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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Red Bull keeping drivers on tight leash after Baku crash

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia steers through a corner during a free practice at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside Barcelona, Spain, Friday, May 11, 2018. The Formula One race will take place on Sunday. (Manu Fernandez / Associated Press)
By Tales Azzoni Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain – Things have changed at Red Bull.

The team appears to be putting a limit on the freedom it gives its drivers after seeing them crash into each other in the last Formula One race in Azerbaijan.

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen know Red Bull is not going to sit and watch again as they bang wheels and risk crashing out. They said ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix that there won’t be team orders, but Red Bull will intervene if it feels the drivers’ actions are hurting the team.

Both drivers left Baku with zero points.

“If it got to that point again, where there’s banging wheels and stuff, then yeah,” Ricciardo said. “We are not going to have team orders, but if we find ourselves battling too hard or losing time to the others, especially if maybe there is a faster car coming through, then the team will step in before we start banging wheels again.”

Verstappen said that, although no specific new rules were in place, he expected the team to be more proactive.

“If it’s like Baku again, maybe at one point the team will say, `OK, maybe calm down a bit, just follow each other that last few laps,’ I don’t know,” Verstappen said. “In general, they still trust us and we also understand that we don’t want that to happen again.”

Ricciardo had a tough start to his weekend in Spain, crashing into a tire barrier in the first practice and losing a lot of track time. But he finished with the second-quickest time in the afternoon, behind Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and just ahead of Verstappen.

Ricciardo was faster than Verstappen in Azerbaijan but couldn’t get past his teammate. As Ricciardo tried to force his way past Verstappen at the end of the front straightaway, Verstappen closed up and Ricciardo couldn’t avoid the collision.

Neither of the drivers took full blame for the crash.

“We all talked about it, from all different points of views,” Ricciardo said. “From what the drivers could have done better, what the team could have done better, the decision-makers on the pit wall, what the engineers could have done better.”

Ricciardo, who was coming off a victory in China, said maybe he should have insisted on the team telling Verstappen to let him by.

“I was saying, `I can go faster,’ but I was not shouting,” Ricciardo said. “But maybe I should have. I guess part of me was wanting to try and make it happen without being assisted, but after some point it probably got a bit too long. That’s where maybe the team can step in in the future.”

The crash left Ricciardo fifth in the drivers’ standings, while Verstappen dropped to eighth.

The drivers visited Red Bull’s headquarters in England after the Azerbaijan race and apologized to the rest of the team.

“We sent our apologies and told them it won’t happen again.”