What happened at the French Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton was untouchable at the first GP held in France for a decade, while Max Verstappen was a season-best second after Sebastian Vettel relinquished the series lead in dramatic fashion.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The build-up
After being soundly beaten by Ferrari in Canada, Mercedes brought the engine upgrade it delayed for Montreal to France, and the ‘Phase 2.1’ power plant paid immediate dividends when Lewis Hamilton took his third pole for the season, teammate Valtteri Bottas completing an all-Mercedes front row after the silver cars topped every practice session and all three periods of qualifying. Happy as Hamilton was to be 0.118secs ahead of Bottas, the four-time world champion felt his lap of 1min 30.029secs could have been better. “I always strive for perfection and there was some time left on the track, so I still have stuff to work on,” he said.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was next, but the German was three-tenths adrift of his main title rival as Ferrari appeared to have regressed from the highs of Canada. The first three were well ahead of the Red Bulls, Max Verstappen comfortably out-qualifying Daniel Ricciardo despite neither driver being thrilled with the performance of their car. Verstappen elected to run a lower downforce set-up the team likened to one you’d usually employ at a speed circuit like Spa-Francorchamps in a bid to get more pace down Paul Ricard’s lengthy back straight, but the Dutchman felt he hadn’t maximised the potential of his car. Ricciardo was less comfortable to roll the dice on a set-up he hadn’t really tried in practice, and was left hoping for rain or something that would shake the field up as he was concerned about being “a little slow” on the straights.

Well behind his Ferrari teammate (again) was Kimi Raikkonen in sixth, while the man most feel will take his drive at the Prancing Horse – and possibly as soon as next year – was the star of Saturday, Charles Leclerc hauling his Sauber into eighth with an extraordinary effort that drew praise from both Hamilton and Vettel, and one that came in the Swiss team’s first appearance in the top 10 since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean, still searching for his first points of 2018, was the best of the three French drivers in 10th, but caused a red flag in Q3 when he smashed his Haas into the Turn 3 fence.

Grosjean’s compatriots, Esteban Ocon (Force India, 11th) and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (14th) fared less well, while Gasly’s teammate Brendon Hartley was condemned to start from the very back after his Honda engine needed to be replaced following Friday practice. Grosjean’s Haas stablemate Kevin Magnussen was ninth, but was first on the anger scale after Q3, when he felt Raikkonen’s ruined his best chance of a flying lap time. “He overtakes me into Turn 1, and f***s my lap, and doesn’t even complete his lap,” the Dane raged. “If you’re that confused, just try not to get in the way of anyone else.” If Magnussen was incensed, McLaren were downcast after both Fernando Alonso (16th) and Stoffel Vandoorne (18th) were eliminated in Q1, the team’s racing director Eric Boullier commenting “it’s up to us to give (Alonso and Vandoorne) a car that’s more representative of their talents”.

The main intrigue ahead of race day, the first GP held at the circuit in the south of France in 28 years, was whether the weather would spice up proceedings after it hosed down with rain in final practice on Saturday, and which front-running team had its tyre strategy right if the rain stayed away; both Mercedes would start the race on the slower but more durable supersoft tyres from the front of the grid, while Vettel, looking for a fast getaway from the second row, was on the initially faster but more brittle hypersoft rubber.

The race in exactly 69 words*
Hamilton reclaimed the world championship lead after an untroubled lights-to-flag win, aided by Vettel running into the back of Bottas at the first corner and seeing both cars pit immediately for repairs, the Ferrari given a five-second time penalty for the incident. Verstappen inherited second and stayed there to the end, Raikkonen rounding out the podium as Vettel recovered to fifth behind Ricciardo, who faded with front wing damage.
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)

Ricciardo recap
With a 60 per cent chance of precipitation predicted, it looked as though Ricciardo’s Sunday rain dance might have paid off, but the skies stayed dry and the Australian’s chances for a spot on the rostrum faded the longer the race went. Things started well for Ricciardo, who gained a place in the first-corner malee caused by Vettel tagging Bottas, and after the safety car period to clear the track, the Red Bull driver quickly disposed of the fast-starting Renault of Carlos Sainz to inherit third. An unimpeded Verstappen was well clear by that stage, but Ricciardo looked comfortable until he pitted on lap 29, returning to the track on soft tyres behind Vettel, who had pitted for the same rubber on lap one. It took Ricciardo four laps to get past his old teammate, and third remained a strong possibility until Raikkonen came at him hard in the closing stages on faster supersoft tyres, the Aussie’s chances not helped by front wing damage sustained when he ran over some debris while lapping backmarkers. The Ferrari driver eventually nosed ahead with six laps remaining at the chicane at the end of the back straight, but Ricciardo was under no pressure for fourth late after Vettel made a second stop on lap 41. The front wing damage certainly didn’t help, but this was a weekend where Verstappen had Ricciardo’s measure from Saturday onwards. The consolation prize for Ricciardo was that Bottas’ woes meant he re-took third in the championship, Ricciardo leaving France with 96 points for the season to Bottas’ 92.

“We had a lot less downforce and were understeering, so Kimi was always going to catch us with that pace,” Ricciardo said. “We were a wounded car from just before the first pitstop.”

What the result means
Canada perhaps didn’t paint the clearest picture of the F1 pecking order for the second part of the season, with Ferrari, Renault and Honda all introducing engine upgrades in Montreal while Mercedes (and its customer teams Force India and Williams) held off for France. Hamilton’s dominant win made that wait worth it, but we never got to see what loomed as an intriguing battle between Vettel and both Mercedes drivers on different tyre strategies after Vettel’s error at the first corner eliminated Hamilton’s only real rivals for the victory. Yes, Verstappen kept the Briton honest, but even Red Bull team boss Christian Horner conceded that his cars were no match for Mercedes as Hamilton eased to a seven-second victory. The momentum has ebbed and flowed over the past three races – all won from pole by three different drivers (Ricciardo in Monaco, Vettel in Canada and now Hamilton in France), but the extent of Hamilton’s dominance in France was ominous, even taking into account Vettel’s self-inflicted woes. And especially given where the championship heads next (see point 10 below) …

For historical purposes …
Circuit Paul Ricard may have been absent from the calendar for 28 years, but Sunday’s podium finishers continued a strange statistical anomaly at the French track. In the 14 previous races held at the circuit, 45 per cent of the podium finishers had started outside of the top three on the grid – and that percentage only increased when Verstappen (who started fourth) and Raikkonen (sixth) joined pole-sitter Hamilton on the rostrum.

The number to know
26:
Hamilton’s first French success made Paul Ricard the 26th track on which he has won a Grand Prix, extending his record. He has at least one win at every circuit on the current calendar.

Under-the-radar winner(s)
Third for Raikkonen wasn’t exactly beneath the radar, but it was the Ferrari driver’s first podium in four races as talk of his future gets ever-louder, and (remarkably) was his 25th podium since he last won a Grand Prix, way back in Australia to open the 2013 season. Sixth for Magnussen saw his season tally rise to 27 points (compared to zero, still, for Haas teammate Grosjean, who was 11th), while Leclerc hung tough after a difficult race to finish 10th and score for the third time in the past four races. Vettel could consider himself relatively happy with fifth too, considering he was in the pits at the end of the first lap with a broken front wing and facing a significant loss of points to Hamilton at the front of the title fight. Losing ‘just’ 15 points to the Mercedes driver was a save, of sorts. “My start was too good, then I ended up with nowhere to go,” he said.

The naughty corner
Bottas was the innocent party in the first-corner mess, but the Finn (albeit with a damaged floor) was 19 seconds behind Vettel at the end after both stopped at the same time for new tyres after the first lap. But the biggest losers at the French Grand Prix were the local drivers, Grosjean hitting Ocon on lap one and being given a five-second time penalty as he missed the points by just one place. At least he made it to the end; Ocon and fellow Frenchman Gasly barely lasted after the start, with Gasly tripping over Ocon at the Turn 3-4 chicane in an incident that saw both cars out on the spot. And spare a thought for Alonso, who crawled to a halt on the final lap with suspension damage to be the last car classified, seven days after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans …

What’s next?
Leg two of Formula One’s first-ever triple-header comes in just seven days’ time in Austria, where the Red Bull Ring will host round nine of the 21-round season. The bad news for anyone not driving a Mercedes? Austria has been a power track ever since it returned to the F1 fold in 2014 after an 11-year hiatus, and the Silver Arrows have won all four races, two victories for the now-retired Nico Rosberg, and one each for Hamilton (2016) and Bottas (last year).

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F1 and France: a marriage resumed

After a hiatus of 10 years, F1 returns to the birthplace of Grand Prix racing in France this weekend; here’s your guide of why and what to watch at Paul Ricard.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Champagne. Parc ferme. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, otherwise known as the FIA. And, of course, ‘Grand Prix’ itself. The French influence in Formula One is everywhere, from the spraying of the bubbly in celebration of success to the Paris-based governing body that runs the sport, not to mention the quest for the ‘grand prize’ itself every fortnight in a different corner of the world. So how is it that France, which has its fingerprints all over F1, hasn’t been one of those corners for a decade?

We could spend hours going into all the reasons why here (some geographical, others financial, others still political). But the good news is that France is back in a big way, from Renault’s recent return as a fully-fledged manufacturer team in addition to supplying engines to Red Bull Racing and McLaren, to the stat that 20 per cent of the sport’s current crop of drivers are from France – Esteban Ocon (Force India), Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Romain Grosjean (Haas) and (he’s from nearby Monaco, so we say he counts) rookie sensation Charles Leclerc from Sauber. More French drivers than any other country was unthinkable as recently as three years ago.

Now, and not before time, comes a French Grand Prix – not at Magny-Cours, the relatively unloved rural circuit that hosted the race 18 times from 1991, but at Circuit Paul Ricard, the track named after the French industrialist on the French Riviera at Le Castellet, near Marseille. F1 hasn’t raced there since 1990, when home hero Alain Prost took his third win in succession at the track for Ferrari, and while modern-day F1 has tested there in the past, the 20-driver grid will be heading into the unknown over 53 laps of the 5.8km layout this Sunday.

What should we watch for as F1 races under the tricolore for the first time since 2008 this weekend? Plenty, but we’ll limit ourselves to these five talking points.

1. Ferrari v Mercedes: what gives?
After years of silver-hued dominance since F1 embarked on its V6 turbo hybrid adventure five seasons ago, it’s refreshing to come to the eighth round of the season with no clear-cut idea of which car is the class of the field, nor which driver holds sway in the fight for the drivers’ title. Ferrari has won three 2018 races, Mercedes and Red Bull two each, and Sebastian Vettel, by virtue of his last-start win in Montreal, heads Lewis Hamilton by a single point at the one-third marker of the season. Vettel led from start to end in Canada, but remember the dominance Hamilton had over the rest just two races ago in Spain, Daniel Ricciardo’s flawless weekend in Monaco coming in the middle of those two races? The title, you suggest, will still likely boil down to a race to be first to five (world championships) between Vettel and Hamilton, but the fact we still don’t have any more clarity about the narrative as we head to Ricard has to be a good thing. Throw a largely unknown circuit into the mix this weekend, and the intrigue will be heightened all the more.

2. Which local should we watch closest?
Home races do funny things to some drivers – just look at the relatively underwhelming records of Ricciardo and his compatriot who preceded him at Red Bull, Mark Webber, in Australia over the years – but the French drivers on the grid this weekend have either reason to be optimistic, fodder to fuel a patriotic push or form on the board. Gasly (11th in the championship with 18 points) owes much of his place in the standings to a momentous fourth place in Bahrain; indeed, the 22-year-old has scored points in just one other race (Monaco), but feels Honda’s engine upgrade brought to Canada should lift Toro Rosso’s results, and fast. Ocon (13th, 11 points) is next, and while Force India started 2018 with a whimper (the Frenchman and teammate Sergio Perez managed just one point between them in the first three races), the team has been coming on strong since, and Ocon backed up his stirring sixth in Monaco with a passable ninth in Canada. Grosjean would be happy with any haul of points, no matter how small, after being just one of two drivers yet to trouble the scorers in the opening seven rounds, a statistical quirk that by no means reflects the pace of his Haas car on occasion. But the “French” driver most likely to shine at Ricard this weekend, if momentum is any guide, is Leclerc, the Monegasque youngster seemingly getting better by the race as he routinely qualifies just outside of the top 10, and often finishes in it. Given his home of Monaco is all of 200km away from this week’s venue, we’re nominating the 20-year-old Sauber man as the ‘home’ driver to keep a keen eye on.

3. Who does the circuit favour?
The Ricard layout features three very long straights and several hairpin turns, the mixture of flat-out blasts and big stops not dissimilar in nature to Canada a fortnight ago. So does this mean we’re in for a Ferrari (well, a Vettel) benefit again? Not so fast. Mercedes elected not to bring its much-vaunted engine upgrade to Canada, while rivals Ferrari, Renault and Honda all had new powerplants in their cars at a track where getting out of the slow corners is critical. Hamilton struggled with intermittent power drop-outs and an overheating engine in Canada as he laboured to an underwhelming fifth, but felt that was an escape of sorts given he thought “the engine was going to blow”. Leaving Montreal just a single point behind Vettel and with a chance to fight again in France was the best possible outcome. Should Mercedes run its new ‘phase 2’ engine as planned in France, we’ll have a more level playing field again, and a chance to see which team might have the upper hand for the next seven races until further upgrades are planned for the flyaways to end the year.

4. Speaking of engines …
What will Red Bull do? That’s the question that will hang over the return of F1 to France this weekend, after Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul suggested it won’t wait until the next race in Austria, as Red Bull prefers, for the team to take up or knock back its engine supply deal for 2019 and beyond. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk for Red Bull, which is keenly examining the progress made by Toro Rosso with Honda’s own engine upgrade, which is hard to do from Canada alone after Gasly started from the back of the grid, and given Brendon Hartley crashed out five corners into the race after an incident with Williams’ Lance Stroll. “They have all the information, I see absolutely no reason to delay that any further,” Abiteboul said after Montreal. For his part, Gasly, who finished 11th in Canada after taking a new engine following qualifying, said he felt he’d gained three places from where he would have finished with the old Honda engine. “For me, is looking good,” he told reporters after the race. “I overtook a Haas, I overtook a Force India on the straight, which is the first time this year. Clearly on the data we can see that it’s a really good step forward.” There’s much to ponder for Red Bull, and whatever decision is made in France could have long-lasting ramifications.

5. Will we get a classic race in France?
Let’s hope so, after the past two Grands Prix in Monaco and Canada were won by the pole-sitter, who was never headed. We’re not expecting to hit the high-water mark of the French GP dice to top all dices (the manic battle for second between Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux at Dijon in 1979, which is regularly cited as the benchmark of all F1 brawls), but something that even evokes memories of this would be more than welcome …

What happened at the Canadian Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel takes Ferrari’s first win in Montreal since 2004 and the championship lead, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen makes the podium at a race that didn’t quite end when it should have …

THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON REDBULL.COM

The build-up
Engine talk was all the rage heading into Montreal, Ferrari coming to the Canadian round with an upgraded powerplant, Honda bringing a revamped unit for Toro Rosso, and Renault deploying its latest-spec engine for its works team, McLaren and, more intriguingly, Red Bull, as the latter weighs up a continuation of the relationship with the supplier that has brought it four world championships, but precious little since F1 began its V6 turbo hybrid era since 2014. Interestingly, Mercedes elected not to introduce its new engine for Canada, and Ferrari pounced, Sebastian Vettel taking his fourth pole of the season with a circuit record lap of 1min 10.764secs in Q3, edging Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas by 0.093secs.More decisively, Vettel’s lap was 0.232secs faster than Bottas’ teammate Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader labouring through a scruffy session that featured several lock-ups into the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s super-tight Turn 10 hairpin. Between the two Mercedes pilots was Max Verstappen, the Red Bull driver so frustrated with the line of questioning before the race weekend over his erratic form this season that he (half-jokingly) threatened to “headbutt” someone. Verstappen led all three practice sessions heading into qualifying, and finishing just 0.173secs off pole at a circuit where even the upgraded Renault engine was 0.3secs slower than Mercedes and Ferrari in the final sector alone was no mean feat. “We can race them from here,” he said. The Dutchman comfortably had teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s measure too, the Monaco GP winner in sixth and continuing his relatively poor pace in Canada – Montreal is, statistically, the Australian’s worst track in qualifying compared to his various teammates over the years. Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was, not for the first time in 2018, best of the unofficial “second division” in seventh, while similarly-powered McLaren were miserable after Fernando Alonso (14th on his 300th GP start) and Stoffel Vandoorne (15th) were ousted in Q2. Elsewhere, Brendon Hartley, who came into the weekend facing speculation over his future, was a strong 12th for Toro Rosso, while Charles Leclerc became the first Sauber driver to make Q2 for four straight races since 2014 when he was 13th, the rookie out-performing both McLarens. The other Ferrari-powered customer team, Haas, provided the drama of qualifying in its opening seconds, Romain Grosjean not even making it out of pit lane before smoke erupted from the back of his car, an oil leak into the exhaust the cause.

The race in exactly 69 words*
Vettel took Ferrari’s first win in Canada in 14 years and his first in Montreal since 2013 with an assured lights-to-flag victory, reclaiming the championship lead in the process with his 50th GP win. Bottas and Verstappen held their second and third positions on the grid for the entire race, which was classified after 68 of the 70 laps after the chequered flag was bizarrely waved early by mistake.
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)

Ricciardo recap
After admitting to employing teammate Verstappen’s car set-up after final practice, the Australian had his eyes forwards from sixth on the grid, and immediately gained a position with a smooth move past Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari at the inside of Turn 2 on the opening lap. From there, the Red Bull sat behind fourth-placed Hamilton until the Mercedes made its sole pit stop on lap 16, Ricciardo then producing a storming in-lap that saw him pit a lap later, leapfrogging the Briton in his tyre stop. Hamilton never let Ricciardo rest the remainder of the way, getting into the one-second DRS zone on several occasions late in the race, but Ricciardo never blinked to bring home a solid haul of 12 points for fourth. The only two downsides: Bottas’ second place saw the Finn demote Riccardo to fourth overall in the championship (with 84 points to Bottas’ 86), while his fastest lap of the race on the 70th and final lap was annulled when the race was classified after lap 68 because of the chequered flag being waved too early by Canadian model Winnie Harlow (for the record, Verstappen’s lap 65 time of 1:13.864, 0.025secs faster than Ricciardo’s final lap that wasn’t, was the official fastest lap of the race). Ricciardo happy? Not so much …

What the result means
Vettel’s perfect weekend in Montreal – pole position, won the race, led every lap and took possession of the championship lead once more – gave us the third different winner in three different cars in as many races (Hamilton won in Spain, Ricciardo in Monaco), which suggests things are rosy at the top of the Formula One. From a competitive standpoint, perhaps, and two drivers separated by one point at the top of the standings one-third of the way through the season bodes well for what’s to follow. But for the second straight race, this was a Grand Prix where the cars never seemed to be really pushed, the front of the pack using one-stop tyre strategies to try to keep track position across the 70 (well, 68) laps rather than make a second visit to the pits. Brakes are always marginal in Montreal, and Bottas in particular was managing dwindling reserves of fuel towards the end which allowed Verstappen to close, but this was more a procession than a race, as teams worked out they could baby their tyres to the end rather than need to change them by allowing their drivers to race harder. Other than that, Vettel’s imperious weekend was a sign, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said afterwards, that his team needed to “wake up”. “It is a shit result for us,” Wolff fumed. “I have to put it like that. It is a strong track for us, but all weekend long we did little mistakes, from the beginning on. We fall behind in every aspect. This is a track where we should have maximised points, it was not about performing damage limitation.”

For historical purposes …
He was one of just three retirements in the race, but Alonso racked up his 300th F1 start in Montreal; the Spaniard is fourth in the all-time history books, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello (326 races from 1993-2011) leading that stat category.

The number to know
50: With a half-century of Grand Prix wins, Vettel joins Michael Schumacher (91), Hamilton (64) and Alain Prost (51) as the only drivers to achieve 50 or more F1 victories.

Under-the-radar winner(s)
Vettel’s headline-capturing win and the headline-stealing chequered flag contretemps have been given enough airtime already, so we’ll run with two more besides Hartley and Stroll given the all-clear after their massive shunt. Bottas fought off Verstappen in the opening two corners with guile, force and composure, which, as 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg suggested in the TV coverage, was important for a driver who can be seen to be a bit of a soft touch in the heat of wheel-to-wheel battle. And a shout-out (again) needs to be directed towards Leclerc, who rounded out the points in 10th place in a car with fading brakes, one race after brake failure saw him crash at Monaco. That’s three points finishes in four races for the impressive young Monegasque.

The naughty corner
While we’re on Leclerc, the Ferrari protégé who is making quite a name for himself at Ferrari-powered Sauber, Vettel’s teammate Raikkonen finished 27 seconds behind the sister car on the same pit stop strategy in sixth, and has 53 points fewer than Vettel in just seven races, statistics that don’t require additional analysis. Stroll’s oversteer moment that squeezed Hartley into the Turn 5 wall soon after the start deserves a berth here, while Sergio Perez would probably nominate Carlos Sainz in this category, the Force India driver calling for the Renault pilot to be black-flagged after Perez ran wide at Turn 1 while the two were in combat early in the race. Sainz would finish a lapped eighth, but Perez was 13th after trying a two-stop strategy to get back on terms that failed.

What’s next?
It’s a return to the past for F1 in a fortnight when the series shifts to France (June 24) for the first race in the country where the first Grand Prix was held since 2008, and the first race at the Paul Ricard track for 28 years, when Prost won for Ferrari in 1990. It’s a track only a few drivers are familiar with from testing, meaning round eight will be the most level of playing fields as F1 heads into a busy part of the calendar, the round at Ricard preceding the races in Austria and Great Britain in three consecutive weekends.

The Dan Diaries: Memories of Monaco

In his latest driver column, Daniel Ricciardo relives his win at the most famous Grand Prix of all, and the celebrations that took a while to begin …

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It’s been a hectic, hectic time since Monaco. Some good celebrating, I won’t lie (once I got to it, I’ll come back to that). And it’s awesome to finally be a Monaco Grand Prix winner. But I’ve needed some downtime afterwards, so that’s why I’m out in Los Angeles between races, seeing some sun, my parents are here and we’re just taking things quietly. It was required, for sure.

But back to why I had something to celebrate. You probably saw the look I had on my face after the race at Monaco, where you pull up on the start-finish straight and head for that podium, which is pretty unique in the royal box. I was obviously stoked to win, but there were parts of me that were relieved, parts that were exhausted, and parts of me that couldn’t help but think back to two years ago when I should have won there. Sort of felt like it should have been a celebration for a second time.

Mentally, I was fried too. Monaco is always a long week, there’s a lot going on outside of the car, and with practice starting on Thursday there instead of Friday like it does everywhere else, it does take a lot out of you. For me, only Melbourne compares because of the commitments we have, and you add that to the fact it’s in your adopted home as well and there’s so many people around, your energy levels start to run empty. Some of that was self-inflicted, to be fair, because I’d put a lot of pressure on myself all week this year to try to win it. Once I did that, I was gassed.

The race itself, you all know what happened when I had a power issue, and at that stage there were 50 laps until the end. I’m not someone who is superstitious, but the first thought that came into my head was ‘what do I have to do to win this thing?’ I felt the power loss, and as soon as you feel something like that, you’re thinking it’s terminal and there’s no way back. Being in a good position in any race and have something go wrong sucks obviously, but the fact it was Monaco, I was in front like 2016, and it looked like ending badly, you’re not really analysing it, you’re just emotionally flat. The whole weekend had gone so well – quickest on Thursday like 2016, pole like 2016 – that I couldn’t get my head around it ending badly again.

When I lost power in the race, it wasn’t some gradual build-up, it was instant. I felt it and I heard it, I put my foot down and the noise that came back to me wasn’t what I was expecting. It sounded sick, basically. I was around Turn 3, Turn 4, around the Casino Square area when it went. Not cool. But as you saw, we managed it. The team gave me the info that they could without telling the whole world and everyone behind me what the drama was (not easy!) and then it was up to me to make the adjustments, drive differently, keep things under control and keep that track position, which around there is so important. It was a long old 50 laps and I didn’t need that virtual safety car near the end when (Charles) Leclerc and Brendon (Hartley) had their accident, that got the heart rate up a bit. But we got it done. Explains why I felt a bit mentally fried, really.

The celebrations I spoke about? You saw some of them. But the reality of the Sunday celebrations was that they were pretty tame. The whole thing was a whirlwind. After the race, I did my media commitments before walking back onto the Red Bull Energy Station. It was like the Queen had arrived, I got this massive ovation, and then it was straight up to the pool and the photos and video up there that you’ve seen. I had to then run down to my drivers’ room to have a shower to get out of my race suit so I didn’t catch pneumonia, the pool water was freezing! Did two TV interviews, and then I had to go off to this gala dinner with Monaco’s royalty. Got a boat back to my apartment, my Mum was already there getting my suit out and ready for me. I stayed at the dinner until 12.30am, then got back home. I was tired, my mates who were in town for the race had already gone out, but I didn’t have the energy to do the same. So – I’m not joking – had a beer in bed and tried to run through the day in my mind and what had happened. Glamourous, huh?

The good news was that Monday in Monaco is always one of the bigger celebrations of the year, so I caught up with my mates that morning and we enjoyed the day, for sure. I had 10 mates in for the weekend, some from Europe and some from Oz, and I always tell anyone who comes to Monaco to make sure they fly out on Tuesday. It was definitely good to be the reason to celebrate properly this time.

Back to the on-track stuff, and more specifically qualifying, which is one of the coolest sessions of the year. When you’re looking for one absolutely nailed-on lap around there, low fuel, you can thrash the tyres, leave nothing on the table – it’s a massive rush. There were parts of it that had more aggression, more oversteer and that sort of thing, but it was just clean. I knew what I had to do, and I felt like I didn’t need to drive at 101 per cent to get the time out. I was really happy with it, and when I crossed the line after the first lap I did in Q3, the one that got pole for me, I actually asked my race engineer Simon (Rennie) how much faster we were than the others, because it felt like a pole lap. I didn’t need to ask him what position we were, I knew.

We had Pirelli’s hypersoft tyre for the first time in Monaco too, the softest one they’ve had, and we’re using it in Canada next weekend as well. It’s exciting to have a softer tyre that feels like a genuine qualifying-style tyre and will drop off in performance in the race, and looking back to Monaco, it makes me really excited for Canada because we managed it well in the race. In Monaco, the team pitted me and I actually felt there was more performance in it, it wasn’t like I was desperate to get rid of them, and generally I reckon we managed those tyres better than the others. So that could be a really good sign for Canada. That circuit will be hard on them for sure, but hopefully we’re in a better place than the others.

Canada means good memories for me of course with my first win back in ’14, seems like a long time ago now. Strangely enough it hasn’t been a track where I’ve done all that well, I had that win and a third last year, and not a whole lot else. But Montreal is a cool city for us to go to and I like the track, it’s a bit old-school and you have to be able to attack those chicanes and use the kerbs. Of all the places we go to, it’s a bit like Melbourne – semi-permanent street circuit in a public park, the city is close, there’s water, the fans are always there in big numbers and early in the day because there’s always other categories on track … feels a bit like my home race.

There’s nothing like going to the next race weekend when you’ve just won, and I know there’s a lot of chat about whether I’m a genuine title contender now I’ve won two out of the first six races. We’ll have to see about that. If I get another one or two before the mid-season break, then maybe that’s the answer …

Canada 2014 – how Dan did it: an oral history

As we gear up for next week’s race in Montreal, this is the inside story of how Daniel Ricciardo first became a Formula One race winner four years ago.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The Daniel Ricciardo of 2018 is one of Formula One’s shining lights, a multiple race-winner with a style all his own, and with an outsize personality and approach to his craft that endears him to the sport’s fans the world over. That’s the now, but what about the then?

When did Ricciardo’s promise, honed in British Formula 3 and built upon in the best part of three F1 seasons with HRT and Scuderia Toro Rosso from 2011-13, turn into production, and a landmark result that established him as a perennial powerhouse for years to come?

The upcoming Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal marks four years since Ricciardo’s career breakthrough, a maiden win achieved in a remarkable race, and a victory that came in a season where Mercedes adapted best to the new V6 turbo hybrid engine era that F1 had headed headlong into, coming to Canada with six wins from six poles in six races to start the year. It was a win that owed itself to pace, persistence, storming through a door that had been left ajar and not putting a foot wrong when the stakes were at their highest – all of which have become hallmarks of the vast majority of Ricciardo’s six F1 victories since.

As we gear up for the 2018 race around the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on the Ile-Notre Dame next Sunday, we re-live Ricciardo’s breakthrough in this oral history, through the eyes of Daniel himself, and those who were there or played a part in the Grand Prix that established the wide-smiled hopeful as a genuine F1 star.

THE EARLY DAYS AT RED BULL

With Mark Webber’s retirement at the end of 2013, Red Bull Racing signed off on the normally-aspired V8 engine era in imperious style, Webber’s teammate Sebastian Vettel winning 13 races (including the last nine of the season) to saunter to a fourth world title in a row. But pre-season testing in 2014 was a nightmare for Red Bull, Vettel and new signing Ricciardo, reliability gremlins with Renault’s power plant meaning the team hadn’t completed a single race distance before heading to Ricciardo’s homeland for the opening Grand Prix of the year in Melbourne.

Would the RB10 even make it to the chequered flag in Melbourne? How slowly would Ricciardo and Vettel have to drive if it did, in order to preserve an engine that was, at best, fragile? Expectations were muted in the extreme.

Daniel (to this author in December 2013): I’ve come to not really like the word ‘expectations’ because it can be a bit of a let-down sometimes … but let’s say I definitely have plans. Hopefully the car is competitive, but even if it isn’t, for me I’d love to give it to Seb, start the season hopefully in front but, being realistic, close to him. I’m not allowing time for myself.

While Vettel was an early retiree in Australia, Ricciardo qualified a career-best second in a deluge on Saturday, and then finished a stunning second in the race behind Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg for his first career podium, or so he thought. Hours after the delirious masses had vacated Albert Park, Ricciardo’s RB10 was excluded from the results for breaching the sport’s fuel flow regulations, a bitter blow. But Ricciardo’s pace – not to mention standing on the podium for the first time despite having to relinquish his trophy afterwards – left him in a buoyant mood.

Daniel (to The Age newspaper, October 2014): I didn’t know about being disqualified when I left the circuit, but I feared for it. Driving back to the hotel, I decided I needed to have a beer – do something – to enjoy that memory of standing up on the podium for the first time whether I kept it or not. And then the call came. A few of my mates were staying in the hotel, so I had them come up to my room and we had a few quiet drinks. I didn’t have a lot to say. I wanted to at least remember how the day felt, because I had nothing to show for it. I didn’t leave the track with my trophy – I never actually saw it again. It hurt, but I look back at it now as a great weekend. It did a lot for me; I still stood on the podium and got those jitters out of the system. But knowing it was taken off me, it just made me more hungry to get it back.

It didn’t take long. After a DNF in Malaysia and a podium near-miss in Bahrain when he finished fourth after starting 13th following a 10-place grid penalty for an unsafe pit release at Sepang, Ricciardo was fourth again in China, finishing just behind Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari in third and, more eye-catchingly, 20 seconds ahead of teammate and reigning four-time world champion Vettel in the sister Red Bull.

After coming close twice, Ricciardo finally took his maiden podium at the following race in Spain, qualifying third and finishing in the same position as Mercedes ran away with it at the front, finishing 49secs behind Lewis Hamilton but inside the top three for the first time. The next race in Monaco saw him qualify and finish third again, finishing right in Hamilton’s wheeltracks as Rosberg won.

As the teams went to Canada for round seven of 2014, it was Mercedes first and daylight second, Hamilton’s retirement in Australia the only reason the Silver Arrows hadn’t finished 1-2 in every race. Ricciardo was fourth in the championship with 54 points, seven points behind Alonso in third and nine points ahead of teammate Vettel, but Canada wasn’t exactly his happiest of hunting grounds. In three previous visits, he’d never qualified inside the top 10, never finished better than 14th (and had never therefore scored a single world championship point), and just 12 months previously, had endured what he later described as one of the toughest race weekends of his time in F1.

Daniel (to redbull.com, July 2016): Canada 2013 … might have been the turning point in my career. We knew Mark was leaving Red Bull, and Canada that year was honestly one of the worst races of my life. (Teammate) Jean-Eric (Vergne) was sixth which was almost like a victory in a Toro Rosso, and I was 15th and absolutely nowhere. Sometimes you’re slow and you can rationalise that because you know why, but that weekend I was bad and I wasn’t sure why. Maybe knowing there was a Red Bull seat available made it worse. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really like race cars much after that weekend. I had to try something different because it just didn’t make sense. I went to New York for a week after Montreal and tried not to think about racing at all and stop beating myself up about it …

PRACTICE: BACK IN THE PACK

The long back straight of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve couldn’t have suited the Red Bull package less, the gains shown on Monaco’s twisting city streets likely to be wiped out by the long blast from the hairpin to the final chicane of the circuit in Canada. The team’s mood ahead of the weekend was cautious at best, and that middling confidence proved correct when Ricciardo finished just 12th in Friday practice in Montreal, 1.5secs behind the pace-setting Mercedes of Hamilton.

Daniel (after practice): I guess (12th) was a bit of a surprise. We obviously hoped to be a bit further up there. I don’t feel at home with the car, but at the same time we don’t feel 1.5 seconds off. We have a bit to understand. What is positive is that Seb put in a quick (lap), so we can see what he did there and try to see where we are in comparison, see where I need to work and see if we can get further up.

Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal: I think Montreal is going to be a challenging race for us. Renault is working hard behind the scenes, and we were much, much closer in Monaco. But you go from one extreme to the other: Monaco is all about handling characteristics, this is straight-line performance, so it is going to be very interesting to see how we fare against the Mercedes-powered teams.

Daniel: If we don’t get it right we can be a long way back as we have seen. We have to make sure we nail it.

QUALIFYING: BETTER, BUT WORST

Ricciardo was more buoyant when he was able to finish fifth in final practice, Mercedes unsurprisingly leading the way again, but qualifying was tougher, the Australian slotting into sixth place for what – at the time – was his worst qualifying performance of 2014. Mercedes locked out the front row, Rosberg edging Hamilton by 0.079secs, and while Red Bull claimed the mantle of ‘best of the rest’, that went to Vettel, who led a quartet of cars separated by just 0.041secs, Ricciardo at the rear of that group. It was the first time the German had outqualified his new teammate in four races.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing (after qualifying): The start of that last lap wasn’t great, I didn’t manage to get the first sector right, but I tried to take more risks and it worked. In terms of fighting with the car, it is still not where we want to be.

Horner: If you’d have offered us third and sixth in qualifying before the weekend, I think we’d have definitely taken it.

Daniel: We were close to third, but not close enough and we paid a bit of a price. We’ve made progress throughout the weekend and we were not too far off, but it’s disappointing to just miss out.

Nico Rosberg, pole position, Mercedes: That was very important as there aren’t many opportunities to overtake here, particularly if you are in the same car. I think it will be a battle between the two of us (Mercedes drivers) out there tomorrow, the gap to the other cars was quite big.

Lewis Hamilton, second: I just had two laps and I didn’t do good laps. It was nothing to do with the car.

Daniel: Shithouse – but if you want something you can print, say ‘scrappy’. I’m trying to cheer myself up, I was a bit frustrated. Being less than half a tenth from three more positions up the grid, that’s frustrating. I made a few mistakes and paid the price. It sucks for me today, but that is how it should be.

RACE: FROM SIXTH TO THE TOP STEP

With the race looking like an equation of one in two for the victory, Rosberg and Hamilton knew the first corner was critical, and the German robustly defended his position from his teammate at the start, Vettel slicing past Hamilton as the Briton took to the escape road at the second corner after being pushed wide by Rosberg. Hamilton regained second on lap 10 of 70, and the race settled into a familiar pattern, the two Mercedes cars in their own private squabble out front while the rest competed for the other podium spot.

But the stop-go nature of the Montreal street circuit regularly throws up curveballs, and by half-distance, it seemed the Silver Arrows weren’t bulletproof after all. Both Rosberg and Hamilton reported sudden losses of power from their engines, and both drivers dropped their pace by two seconds a lap and made a second pit stop as the team madly searched for a fix. No solution was forthcoming for Hamilton, who retired with brake failure on lap 48, but Rosberg still had enough pace at the front of the field in a compromised car that a third victory of the year looked safe.

Behind him, a monstrously quick in-lap for Ricciardo saw him leapfrog teammate Vettel in his second pit stop, and the Australian set off after Force India’s Sergio Perez, who was attempting to nurse a one-stop tyre strategy to the podium.

Daniel (post-race): I was told about Lewis first and pretty much straight away I was passing him and he was cruising back to the pits. At that time I was trying to count what position I was, and I think I was third then. I was thinking ‘OK, this is a podium, this is good’, and then a few laps later I could see that Rosberg was not far in front. From him being 20 seconds or 30 seconds down the road, all of a sudden he was in my sight. I had to look twice, but then I realised that we’ve got a race on our hands.

Perez had track position and a faster car down the back straight, but the Mexican was battling with his own brake dramas, and Ricciardo spied an opportunity to pounce.

Daniel (August, 2014): When I saw Rosberg having his straight-line speed problems, which is where (Mercedes has) been clearly more dominant, it clearly put it into perspective that yes, we’ve got a shot. So it was just then about getting past Perez. He was the roadblock, in a way.

With five laps left and with no way past at the final chicane after the back straight, Ricciardo launched an audacious attack on Perez at the first corner, and – just – made it stick. Second would have been his best F1 finish to date, but Rosberg was within touching distance. It was time to go for it.

Daniel (August, 2014): I was behind (Sergio) for a quite a few laps, and his tyres … he was doing a good job to hold on, and I was thinking ‘is it ever going to happen?’. I finally got a really good run off the last chicane. I knew we were strong on the brakes, so went around the outside in turn one and just held on. A little bit on the grass, but just held on.

Ricciardo got within DRS range of Rosberg on the back straight with three laps left, went by, and, having never led a Formula One race before, was less than 10 kilometres from winning one. Which is when his mind started to wander.

Daniel (August, 2014): When I took the lead, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I could feel my heart rate creep up a bit. Although I felt all these emotions inside, I was still able to keep a cool head and know what I was doing. It’s not like all of a sudden I forgot how to drive. I was still hitting my marks, but yeah, there was a bit more going on in the tummy. Every gear shift you make, every time you hit the brakes, you’re just hoping that nothing comes off, nothing explodes, you just want the car to pull up. You just hope that mechanically, everything works.

Behind him, as the final lap started, Perez led Williams’ Felipe Massa for the third and final podium spot, Vettel waiting patiently in case something happened ahead of him. And it did, the Mexican and Brazilian coming together at the first corner in a massive accident that promoted Vettel to third, and saw the safety car immediately deployed. With debris strewn all over the circuit, the race was effectively neutralised on the last lap, with no more passing permitted. Ricciardo’s win was assured, but it wasn’t the way he imagined he’d win his first Grand Prix, crawling across the line at little more than walking pace.

Daniel (August, 2014): I didn’t know whether to jump up or take a breath. I was quite exhausted, I think mentally I was knackered, and I didn’t really know what to do. It was surreal.

Vettel (post-race): I saw (Perez and Massa) were close to each other, I saw something white coming in the mirror and I opened the car, turned right, and Felipe was in the air coming past … I was quite lucky and saw him just in time.

Felipe Massa, Williams (post-race): I talked to (Perez) at the medical centre, I was so disappointed with him. He needs to learn. I wanted him to put himself in my place, because I had a huge crash and honestly I thought it was going to hurt. It’s not the first time that he turned into somebody under braking. He did this many times. He didn’t say anything, he just turned left. I hope he learns. We are doing around 300km/h there.

Winning was nothing new for a team that had won 13 of 19 races the season prior, but given the size of the deficit Red Bull (and seemingly every other squad) had to Mercedes in the first half of 2014, this was a victory to savour.

Horner (post-race): I didn’t believe that we could win this race, but the way Daniel has driven, the way he has made his passing moves, he just grabbed his opportunity. He has driven faultlessly all season and I am delighted for him that he won his first Grand Prix. It is a wonderful feeling for any driver. It was nice to have Seb on the podium to enjoy it with him and it is a very special day in his life and career. I am sure it will probably take a day or two for it to sink in.

Ricciardo (to The Age newspaper, October 2014): I’ve been impressed by the level of respect Seb has shown me. He’s been gracious in defeat – when I’ve won, he was approaching me and patting me on the back. I don’t like losing either, so I know it’s not easy to do these things. But he’s always shown me a good level of respect, and for that I’ve given him more respect because of the way he’s handled it. There’s been no conflicts.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari (post-race): Who would’ve thought Red Bull would win a race so soon after winter testing? Mercedes was so dominant, but they had mechanical issues, so you need to be there to take the opportunities and Red Bull was there. That gives us motivation and shows us how things can change during a race weekend … anything can happen.

Daniel (August, 2014): You think you can do it, but until you do it, you never know if you’ll crumble under the pressure or whatever. It was nice to know that I could do it, that made me very happy. Seeing all the people below (the podium) in the team, the fans, there were a few people in the crowd chanting ‘Ricciardo’ … that was a noise or sound I’ll never forget, an image I’ll never forget.

A pre-planned flight back home to Europe later that Sunday evening was quickly cancelled as Ricciardo, his long-time trainer Stuart Smith and the team took the chance to celebrate a success few – not even they – saw coming.

Ricciardo (to the Australian Grand Prix official program, 2015): It wasn’t until Stu and I left the track in the hire car hours after the race that it actually hit me. It was the first time I’d had to actually contemplate what I’d done and be alone with my thoughts. Red Bull put on a party in Montreal, but my main feeling wasn’t excitement, more exhaustion. I had a couple of drinks, but once the adrenaline wore off, I wasn’t full of energy. Mentally I was shattered. I realised I needed to do better next time …

POSTSCRIPT

Ricciardo certainly did better next time, and the time after: in the final race before F1’s mid-season break that year in Hungary, he hunted down and passed Alonso’s Ferrari in the last laps of the race – sound familiar? – to take career win number two. “That was messy,” he laughs now of the celebrations in Budapest, with long-time mates from Perth who’d come over to see the race. A third win came in Belgium when Rosberg and Hamilton tripped over one another early in the race, and by the end of 2014, Ricciardo had three victories, five other podiums, finished third in the world championship and beat Vettel by 71 points in the 19 races, the German announcing at that year’s Japanese Grand Prix that he’d be heading to Ferrari after being soundly thrashed by his new teammate.

Since, Ricciardo has won four Grands Prix (Malaysia 2016, Azerbaijan 2017, China 2018 and Monaco last time out), all in dramatic or compelling circumstances, but memories of that Canadian breakthrough still burn brightest. Last year in Canada, he convinced esteemed British actor Sir Patrick Stewart to join him in a post-race shoey on the podium when he finished third – what celebrations might we get in Montreal next Sunday if the affable Aussie is able to reprise his 2014 triumph once again?

What happened at the Monaco Grand Prix?

It’s sweet redemption at Monaco for Daniel Ricciardo, the Aussie taking a win that was two years in the making by leading from start to finish while battling a crippled car on Sunday.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The build-up
“I run these $treets” read the message beneath the trademark honey badger that features at the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s driver helmet before the Monaco weekend, and the Australian backed up his (or the badger’s) words with the second pole position of his career for Red Bull Racing on Saturday, which came after he’d led all three practice sessions and all three knockout stages of qualifying. Ricciardo’s pole lap of 1min 10.810secs was the fastest-ever tour of the 3.337km roads around the Principality, and he was remarkably calm afterwards, commenting “it was one of those pretty smooth ones, I could just build up to it and find my rhythm and have some fun.”

While there was joy on one side of the Red Bull garage in its 250th race weekend, there was plenty of pain on the other, Max Verstappen failing to make qualifying at all after shunting heavily at Turn 16, the exit of the Swimming Pool section, in final practice.

The accident, reminiscent of one at the same corner two years ago, destroyed the right-front corner of Verstappen’s RB14 and necessitated a gearbox change, the Dutchman condemned to a back-of-the-grid start at a circuit where overtaking is close to impossible. Given that he was second to Ricciardo in all three practice sessions, it was a massive blow. “You don’t get that many opportunities to win a Monaco GP,” said team principal Christian Horner. “He needs to learn from it, and stop making these errors.” Verstappen’s crash marked the sixth weekend from six this season where he’s had an incident or contact with other cars/the barriers.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel pulled out a superb final lap to get within 0.229secs of Ricciardo for second, while championship leader Lewis Hamilton was next, admitting his Mercedes wasn’t in Red Bull’s league on such a specific track. Verstappen’s absence from Q3 opened the door for another team to gatecrash the first three rows, and it was Esteban Ocon who emerged from the pack to nab sixth spot for Force India, the Frenchman leading a quintet of cars separated by just 0.160secs. “We have a great opportunity,” Ocon beamed afterwards.

Further back, Fernando Alonso was an all-action seventh for McLaren, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (10th) made Q3 at his first Monaco Grand Prix, and Sergey Sirotkin impressed for Williams by making Q2 and qualifying 13th, a rare bright spot for the team that sits dead-last in the constructors’ standings.

Other than Verstappen’s, the faces were longest at Haas, Romain Grosjean qualifying 15th but starting 18th after his three-place penalty for causing the first-lap shunt in Spain kicked in, and the man who was best of the rest in Barcelona, Kevin Magnussen, slowest of all.

But all eyes were on Ricciardo, after he reprised his 2016 pole on the same streets. “50 per cent done, let’s finish this s**t tomorrow,” he said, perhaps mindful of the ’16 race that saw a win thrown away through no fault of his own after a calamitous pit stop. Working against him on a circuit where passing is so hard? Recent history; oddly, the pole-sitter hadn’t won at Monaco since 2014.

The race in exactly 69 words*
Ricciardo led from start to finish to win his seventh GP, but had to manage the loss of his MGU-K from lap 28, keeping Vettel behind despite being 25 per cent down on power for 65 per cent of the race. Hamilton was third, the top six on the grid finishing where they started. Verstappen climbed from the back to ninth, and set the fastest lap of the race.  
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)

Ricciardo recap
Fifty laps of keeping his cool after reporting he was “losing power” finally cracked for Ricciardo when he rolled to a halt on the start-finish straight, allowing himself an emotional moment alone in the car before the podium ceremony to let his first Monaco win sink in. The pain of losing the 2016 race in the Principality has never really gone away for the 28-year-old, and his immediate comments – “redemption”, “two years in the making” – showed you where his mind was as he climbed the steps to the royal box to receive the winner’s trophy every driver covets like no other. Yes, Monaco is a tough track on which to pass, but Ricciardo’s demeanour when told he’d have to manage his power problems for the rest of the race – calm, analytical, concentrated – was that of a man desperate not to let this win go, and in stark contrast to several of his rivals who moaned about tyres, traffic and strategy when situations called for calmer heads. Vettel was never close enough to launch an attack at his old Red Bull teammate, and Ricciardo’s tyre management was sublime, Vettel’s Ferrari and Mercedes of Hamilton clearly struggling more with graining from their ultrasofts after their one and only pit stops of the race on lap 15 and 11 respectively. A late-race virtual safety car after Charles Leclerc’s Sauber wiped out the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley caused heart rates to skyrocket on the Red Bull pit wall, but McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne emerged from the pits under VSC conditions to slot in between Ricciardo and Vettel on track, and the Ferrari’s struggles with regaining tyre temperature when the race resumed saw Ricciardo bolt to what was, in the end, a comfortable win by 7.336secs. He led every session of the event, took pole and led every lap of the race – it was only Verstappen’s late fastest lap that denied Ricciardo the most perfect of weekends.

What the result means
Six races into the season, we now have two wins each for Mercedes (Hamilton), Ferrari (Vettel) and Red Bull (Ricciardo), the three drivers on the podium in Monaco now the top three in the championship, Vettel’s second place reducing Hamilton’s lead to 14 points. Not every track is like Monaco and, on balance, the Red Bull still looks the third-fastest car in the field at most circuits. But Ricciardo has repeatedly shown that, give half a chance, he’ll snaffle whatever result is on offer, and twice already this year that has been a victory. He’s 38 points off Hamilton’s series lead, but with Bottas and Raikkonen unable to match their teammates’ pace and Verstappen’s indiscretions seeing him with less than half of Ricciardo’s points total already (72-35), perhaps we are looking at a three-way, three-team fight for the title one-third of the way through the season.

For historical purposes …
Ricciardo became the third Australian to win the most famous F1 race of all, joining Sir Jack Brabham (1959) and the man he succeeded at Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber (2010 and 2012).

The number to know
1:
Ricciardo’s win from pole is the only one of his seven career wins to come from higher than fourth place on the grid.

Under-the-radar winner(s)
Ocon had managed just one point in five races before Sunday, so snaffling eight more at a circuit that didn’t seem to suit Force India coming into the weekend was an outstanding return. Seventh for Gasly in his maiden Monaco outing was a much-needed result given the Frenchman hadn’t scored at all since his stunning fourth in Bahrain in the season’s second race, while Renault left Monaco with a stronger hold on fourth in the constructors’ championship thanks to eighth for Nico Hulkenberg and 10th for teammate Carlos Sainz.

The naughty corner
Verstappen considered his ninth “the best result possible” given he started at the very back, and he was decisive in the early going, dispatching both Haas drivers into the first corner on lap one and clearly looking the fastest driver of the four-car train headed by Ocon that finished line-astern after 78 laps. One slip-up in practice proved very, very costly – could he have attacked an ailing Ricciardo for the win if he was the driver in second place, not Vettel, in the closing laps? We’ll never know. Elsewhere, we’ll forgive Leclerc for smashing into Hartley, the Sauber’s left front brakes completely failing as he hurtled out of the tunnel towards the harbourfront chicane on lap 72, while the only other retiree was Alonso, whose McLaren had a gearbox failure on lap 53, the Spaniard failing to finish for the first time all year.

What’s next?
F1 trades one street circuit for another with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal (June 10) up next, although the semi-permanent road course around the Ile-Notre Dame is more Melbourne than Monaco, and should suit Ferrari and Mercedes much more than Monte Carlo did. The narrow old school high-speed track punctuated by chicanes is a car-breaker and especially tough on brakes, and it’s a circuit where Hamilton thrives – the four-time world champion has won the race six times in all and for the past three years, Ricciardo’s maiden F1 win in 2014 the last time anyone other than the Briton has seen the chequered flag first.

Miller Time: Flying higher in France

Jack Miller writes about equalling a season-best with fourth at Le Mans, and how he feels about being higher in the MotoGP standings than ever before.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

It’s going to be a pretty good night here at Le Mans for the team after my fourth place and second for my teammate Danilo (Petrucci) – there were more than 100,000 people here today and the roads getting out are 100 per cent jammed, so either we stay and celebrate, or I need to find another way out … For me though, this was a pretty big result. Could be better, could be worse … But all things considered, maybe this was the most convincing race of my career in MotoGP.

I know, what about Assen 2016, I can hear you saying it. There’s never going to be anything that feels like that win, but it was raining, guys crashed out, etc etc. I was fourth this year in Argentina when I was on pole and pretty frustrated to be off the podium, but that was another weird race with that start (don’t worry, I’m coming back to that) and everything that went on. This one in France was different. Less than a second off the podium, six seconds off the win, a dry and normal day, no random stuff happening. Completely on merit. Maybe not the most exciting race for me, sure, but definitely one to be happy about.

All weekend I had good pace, and I was more hopeful of that rather than expecting it because Le Mans hadn’t been great for me in MotoGP, or for Ducati in the past – this is normally a Yamaha track. But I was within half a second of the session-leading time in every session except first practice, and never out of the top 10 after FP1. Qualified seventh, was fourth in the morning warm-up … it was a result there to get.

The track was the hottest it had been all weekend in the race, up to 45 degrees, and that maybe hurt me near the end when I was trying to chase Valentino (Rossi) down for the podium. I always seemed to be about 1.5secs behind him and could never really push as much as I wanted at the end, both me and Danilo went with the soft front/soft rear tyres and we had to manage them in those last few laps. I had a moment with a big tyre squish in the corner coming onto the back straight, missed the apex, got up on the kerb … that was the warning for me. Maybe if I don’t make that mistake, I’m there to battle with him on the last two laps. But anyway, you saw how easy it was to throw it down the road today with ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) and (Johann) Zarco crashing. So fourth for me is a great result, and two bikes in the top four for the team is awesome. The best GP17 here last year was ‘Dovi’, and he was 11 seconds off the win – a year later and on the same bike I was six seconds off, so that’s pretty damned good.

I’m up to sixth in the championship now – and actually only 10 points off Maverick (Vinales) in second, now Marc (Marquez) has run off at the front after winning again. It’s the highest I’ve ever been in MotoGP and it feels like it’s not a fluke, there’s not one crazy outlier result that has me up there where maybe I shouldn’t be. That’s eight top-10s in a row if you go back to last year, and twice the next-best off the podium in five races. I want one of them for sure, but I’m pretty optimistic it can come. Keep the run going, keep learning (I felt like I learned more being closer to the front today), and anything can happen. We’re not far from those guys at all.

I mentioned the race wasn’t the most exciting, for me anyway, but that’s fine when you grab a heap of points. I was in a train with Danilo and Vale from the beginning, and we all moved forwards as a pack, Danilo better than us other two, but we all moved up with the crashes ahead and then got past Jorge (Lorenzo), who went with the same tyres as me but couldn’t make them last as long. I passed him just after the halfway stage, and then we all got strung out a bit. Danilo couldn’t get to Marc, Vale couldn’t get to Danilo, I couldn’t get to Vale. But still. A bit boring can be pretty good …

I mentioned Argentina before, and you might have seen that there’s a new rule being brought in which some people are calling the ‘Miller Rule’ after what happened off the start there, where I was waiting on the grid while there was a huge mess behind me with guys changing tyres, going off the grid, starting at the back … it looked a bit ridiculous. From now on, any rider that doesn’t come to the grid after the warm-up lap will have to start from pit lane and do a ride-through penalty in the race. If you choose the right tyre on the sighting lap and everyone else comes in, then there’s more of a price to pay. Like what happened in Argentina, except for the price to pay bit … Would have been handy to have had that on that day (I probably would have been in front by 30 seconds on the first lap), but at least it’s sorted out for next time, and there’ll probably be a next time.

Mugello is next, and my first Italian Grand Prix on an Italian bike. That’ll be cool, and the Ducati usually flies there too. I’ve generally sucked there (three races, one point), but this year so far has been all about fixing those circuits where I haven’t done well before like Jerez and now Le Mans. Why not there too?

Cheers, Jack