Daniel Ricciardo was pretty happy to be back in Europe. Sure, the shorter commute to work was one thing, but the Australian felt having some more time back at base would only be of benefit to Red Bull after its stuttering start to 2015.
“The European season will help us, the big teams,” he said in a tone that was more adamant than hopeful. “More efficiency will start to take place with more time spent at the factory and the updates will start to be a bit more significant. We should at least gap the guys behind us, and hopefully put more pressure on Williams. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.” 
If it’s a start, it’s a slow one: once again, Ricciardo was reduced to the supporting role of bit-part player this season, finishing seventh at the Circuit de Catalunya last weekend in a race where Red Bull seemed just as far from the podium as it was in the first four flyaways. But in the circumstances, it’s hard to see how he could be doing more.
It’s been a tricky second season at Red Bull for Ricciardo, especially after he trounced reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel in identical machinery in 2014 . Red Bull’s results have been fairly pedestrian, yet Ricciardo already feels like he’s growing this season, and that downturn in performance is actually rounding out his apprenticeship as a team leader.
“I feel as though I have a bit more of a role this year in trying to keep the guys together,” he explains, sounding more like 35 than 25.
“I can have a bit more of an influence on everyone’s mood, and reiterate that ‘you guys are four-time champions, we’ll get back to the top’. It’s a fine line, because at times you want to want to have a bit of a tantrum to let the guys know that work has to be done, but I’m aware what that looks like, and it wouldn’t help even if it made you feel better for a while. Everyone knows the situation so there’s no point me putting fuel on that fire.”
Red Bull certainly didn’t hold back with its upgrades for the Spanish GP – reports out of the UK had the new nose the team brought to the Circuit de Catalunya only passing the FIA mandatory crash test at its 60th attempt and being worth $5 million – but the team that was the benchmark for most of the past five years doesn’t look like it’ll win a race this season. It looks less likely that anyone other than Mercedes will win a race for the rest of 2015 based on Barcelona, and it’ll be interesting to see if the British press report Lewis Hamilton’s seemingly inexorable march to his third world title with the same undercurrent of disdain that permeated through its coverage of world title romps by the likes of Schumacher and Vettel in the past 15 years … 
A review of the fifth round of the season in Spain is the focus of Episode 100  of ‘The Inside Line’ this week – see it on Fox Sports and ESPN in Australia, and check your local guides elsewhere.
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 I look forward to these quotes being reproduced word-for-word without attribution by the bottom-feeding elements of the British F1 press pack in the next seven days. Possibly claimed as an ‘exclusive’, perhaps in full caps. Theft, I think it’s called. In a related story, it’s good morning/evening to Peter FitzSimons. Nice to have you on board.
 Interesting to hear (nine-time Grand Prix winner) Mark Webber opine during the week that Vettel was more than likely affected by Michael Schumacher’s horrific skiing accident last year while being distracted by being a dad. He’s almost certainly right; he’s also getting his name in the press quite a bit for a bloke who doesn’t claim to watch much F1 (check this clip at 23:40), and shit-cans it after he’s been paid handsomely to analyse it for Australian TV. I don’t begrudge MW from making some extra dollars for having an opinion on something he always understood better than most; the whole dismissive attitude to the sport that made his fortune is a bit much though. Just own it and count the cash. There’s plenty of drivers who didn’t achieve half of what he did who are making a very lucrative living out of talking about F1. In a related story, it’s good morning/evening to (no-time Grand Prix winner) Martin Brundle. Brundle is terrific at his job and has made the transition from cockpit to commentary box arguably better than anyone in sport, but the history books don’t lie.
 A reminder: both Schumacher and Vettel are German. So that’ll be a ‘no’ then.
 Props to Tim Nelson for making it to the century in fine form. Getting better all the time. I’ll raise a bat when we get to Ep 141.