bottas on the main straight, the Finn would pull away because the Mercedes engine in the Williams had much more horsepower than the Renault in the back of the Red Bull.
Ricciardo lost a chunk of time that day and it was only thanks to a superior pit-stop strategy that he eventually beat Bottas to take third spot.
It was Red Bull’s story for 2014: a great car aerodynamically but lacking the punch in its Renault engine to muster any threat to Mercedes-GP or even the teams who received a Mercedes engine.
Despite that situation, Ricciardo enjoyed his breakout year in Formula One, outperformed his four-time world champion teammate, Sebastian Vettel, and achieved all three race wins recorded by a non-Mercedes driver last season.
Winning three times in a car that was often the third-or fourth-fastest overall package at a track was a superb effort.
What was most impressive was that Ricciardo had just three real chances to win in 2014 and, on each occasion — in Canada, Hungary and Belgium — he seized his chance and demonstrated the talent he possesses.
That, though, has made seeing Red Bull and Renault toil so badly this year — with sixth places in Australia and last month in Bahrain the best Ricciardo has had to show for his endeavours — even more demoralising for their fans.
The Renault power unit appears to have gone backwards on reliability and lost ground to Mercedes, as well as Ferrari.
Ricciardo, to his credit, has got on with the job and his run for sixth in Bahrain was a faultless performance in which he got the maximum out of his car.
Sadly for him he was still a minute adrift of race winner Lewis Hamilton.
It indicated that, barring a freak race where several rivals fail to finish, Ricciardo will not be claiming the fourth win of his career in 2015 and Red Bull will be winless in a season for the first time since 2008.
Ricciardo, who was the first man to beat Vettel in the same machinery and outscored the German by 71 points and by eight podiums to four, deserves better.
Vettel has been fortunate to walk straight into a competitive Ferrari after leaving Red Bull, while Ricciardo faces a year of low top-10 finishes.
The young Australian is not the first driver to show his talent and then be stuck with an uncompetitive car and, in many ways, this is more of a challenge.
But as F1 heads back to Spain this weekend, all Ricciardo can do is get the maximum out of what he has, continue to regularly beat his teammate, Daniil Kvyat, and remain upbeat in the hope of better times.
Last year’s race in Barcelona gave Ricciardo his first F1 podium but he is unlikely to return there in Sunday’s race.
It will not be his fault because, as Mercedes and Ferrari fight it out at the front for victory, Ricciardo will be pushing to the limit in his bid to be the best of the rest.
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @NatSportUAE