Month: June 2017

What happened at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo wins a bonkers race in Baku, which featured enough chaos and controversy for an entire F1 season.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 5th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd.
Remember when the Hamilton v Vettel title battle looked set to be a fierce fight where respect remained on both sides? Forget that now, as the gloves well and truly came off in Baku. Did Hamilton brake-test Vettel at the lap 20 race re-start after the safety car, causing Vettel to run into him? Should Vettel have pulled alongside Hamilton and deliberately banged wheels against the Mercedes driver in retaliation? Two wrongs don’t make a right, but the stewards decided that Vettel’s actions were worthy of a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, taking him out of the equation for the win. That victory would surely have been Hamilton’s had the Briton not been called into the pits for safety reasons as the headrest of his car was coming loose, and after Hamilton could only recover to fifth – behind Vettel – the three-time world champion let Vettel have it, calling the German’s driving “a disgrace” before adding “if he wants to prove he is a man we should do it out of the car, we should do it face to face.”
For Bottas, to finish where he started was little short of a miracle after the first lap, where he clattered into Raikkonen’s Ferrari at Turn 2, limped back to the pits with a puncture and was a lap down and dead-last, and then stole second from Stroll at the finish line on the last of the 51 laps. Ordinarily, the Finn’s recovery drive would have been raved about as one for the ages, but his superb efforts were little more than a footnote on a day of chaos and controversy.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 10th, finished 1st. Max Verstappen: qualified 5th, did not finish.
Sometimes, words aren’t necessary or appropriate in sport, which is why Ricciardo’s initial reaction to his fifth career win – to burst into laughter – was as spot-on as his driving. The Australian made a rare mistake and crashed in qualifying to start from 10th on the grid, and all looked lost when he had to pit on lap five with his brake temperatures reaching critical levels after picking up some of the debris that littered the circuit after a manic first lap. But Ricciardo stuck with it, and made one of the moves of the season when he sliced past Williams duo Stroll and Massa into the first corner on the re-start after the lap 22 red flag to put himself into podium contention.
When Vettel was penalised and Hamilton forced to pit, Ricciardo inherited the lead, and if we know one thing about the Honey Badger, he’s not a man to let a chance to win a race go begging. Bizarrely, all five of Ricciardo’s F1 victories have come from outside the top three on the grid. While Red Bull celebrated, it was hard not to be sympathetic to Verstappen’s plight, especially after the Dutchman out-qualified noted Saturday specialist Ricciardo for the fourth race running. Engine problems had him out after just 12 laps as he was fighting with Perez for what was third place, which, given what unfolded behind him later on, could well have been a battle for the top step of the podium. Verstappen has now had four non-finishes – all through no fault of his own – in the past six races.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 4th, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 3rd, did not finish.
We’ve given Hamilton his say on the incident with Vettel, so what of the Ferrari driver’s view? “It was quite obvious, I didn’t run into the back of him on purpose,” Vettel said. “I damaged my wing, I think he had a little bit of damage as well. Nothing that would have impacted on the race. It’s just not the way to do it. He’s done it a couple of times.” Vettel’s insistence that he had no idea why he’d been penalised for driving into the side of Hamilton was either ignorance or gamesmanship in the extreme, but to come out of Azerbaijan with a greater advantage in the title race over Hamilton (from 12 points to 14) was a victory of sorts after having to serve such a costly penalty in the pits. Raikkonen spent most of the race being hit by rivals (Bottas) or running over debris scattered by other cars hitting one another, and destroyed the floor of his car when he insisted on driving it rather too quickly back to the pits after a puncture on lap 20. Ferrari managed to fix the problem to get the Finn back out on circuit after the lengthy red flag stoppage, but he tooled around towards the back before calling it quits three laps from home.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 6th, did not finish. Esteban Ocon: qualified 7th, finished 6th.
Force India said it would allow its drivers to fight after its contentious race in Canada, and that decision came back to bite them after Ocon and Perez clashed at the lap 20 re-start after the safety car, Perez losing his front wing and Ocon suffering a puncture as the pink cars tripped over one another, Ocon clouting the kerb at the second corner and running straight into his teammate. Perez’s run of 37 race finishes in a row came to an inglorious end, while Ocon briefly looked set to finish third before the out-of-position trio of Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton swept by in the final 10 laps. Given what happened to the cars ahead of them later on, could Force India have thrown away a chance of victory?

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 9th, did not finish. Lance Stroll: qualified 8th, finished 3rd.
Being in the right place at the right time counted for plenty in Baku, but Stroll’s result, while better than expected, was an appropriate reward for a clean weekend of pace and consistency. The Canadian teen barely put a foot wrong in practice, out-qualified veteran teammate Massa for the first time on Saturday, and was entirely convincing on Sunday as he kept his head where plenty didn’t, becoming the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve 16 years ago to finish inside the top three. He looked more bothered about tasting the inevitable Ricciardo podium shoey after the race than being pipped at the post by Bottas. Massa was desperately unlucky not to be in the mix for big points and perhaps a podium himself, the Brazilian showing plenty of fight before a rear suspension issue ended his day on lap 25.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 16th, finished 9th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 19th, finished 12th.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said Azerbaijan was the “most painful weekend I’ve ever had” after both McLarens were bleeding upwards of 20km/h on the straight and had 75 places of engine component grid penalties (Alonso 40, Vandoorne 35) between them heading into the race. Given that build-up, it was astonishing that both cars made it to the finish, and Alonso scored the team’s first points of the year in ninth. But the Spaniard couldn’t help but wonder if, with an engine that could at least match their rivals for straight-line grunt, whether McLaren could have won. “Hamilton lost his headrest, Vettel was penalised, both the Force Indias were out, Kimi retired …,” he said afterwards.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 11th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 12th, finished 8th.
The chances of Sainz scoring points looked remote when he was facing the wrong way and last after turn one, the Spaniard having to take avoiding action to miss his teammate as Kvyat cut back onto the circuit after running wide at the start. With chaos coming by the lap, Sainz stayed cool, and four points was the result. Kvyat’s race didn’t last long, the Russian’s car completely shutting down with an electrical failure on lap 10 and causing the first safety car, which set the stage for the insane race that followed.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 17th, finished 13th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 13th, finished 7th.
Magnussen was outstanding in Baku, the Dane running in the podium places as the various penalties and accidents played out, and he was still third with 13 laps left before the Bottas-Vettel-Hamilton train swept past. Still, six points in one fell swoop – when you’ve only scored five in the previous seven Grands Prix – made his afternoon, in his own words, “great”. Grosjean had very little to say at all after the race after spending most of the weekend moaning to his team over the radio about a lack of confidence with his brakes, and then to the media that said moaning was being reported on and broadcast by the world TV feed.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 20th, did not finish. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 14th, did not finish.
One remarkable stat from a remarkable race: nine of the 10 teams had a car finish in the points in Baku, with Renault the one to miss out. Palmer was the first retiree with engine problems on lap eight after his car had barbequed itself because of a fuel leak on Saturday, while Hulkenberg hit the wall at Turn 7 on lap 25 in an uncharacteristic error to join his teammate on the sidelines.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 18th, finished 11th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 15th, finished 10th.
The smallest team in F1 made big news off it in the lead-up to Azerbaijan, when team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was let go after working for the team in various roles for nearly two decades. Paddock speculation ran rampant in Baku, with the common belief that it was Kaltenborn’s opposition to requests to favour Ericsson over Wehrlein from the team’s Ericsson-aligned financial backers that caused the split. Come Sunday, the Sauber teammates – like so many stablemates in this crazy race – managed to run into one another as they fought for the final point on offer, which eventually went to Wehrlein after the German had impressively made the second phase of qualifying 24 hours earlier.

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Miller Time: Stoked with sixth at Assen

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller reflects on a season-best result at the Dutch TT, and why he can’t wait to tick another great track off his bucket list late next month.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Sixth on Sunday at Assen felt like a result that had been coming for a while. We’ve had some top-10 finishes this year and I reckoned I should have got one when we were at Catalunya a few weeks ago, but sixth was just what we were looking for. It was a pretty eventful race – when isn’t it eventful at Assen? – so to get a solid top-six result and feel really comfortable was a big one for us. It’s the best result of the season so far and we seem to have been getting closer and closer each time, so I couldn’t be happier with that.

Funny thing is, Assen hadn’t been that good to me until last year when I won there. I was leading in Moto3 there one year and stupidly crashed out, and then year one in MotoGP in 2015 I didn’t even get through the first lap before crashing, and some of the other riders were pretty pissed off with me as some of you might remember. Last year made up for all of that, but this year was pretty good too, considering it was a more ‘normal’ race than last year when the rain made things pretty crazy.

The weather in Assen seems to change by the minute sometimes, so I wasn’t surprised that we ended up with a bit of rain late in Sunday’s race, it’s almost as if the place wants to get some extra drama in! I said all along over the weekend that I preferred it to be dry even though it went so well for me in the rain last year, and even Sunday morning warm-up when I was on top of the times when it was really raining. By the race, the rain was only really a few spots in some parts of the track for the last eight laps or so, but I was able to get past a few people and then make the most of Johann (Zarco) taking a gamble that it would properly rain and coming in for a bike change.

The track was very greasy and I tried to do my best to stay on and be calm, because it’s so easy to make a mistake and ruin the whole thing when it’s like that. I was catching the group in front of me but I didn’t want to risk too much, and then with four laps to go it started drizzling harder, so I decided to button off a little bit and bring it home. By the time you would have actually considered swapping bikes, there were only three laps left anyway, so it wasn’t worth it.

Riding in the rain is alright and I go pretty good at it, but results in the dry mean a bit more because it takes any randomness out of it, makes them seem more legit in a way, so sixth on merit was really good for us.

Going back to a circuit where you keep getting spoken about as the most recent race-winner was pretty cool, I’m not going to lie. Sure, you get a bit over talking about the same thing all the time, but there’s worse things to be reminded about every five minutes! It’s a special place, Assen, and the fans were amazing here like they always are, 105,000 of them on Sunday from what someone told me. Add that to the history of the place, the track layout … this is one of the special ones, for sure.

There’s no rest for us at the moment – we’re off to Sachsenring in Germany next weekend and another track I like, even though it’s completely different to Assen. And then it’s the mid-season break, not that I’ll have a full one this year as I get to tick something off the bucket list by racing in the Suzuka 8-Hour, which I was finally able to talk about this week.

Suzuka is a race I’ve always wanted to do and Honda has given me the chance to do it, so I can’t wait, I’m really ecstatic to get the call-up. It’ll be amazing to get out there on that circuit, and the guys who have ridden it tell me it’s a proper old-school track and one that’s a lot of fun. A different style of racing and I’ll be learning a lot from the experienced guys, but it’ll be good to have a crack at it before we get back to work at Brno in August. I’ll go there for two tests before I head home to Australia in the break, then come home for my brother’s wedding, and then go back to Suzuka for the race before Brno. It’ll be busy for sure, but really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can sign off this first half of the season with another good one in Germany before that.

Cheers, Jack

#JackAssen: an oral history

As we gear up for this week’s Dutch TT, this is the inside story of how Jack Miller took one of the more remarkable wins in MotoGP history at Assen one year ago.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It was one of the more unlikely motorsport stories of 2016; scrap that, it was one of the most unlikely sporting stories across ANY sport, full stop, a year ago. Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller, aged just 21 and having never finished better than 10th in a race in one-and-a-bit seasons in the premier class of the world motorcycle championship, became a Grand Prix winner when he took out the prestigious Dutch TT at the revered Assen Circuit for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Team.

In one race, Miller equalled the 25 points he’d managed across his 24 previous MotoGP starts. He was the first non-factory rider to win a race since Toni Elias in 2006, and became the first rider not named Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa or Casey Stoner to win a race in five years. And if you were optimistic enough to throw some money behind the Townsville tyro before the Assen weekend, you’d have got the rather juicy odds of 1000-1. Unexpected doesn’t even begin to describe it.

How did Miller’s breakthrough win happen? Where did the relative MotoGP neophyte get it so right where the likes of Rossi and Lorenzo got it so wrong? And why did he elect to swig his post-race champagne from his riding boot, sparking copycat shoey celebrations across two and four-wheel motorsport for the rest of the year?

As we gear up for the 2017 version of the Dutch TT this week, we relive one of motorsport’s stunning upsets in this oral history, through the eyes of Jack himself and those who raced against him or observed his exploits in a race that still makes those who saw it shake their heads.

The build-up

Jack came to Assen buoyed by a 10th place at the race three weeks prior at the Catalan GP, his best MotoGP result to date. On the downside, his record at the famous Dutch circuit was miserable; in four previous visits, he’d finished just once.

Jack (Catalunya post-race press briefing): To finish in the top 10 for the first time in my MotoGP career is a really big boost for me. My guys have stuck with me all through a difficult first part of the season and I’m happy for the team.

Michael Bartholemy, team principal, Marc VDS: I hope this gives him confidence to push on in the next few races and we can see him in the top 10 on a consistent basis.

Jack: I’m looking forward to getting to Assen and giving it a go round there. Two years ago I was leading in Moto3 in the wet and crashed on the second lap, and last year I didn’t make the end of the first lap and crashed, it was one of the worst moments of my rookie year.

Friday: back in the pack

Assen’s famously fickle climate gave a warning of what was to follow on the opening day of practice, with grey clouds hovering, but the track staying dry. Ducati’s Andrea Iannone topped both sessions, with Jack finishing 18th and 16th overall, his final time of 1min 35.008secs some 1.4secs off Iannone at the top.

Jack (Friday press briefing): I messed up my last lap because I had a big shake at high speed coming into the fast final section. Trying to stop a MotoGP bike at 300km/h when it’s moving around a lot is not easy, I was pretty lucky to get away with that one.

Cristian Gabarrini, Jack’s chief engineer: Today was a good start for Jack, but we have to try and find a bit more confidence from the front end for him. We only need to make small changes and I think that will be enough for Jack to post competitive times for the rest of the weekend.

Jack: I’m happy and sure we can make another step tomorrow.

Saturday: caught out

Jack did make a step on Saturday; unfortunately for the Aussie, it was a backwards one. Drizzle made qualifying hazardous, with the likes of Marquez and Suzuki young gun Maverick Vinales crashing, Marquez comically commandeering a photographer’s scooter to get back to the pits to go out on his second bike. Jack was on track to progress through Q1 into the final 12 shootout for pole, but crashed out at Turn 10 and ended up well back in 18th.

Jack (Saturday press briefing): It was a pity it rained just before the session and we ran out of time to make some set-up changes before my first exit. I thought I could have done a faster time on my second run, but the little crash stopped us from showing our full potential.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: I saw a scooter with a key in it and nobody around. I saw that it belonged to a photographer, but he let me go. I wanted to get back to the pit as soon as possible, so honestly I would’ve taken it even if he said no!

Jack: I have strong pace both in the wet and the dry and I’ve started back on the grid before, so I know what to expect.

Marquez: In case of rain it will be kind of a lottery, as always …

Sunday: a star is born

Jack was 12th in a dry 20-minute Sunday morning warm-up session, but the rain returned in the hour before the scheduled 2pm race start. With the field on wet-weather tyres, Miller surged early on, gaining six places on the first lap and gradually moving forwards. What started as drizzle turned into a full-blown rainstorm, and with visibility worsening by the minute, officials red-flagged the race after 15 of the scheduled 26 laps, the standing water on the circuit so bad that bikes were aquaplaning in a straight line. Jack was eighth when the race was halted, a career-best result – to that point.

Jack (to redbull.com after the race): I was eighth and would have liked to have been further up, but it was absolutely the right call to stop it. The visibility was really bad and the standing water was crazy in some parts, and I wouldn’t have been unhappy if the race had been red-flagged even earlier than it was. When it stopped and there was a chance we wouldn’t get going again, I was really happy with eighth, I was pretty content. I didn’t really want a re-start.

Marquez: It was pretty dangerous out there, stopping the race was a good decision.

When the rain finally abated and the worst of the standing water cleared away, the race resumed over 12 laps, grid positions set by the standings when the original race was red-flagged. Jack immediately gained four positions on the first lap, his confidence in the wet obvious as others floundered. Fourth became third on the next lap when Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso fell, and then came the unthinkable – Rossi, in charge of the race at the front, crashed out at Turn 10. Marquez assumed the lead, and with Rossi’s Yamaha teammate Lorenzo struggling way back down the field, Marquez was in a perfect position to extend his 10-point championship lead over Lorenzo and 22-point advantage over Rossi with eight laps left. Jack was up to second, but sensed Marquez would be thinking about the bigger picture. It was time to go for it.

Jack: When ‘Dovi’ went down, I thought ‘wow, third would be alright’, and then Vale went down. That was when I thought ‘hang on, I can actually win this’. I got the sense Marc had buttoned off a bit once Valentino went down and that’s completely understandable, he has a championship to try and win and one of his main rivals was out. I’m not winning the championship this year and had pretty much nothing to lose, so I figured he wouldn’t fight too hard if I tried to make a pass.

Marquez: This morning my team told me, ‘please finish the race, please finish the race, please finish the race’, about 40 times …

Jack scythed past Marquez into the final chicane, and into the lead of a MotoGP race for the first time. Now came the hard part – keeping it. As the track dried, grip levels varied at seemingly every corner on every lap. Perhaps the extreme concentration required just to navigate a circuit that was changing by the minute took his mind off what he might be about to achieve.

Jack: It was all about managing the gap, but those last five laps seemed to take about five years. I got into a nice groove and to be honest, there weren’t too many moments – I just tried to be as smooth as possible, not try to go for too much and keep my head, which is something I’m probably not all that known for … It was tense, but I actually felt quite calm out there.

As he exited the chicane leading onto the start-finish straight for the final time, Jack allowed himself to take a sneaky peek over his right shoulder. He’d been glancing at the gap to Marquez and the rest on the big TV screens as he traversed the track, but it was finally time to see with his own eyes. With Marquez nearly two seconds behind, it was time to celebrate – and he crossed the line with a monumental wheelie before the emotions came cascading out. Marquez was almost as happy, finishing second on a day when Rossi crashed and Lorenzo was nearly half a minute adrift in 10th.

Jack: The lap back to the pits after I crossed the line was something I’ll never forget. There was this massive release of tension, and I had all these things racing through my head – thinking of my family and how we came over to Europe six years ago dreaming of this day, how Honda has stuck by me, how supportive the Marc VDS team has been, how this season has been hard with battling injury for a lot of the time … my mind was all over the place. And a lot of screaming. By the time I went to do my first interview afterwards, I didn’t have a lot of my voice left. I knew I was going to cry.

Marquez: Today was the race to lose points. I was really concentrated. I saw Valentino crash and then Miller came past me, I thought a second place today would be like a victory. These 20 points will be really important in the championship.

Once he arrived back in the pits before the podium presentation, pit lane reporter Dylan Gray stopped Jack for a quick interview.

Jack (to Gray, his voice quivering): I don’t know what to feel at the moment. A lot of people bad-mouthed us and said that this project wouldn’t work, and I just hope that we’ve proved them wrong. We can ride a bike, I’m not an idiot. It’s amazing. I can’t talk …

What he could do was drink – champagne from his racing boot on the podium, inspired by mates The Mad Hueys. From there, the fun really started, Jack joining second-placed Marquez and third-place finisher Scott Redding in what started as a press conference and ended up as something between a comedy show and a confessional.

Jack (to Marquez): You have this famous saying – ‘glory or hospital’ – and I had this sort of mentality. I could see that Marc didn’t really want to take any risks, and who could blame him? I mean, if I went past myself I’d be like, ‘Oh, that dickhead’s going to crash in two minutes’ …

Bartholemy: We’ve had a lot of criticism for taking Jack, but I’ve never doubted his talent, and we’ve shown the world today that together we can do great things.

Jack: It gives Honda and everyone something back for taking such a big gamble on me. I mean, the risks those guys have taken to bring me straight to MotoGP from Moto3, and the amount of criticism they got and the amount of criticism I’ve got … So a big thank you to those guys and then also to my family as well for moving to Europe six years ago and taking that sort of gamble. It’s actually like four o’clock in the morning (in Australia), so I assume my parents have gone to bed. But knowing them they probably haven’t. I’m sure they’re 40 beers deep and having a great time.

From there, it was time to celebrate back at the Marc VDS hospitality unit. Esteemed Grand Prix writer Mat Oxley went to see what was going on, while MotoGP world feed TV commentator and long-time journalist Matt Birt was busily putting Miller’s masterclass into perspective.

Oxley (writing for motorsportmagazine.com): It was sweet mayhem at Marc VDS when I arrived. Jack was in the thick of it, pulling pints at the bar. Then ‘Jackass’ upped the pace and cracked open a bottle of mescal (tequila, if you prefer) which emptied at an unfeasible rate, leaving the mescal worm sitting alone at the bottom. Jack is as unpretentious as they come, a sweet bloke, so he freed the worm from its glassy grave and gobbled it down. Protein is an important ingredient of a racer’s diet …

Birt (writing for motogp.com): In 12 incident-packed laps that followed a red flag for biblical rain, it was Miller time. Time for him to silence merciless critics who have berated him for not being good enough after Honda gambled on fast-tracking him out of Moto3 on an unprecedented three-year factory contract. Time to silence those who said he was foolish for bypassing the conventional route through Moto2. Time to stick two fingers up to those that questioned his dedication to physical and mental preparation. Time to show those that feared he rode hard but partied even harder that he does have the application to back up the undeniable talent.

Oxley: I salute Miller for his victory and I salute all his people who worked so hard to achieve this great act of giant-killing. Whatever else happens in his career – and I hope much more good stuff happens, because he’s a joy to have around – nothing can take away what he did on Sunday. He is now in the motorcycle racing pantheon, joining fellow Aussie premier-class winners Doohan, Stoner, Gardner, Beattie, Jack Findlay, Garry McCoy, ‘Happy’ Jack Ahearn, Troy Bayliss, Ken Kavanagh, Kevin Magee and Chris Vermeulen.

Birt: I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see him on the podium again soon. Sunday’s masterful win in Assen’s wet and wild conditions showed he’s got the brain, heart and courage to go a long way in MotoGP. After Gardner, Doohan and Stoner, maybe we have got another Wizard of Oz emerging after all.

Postscript

Jack finished 18th overall at the end of the 2016 season, competing in just 13 of the 18 races as assorted injuries took their toll. This year, he’s finished in the top 10 in four of the opening seven races, and returns to Assen with plenty of confidence – and whatever happens this weekend, he knows that the Dutch TT will always hold happy memories after a stupendous Sunday exactly one year ago.

What happened at the Canadian Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo works up a thirst in Canada to take his third third-place finish in a row, while Mercedes produce a Montreal masterclass.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 3rd, finished 2nd.

Mercedes 1-2 finishes have been so commonplace since the advent of the V6 turbo hybrid formula in 2014 that it was jarring that Sunday’s quinella in Canada was the Silver Arrows’ first for the season; while a fast-starting Verstappen looked set to mess with Mercedes plans of a Montreal masterclass, the Dutchman’s early demise saw Hamilton cruise untroubled to his sixth win in Canada, and Bottas his third podium at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in as many years. Hamilton’s display, one race after a disappointing Grand Prix in Monaco, was a timely reminder that when the Briton is on it, he’s close to untouchable. After setting the fastest-ever lap of Montreal (1min 11.450secs) to take his 65th career pole and match Ayrton Senna’s mark on Saturday – an achievement for which he received a replica Senna 1987 helmet and seemed genuinely humbled afterwards – Hamilton drive in a manner his hero would have approved of 24 hours later, leading from lights to flag and setting the fastest lap of the race to win 10 years after his maiden success at the same circuit. Bottas was never on Hamilton’s pace even before Verstappen retired, and ran the more durable softer-compound Pirelli tyre for much of the race as Mercedes covered their bases. The margin between the two? A whopping 19.783secs after 70 laps.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 6th, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 5th, did not finish.

Verstappen looked the Bull most likely to make the top three after the first few hundred metres on Sunday, the Dutchman making an incredible start from fifth to challenge Hamilton into Turn 1, and changing the course of the race as he did so, sweeping into the corner across the bows of Vettel’s Ferrari and forcing the championship leader into an early pit stop. Hamilton soon cleared off, but Verstappen was in a solid second before a battery power issue saw him forced to park on the exit of Turn 2 just 11 laps in. Ricciardo then picked up the pieces on a circuit where Red Bull came in fearing the worst, keeping third under incessant pressure from Force India duo Perez and Ocon for the majority of his second stint after pitting for soft tyres on lap 18. It was the Australian’s third podium in a row, and his first in Canada since 2014, when he won a Grand Prix for the first time. As a test of his mental capacity, it was a stern examination that he passed with flying colours. Getting esteemed British actor Patrick Stewart to join him in a post-race shoey on the podium was something he wouldn’t have envisaged when he started from sixth on the grid.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, finished 7th.

Vettel looked like he’d need all of his 25-point championship lead from Monaco when he pitted just five laps into Sunday’s race, his front wing damaged after the clash with Verstappen. From 18th and dead-last, the German carved his way back through the pack, making a mockery of those who still question his overtaking ability after four world titles, and his audacious pass of Ocon’s Force India into the first corner five laps from home was both risky and brilliantly executed. Managing to score 12 points and finish six-tenths of a second behind old teammate Ricciardo for the final podium position was a superb salvage job that saw him leave Canada with a 12-point championship advantage. It broke his run of six straight podiums to start 2017, but in the circumstances, it was a strong result. Raikkonen, so fast in Monaco and so frustrated after it, reverted to type in Canada; the Finn was nearly seven-tenths of a second adrift of Hamilton’s pole time, and then made a poor start to be sixth by the time the field got halfway around the first lap. After the controversy of Monaco, Ferrari was spared having to make a tough call to potentially ask Raikkonen to move aside for a flying Vettel in the latter laps when the Finn’s car started to run into brake problems with nine laps left, and he limped home to hang onto fourth – just – from Ricciardo in the drivers’ standings.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 5th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 9th, finished 6th.

Force India has been the feel-good story for F1 neutrals in 2017, the little team that could placing both cars in the points in five of the opening six races to be a clear best of the rest behind Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. But all of the joy and back-slapping stopped sharply on Sunday; when Perez in fourth could make no ground on Ricciardo, Ocon asked his team to be allowed past his teammate to have a crack at the Australian, the team agreed, but Perez refused. What could have been a chance of a rare podium finish never materialised, and to make matters worse, Vettel stormed past both Pink Panthers to steal fourth with three laps to go. Perez was indignant, Ocon furious, and the team had 18 points that, in any other circumstances, would have been something worth celebrating.

Williams
Felipe Massa: qualified 7th, did not finish. Lance Stroll: qualified 17th, finished 9th.

Stroll has looked like a fish out of water for most of his opening six races, so it was quite the surprise that the 18-year-old, who grew up not far from the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, played his cards so right on Sunday to score his first world championship points, and showed some assertive overtaking prowess along the way. The teenager was part elated, part relieved to finally make a contribution to Williams’ 2017 points tally, and it was a timely day to do it after Massa’s race lasted all of two corners, the Brazilian taken out by Sainz’s spinning Toro Rosso as he braked for Turn 3 on the opening lap. Bizarre stat fact of the weekend: in 15 years of racing in Montreal, Saturday was the first time Massa had out-qualified a teammate in Canada.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso: qualified 12th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 16th, finished 14th.

Was Canada the beginning of the end of the McLaren-Honda axis, which promised so much in its second F1 guise but has so dreadfully underdelivered? Before the on-track action kicked off, McLaren executive director Zak Brown said Honda was “lost” on how to solve its ongoing engine problems, which Honda immediately refuted – despite the fact a scheduled Honda engine upgrade for Canada never saw the light of day as it wasn’t ready in time. Alonso said his Friday was “totally wasted” after a hydraulics issue with his engine stopped him in first practice, while teammate Vandoorne had a problem with the hybrid generator in his car’s engine on Friday. It wasn’t much better in the race, Alonso flirting with scoring McLaren’s first points of the year before retiring with an engine failure two laps from home, and Vandoorne finishing second-last as McLaren was 27km/h slower than the Ferraris down the back straight. McLaren brass were seen in discussions with Mercedes head honchos over the weekend, and getting a divorce from Honda may be the only thing that could entice their greatest asset – Alonso – to stick around for next year, especially after the Spaniard said he would definitely stay if the team won this year. Considering McLaren hasn’t yet scored a point in 2017, that’s a complete pipedream.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 11th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 13th, did not finish.

A Sunday to forget for STR in Canada, Sainz being collected by Grosjean’s Haas and then careering into Massa on the first lap, and Kvyat’s car getting stuck on the grid for the warm-up lap before the Russian was penalised for taking up his original grid spot rather than starting at the back. An engine failure finally stopped him in the pits on lap 58.

Haas
Romain Grosjean: qualified 14th, finished 10th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 18th, finished 12th.

Grosjean was scathing of Sainz after the first-lap incident – “what a mental guy” he screamed over the radio – but the Frenchman was slightly happier after 70 laps when he bagged the final point on offer, just holding off Palmer’s Renault and teammate Magnussen to finish 10th after having to stop after the first lap with front wing damage. Magnussen rolled the dice with an atypical strategy – he was one of just two drivers to start on the more durable supersoft tyres – but any early-race gains went down the drain when he was given a five-second time penalty for overtaking under the virtual safety car called upon to remove Verstappen’s stricken Red Bull from the circuit when it broke down.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 15th, finished 11th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 10th, finished 8th.

Stroll’s ninth place leaves Hulkenberg as the only driver who has scored all of his team’s points in 2017, the German easily the pick of the Renault pair to finish eighth after a top-10 qualifying effort on Saturday. Hulkenberg was more than half a second clear of Palmer in both Friday practice sessions, qualified eight-tenths of a second and five places ahead of the Briton, and was the final driver not lapped by race-winner Hamilton as he took his fourth top-10 result in seven races. Palmer at least got out of the bottom five in qualifying for the second time this year, but hasn’t beaten his teammate in qualifying or a race yet this season, and doesn’t look likely to either.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 13th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 20th, finished 15th.

Wehrlein had nothing to lose by taking a new gearbox for Sunday’s race and starting from the pit lane after a messy crash at Turn 1 in qualifying, but could make no headway and finished last; Ericsson was an anonymous 13th as Sauber did little more than make up the numbers in Montreal.

Miller Time: Crossing the fine line

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about the tiny margins between success and failure after a costly crash at the Catalunya GP.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Two kilometres an hour slower than the lap before, and one degree less lean angle. That’s the difference between me taking another top-10 points finish in Catalunya and ending up where I eventually did, on my arse in the gravel and pretty annoyed with myself after crashing out on Sunday. That’s how fine the margins are, and it shows you how much we’re on the edge in MotoGP this year. A tiny bit slower, a slight change to the lean angle, hit the bump at Turn 5, tuck the front, and you’re on the floor.

We were just past the halfway stage in the race and I was in 10th, and really happy where I was. I was working my arse off to stay with the guys in front of me, and I wasn’t really under much pressure from behind either, guys like (Hector) Barbera and Cal (Crutchlow) were well behind me. Tenth was good considering I’d started 15th and got a really good launch, and there was space down the inside into the first corner to pick up a few spots, and I was up to eighth a few corners in.

The race settled down – the first lap was a bit chaotic for sure – and I felt like I was in a good rhythm and was starting to come back towards Vale (Valentino Rossi) and those guys just ahead of me. I wasn’t spinning up the tyres, and I was able to change my engine map really early and get into the race for the long haul. To be starting to make some headway towards Vale and them as they were starting to struggle with their tyres and then have what happened happen was a bit devastating. Eleven laps to go, the leader was only six seconds up the road … strong points were there for me, and I didn’t take them.

The track surface here in Barcelona is pretty old and the heat made it even more slippery than it usually is, and the Formula One cars racing and testing here means the bumps seem to get worse and worse every year. All weekend felt a bit like survival mode with the longer runs because of the tyre wear, the heat and the track surface being what it is. Hopefully they resurface it for next year’s Grand Prix, because it was a bit of a struggle this weekend keeping tabs on where the worst bumps were.

Compared to Mugello last week when we really struggled and I wasn’t the best with the hand injury from Le Mans, this felt a lot more competitive even though the result didn’t show it. The bike moved around a lot, the track was really slippery with the heat we had all weekend, but I felt more confident the longer the weekend went. I was pretty happy with the lap in qualifying even if the position was lower than I would have liked it to be, and the race pace was good. The one good outcome from the crash was that I didn’t hurt myself either, which is pretty big because we’re staying in Barcelona to test on Monday after the race. I didn’t get to do the test straight after Le Mans because I was too sore and had to get an MRI done and all of that, so more track time here will be good.

I accidentally gave people a good chance to have a laugh at me on Friday when we went out for first practice – I’m blaming this on not doing the test after France, that’s my story anyway. The chicane at the end of the lap had been changed from last year, and I somehow managed to keep using the old one for a while there …

Maybe I knew something everyone else didn’t, because on Friday afternoon in the safety commission meeting us riders said we felt the new chicane wasn’t very safe, so they changed it back to the 2016 one – the one I was using! – for the rest of the weekend. A bit embarrassing for sure. I’m not going to claim it that I knew that it was going to change back to what it was; dazed and confused would be more like it …

It’s not been the best back-to-back weekends with this and Mugello and just the one point to show for it, so we’ll do the test, I’ll head back home to Andorra to recharge, and then it’s off to Assen and remembering some pretty good times from last year. A good place to get back to where I want to be, hopefully. I’ll speak to you from there in a couple of weeks.

Cheers, Jack

Miller Time: Taking what I can get

Jack Miller writes about an injury-affected weekend in Italy, and why everyone in the sport will miss Nicky Hayden.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

That was a pretty tricky weekend, and one that I’m pretty glad is over to be honest. Mugello hasn’t been the best circuit for me in the past, and it’s an awesome place – it’s just my results there haven’t been that awesome. So coming here with some injuries from the last race in France meant it was going to be tough, and to get a point in the end was something to salvage out of the weekend.

I got through the last race on some painkillers and adrenaline after that massive crash I had at Le Mans, but I was pretty sore after that with the bang I had on my right knee and the right hand. There was no way I could do the Catalunya test straight after Le Mans, and I had an MRI on the hand that showed that I luckily hadn’t fractured it, but it was pretty bloody sore and I had heaps of physio before Mugello. Rest would have been the best way for it to get completely better of course, but that wasn’t an option as we have a back-to-back with here and Catalunya, and then Assen two weeks after that, it’s a busy time of the year.

Right from the start of practice on Friday I could never quite get the feeling I wanted on the front of the bike, the bike was running wide in the corners when I got off the brakes. Me and my engineer Ramon (Aurin) made some changes on Saturday that meant I did a 1min 47secs lap for the first time all weekend in qualifying, but that was nowhere near where I needed to be to get into Q2 and I ended up back in 19th, the furthest back I’ve started from all season. I got a decent start, but it’s hard to do a lot from all the way back there.

In the end it seemed like I was glued to (Hector) Barbera for a lot of the race, with him in front of me for most of it. I passed him about halfway through, but I was 17th with five laps to go and needed someone ahead of me to make a mistake to get a point. It ended up happening on the last lap when Dani (Pedrosa) got in hot and wiped out Cal (Crutchlow), and I’m suddenly 15th. Nearly got Barbera on the last lap too, but a point was all I could get. Lucky for sure, but the last two years haven’t gone well here, so I’ll take it. I was out on the first corner last year and after two laps the first time I raced a MotoGP bike here, so doing the whole race was a change!

I’m hoping the next race will be a bit better in Barcelona and the hand should be a bit more free, but it’s only a week away and there’s not going to be some overnight improvement, it’ll be a gradual thing. I’ll have more physio on the hand this week and rest up as much as I can, but I have to be realistic, we’re on track there in four days. It was good just to finish today, get a point and look forwards.

Before I go, I have to say a few words about Nicky Hayden. Of course we found out Nicky had lost his fight between the last race and this one, and we had 69 seconds of silence on the grid for him which was pretty moving, hearing almost no noise from nearly 100,000 Italians definitely put a lump in your throat.

The people here loved Nicky, just like they did everywhere. On the off the track, Nicky was someone I massively looked up to, and he was such a good guy to people, us younger riders, the fans, the media, everyone. Just treated people the right way, and we can all learn from him that way. It’s still a bit hard to accept we won’t see that massive smile of his anymore, and all of us riders and everyone in the paddock is feeling for his family. A huge loss for our sport, but we won’t forget a champion rider and a champion person.

I’ll speak to you from Barcelona next week.

Cheers,
Jack