Month: August 2017

Miller Time: A bumpy ride at Silverstone

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller recaps a tough British GP weekend that made for plenty of frustration, but zero points.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Well, that was a rough one. Finishing one place outside of the points like I did at the British Grand Prix on Sunday is never easy to take, but to leave England with nothing to show for a weekend I was pretty optimistic about before we started was even worse when only 17 of us managed to finish the race. Definitely a good chance that we didn’t make the best of, so that’s doubly frustrating for me and the team.

Silverstone can be a fun track in some ways for us MotoGP guys because of the speed and the changes of direction, but it’s not somewhere that’s been very good to me over three years in MotoGP, and Sunday’s result means I still haven’t scored a point in the top class there yet. I didn’t do a lot there in Moto3 either besides one strong qualifying in 2013, so it’s not a place I’ve gelled with for whatever reason. Yes, it’s windy – being an old airfield means it’s pretty exposed, and all of us riders know it’ll be one of the bumpier tracks we go to because they’ve held Formula One races and tests there forever. Saying all that, Sunday was still a bit of a head-scratcher.

We started from 16th and I felt after qualifying that I had pretty good race pace; my lap in qualifying was pretty good but with a few mistakes, which you’ll make on a circuit this long and with the lap lasting over two minutes. But Sunday just didn’t work out. I got an average start and just couldn’t go with the guys around me, and even with a few retirements ahead of me, I was still 10 seconds off the points and only beat Bradley Smith’s KTM home at the end. Definitely not a good one for us, and we need to get to the bottom of why because I had some pretty high hopes for the race. It’s one of those races where you wish you had another one the next day to erase it from your mind, but Misano isn’t for another two weeks, so I have to live with this one until then.

Between Austria the last time out and Silverstone, I actually got back into something like a ‘normal’ life because I was in Andorra and my base there for the first time in literally months, got back into some cycling and generally didn’t do a lot besides train and catch up on life. The back-end of the season for us is pretty hectic with a lot of races in a short time, and of course there’s the Japan-Australia-Malaysia triple-header in three weekends that’s always one you need plenty of energy for with the travel time and time differences to Europe. So to get some downtime was pretty important.

Things have dried up a bit for me since Assen when I finished sixth, and I don’t want 2017 to end up like last year did when the points were hard to come by in the second half of the year, mostly because I missed quite a few races with injury after the summer break. We definitely have the potential and we have some good sessions, but just haven’t been stringing a full weekend together, and that needs to change. We’ll spend a far bit of the time between here and Misano unravelling things so we can come up with a solution. I’m pretty confident we can do that, but pretty impatient for it as well. We’ll press on and get to the bottom of it so we can get back to scoring solid points basically every race like we were doing up to Assen.

Thanks for the support when things have been a bit average lately, it always gets noticed, trust me …

Cheers, Jack

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Mark Webber’s ticks and crosses for F1 2017

Which driver is ‘special’, and who was ‘weak’? Who is mentally tough, the most reliable, and the best racer of the lot? The Aussie ex-F1 ace has his say.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Mark Webber was always a racer who left nothing on the table; the man who goes by the apt Twitter handle of @AussieGrit determinedly squeezed every drop out of his 12-year Formula One career, which produced nine victories for Red Bull Racing. And he did so in a style that was so refreshing for those who watched (or covered) the sport in his heyday, being as forthright as it gets, pulling no punches and pissing in no pockets. Want a perfectly banal soundbite that says nothing in as many words as possible while sitting on the fence? You’ve come to the wrong place.

The Aussie keeps up to speed with the sport in which he made his name by working for Channel 4 in the UK, and with his knowledge of how F1 works and access to the heavy-hitters within it, Webber’s opinion on any number of subjects makes him compelling listening. So, with that in mind, we pressed ‘record’ and let Webber have his say on the drivers, teams and issues that have caught his eye as we get set for the season to resume with this Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at the venerable Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Webber on … Lewis Hamilton

“Both he and Seb (Sebastian Vettel) have driven awesome this year, and Lewis particularly in qualifying has been very strong. He’s the best since (Ayrton) Senna over one lap – he’s very special on Saturdays.

“I think he has respect at the top level for two to three guys on the grid because he’s on such a high level – Seb and Fernando (Alonso) probably, maybe two or three others.

“He’s in the peak of his career, the hunger and passion is at its maximum, and he likes to put a bit of drama, a bit of heat on himself to go and deliver. He enjoys that and it seems to bring out the best in him.”

Webber on … Vettel and Ferrari

“Baku (when Vettel clashed with Hamilton under the safety car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix) was a crazy rush of blood with the re-start procedure, and there were obviously some mind games going on that day, which is totally standard. He had a weak moment where he elected to pull alongside Lewis and give him a little rub. It wasn’t ideal and didn’t look great, and he certainly regrets it. But at the end of the day, it was not exactly dangerous, it just wasn’t a great example. You’d be in more danger crossing the street in Italy than that …

“I think Ferrari have done a great job this year. Operationally they’ve made a big step, because I think they’ve been very flaky on that in the past. The performance is there at a lot of tracks – it’s all well and good being strong on a few circuits, but the car doesn’t seem so temperature-sensitive for it to perform this year. I think Kimi (Raikkonen) likes these regulations as well, the previous regs weren’t something that he enjoyed. It’s great for Ferrari that they have two guys up there going pretty quick. Can they sustain it for the rest of the year? I reckon they can.”

Webber on … where Red Bull sits

“Both of the guys have driven well this year, but Max (Verstappen) has probably been a bit flaky in terms of the build-up to the races through the weekend, he’s been going off the road a lot on Friday and Saturday, which puts pressure on mechanics getting the car ready. I’d like to see him on the road a bit more, but he’s pushing the limits. When it comes to Sundays, he hasn’t made many mistakes at all, it’s been a lot of high-profile reliability retirements where he’s lost a truckload of points, so that’s been hard for him to swallow.

Daniel (Ricciardo) is just so solid on Sunday afternoons, he’s the most reliable driver in F1 in that you know what he’s going to deliver week-in, week-out. He’s always got the most out of what they’ve given him and it’s hard to see how he could have done much more.

“We all expected such great things from this car this year, but it came out the box very poorly. They had a lot of catching up to do. With Renault (engines), it’s unfortunately a little bit of a broken record, ‘we haven’t got this, we haven’t got that’ – it’s been going on for five years. (Red Bull) have to make a car a second faster than everyone else, maybe.”

Webber on … Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes

“He’s had a good year – new environment, new team and all that. And Lewis is no angel when it comes to testing the boundaries of it being all about him, which is what you expect at that level, it has to be all about you, you have to be selfish. So Valtteri has done a good job. He lost a lot of points in Barcelona (with a retirement), but he’s been very steady, and there’s been so many opportunities for him to make some screw-ups, and he hasn’t. He got absolutely tonked in Bahrain when Seb and Lewis put 30-40 seconds on the rest of the field, but then Russia, he was magic there and he just cleaned up.

“I’ll be fascinated to see how he goes in the back part of the season. There’s a lot of circuits and a lot of travel and it is different when you’re at the front, but he’s very good mentally. He’s not going anywhere.”

Webber on … Fernando Alonso and McLaren

“It’s been a big shame for Formula One, a big shame for Honda, a big shame for McLaren. They loaded their guns up and got Fernando back there waiting for the engine to fire, but it hasn’t happened. He’s been biting his tongue for the last 24 months, and he can’t drive the thing any harder. His stock is still incredible, and on Sundays he’s probably the best in the world. That’s the frustrating bit.”

Webber on … the new-breed 2017 F1 cars

“I think we definitely had to do something to help the drivers – it was like they were trained to fly F/A-18s but flying for Qantas the past few years, and that was extremely boring for them. We had to find a way for them to be stimulated again and be tested, be off the road, have the odd shunt here and there, be pushed. We can’t have guys doing full Grands Prix at seven-tenths. If we’re not engaged, it’s hard for the consumer to be connected. If we didn’t have, say, a net for Roger (Federer) and Rafa (Nadal), then we wouldn’t be engaged, would we? You want to have something that makes it testing for them.

“These cars are definitely a step forward in terms of stimulation for the drivers, but as far as the racing goes, it depends on what your definition of great racing is. Barcelona this year – it was between two guys in Seb and Lewis and there wasn’t a huge amount of passing, but it was pretty phenomenal with the pressure and intensity. Lewis on the radio that day was blowing hard, he needed every tenth (of a second) he could get.”

5 MotoGP stories to shape the rest of 2017

What’s happened in MotoGP this season that reveals plenty about what’s about to?

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Where did the MotoGP season go? It seems like only yesterday that the field lined up under lights at Losail to take the start of the Qatar Grand Prix; now, after the breathtaking race around the Red Bull Ring in Austria last Sunday, there’s just seven Grands Prix remaining before the chequered flag falls on the 2017 campaign in Valencia.

With 11 races in the books, what have we already learned that can paint a clearer picture of what’s to follow? We’ve scanned up and down the grid and found five storylines that could prove be a portent of what’s to follow between now and November.

1. Brno showed who’s boss

And we thought last year – nine different winners and four first-time victors – was gripping; at the halfway mark of this year’s world championship, the top four in the standings were separated by just 10 points, and all four – Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales – had led the title chase at one stage or another. But it was the race immediately after the mid-season break in the Czech Republic that showed that one of that quartet remains ahead of the rest.

In sketchy half-wet, half-dry conditions at Brno, Marquez took the early gamble to switch from wet-weather tyres to dry – and simply took off, carving upwards of nine seconds per lap out of the rest of the field immediately after his bike change and doing as he pleased en route to a 12-second victory. Flag-to-flag races are Marquez’s domain – in five of the past six races where the field has been allowed to pit and swap bikes at the riders’ discretion (Assen 2014, Misano 2015, Argentina 2016, Sachsenring 2016 and Brno 2017), the Spaniard has won, often emphatically as he relentlessly pushes in difficult conditions where others can only survive rather than thrive.

It’s that ability to make the best of the worst that sees the Repsol Honda rider as the man most likely to win this year’s crown, which would be the fourth in five years since he joined the premier class in 2013. The table may be tight, but Marquez’s best is still a class above anyone else’s.

2. Marquez vs Maverick is about to get real

All season, and with apologies to Dovizioso, Vinales has looked the man most likely to stop Marquez’s march to a quartet of MotoGP titles. The Yamaha man was untouchable in pre-season testing, and after winning three of the first five races of the year to enjoy a 26-point championship lead after Mugello, Vinales looked in control. But since, one podium in five races has him being the chaser rather than being chased, as he’s faltered while Marquez has flown.

The two Spaniards – who have been rivals from way back in their pocket bike days 15 years ago – have largely circled one another all season without engaging in a head-to-head stoush for a race win; bizarrely, Brno, round 10 of the season, was the first time they’d even appeared on the same podium together.

Vinales and Yamaha will surely get it together after their mid-season slip, and Marquez – if the past four years are any guide – isn’t going anywhere. Expect more one-on-one duels between this duo than we’ve seen so far before the season is out.

3. ‘Dovi’ and Ducati are in for the long haul

Dovizioso’s win towards the tail-end of the 2016 season in Malaysia was a nice story – it snapped a seven-year drought for the likeable Italian – but not one most people expected to be sustainable in 2017, when most of the off-season chat about the Italian factory centred on the arrival of three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo as Dovizioso’s teammate. But the 31-year-old is a new man this season, taking back-to-back wins at Mugello and Catalunya within a week in June, and then holding off Marquez in a frantic end to the Austrian Grand Prix, a race so fierce that it is already being considered one of the best of all time.

Vinales still looks to be the rider who can best match Marquez for sheer speed, but Dovizioso is always there, makes few mistakes, rarely beats himself and sits just 16 points behind Marquez with seven races remaining. Whether he can win the world championship is uncertain, but whether or not he’ll be there fighting for it right until the end is easier to ascertain.

4. Rossi’s chances aren’t up to Rossi

It says much for the (entirely appropriate) reverence Rossi is held in that he’s still being discussed as a championship threat despite being 33 points – more than a race win – off the lead with seven Grands Prix left. We’re right to hold ‘The Doctor’ in high esteem, but would we rate any other rider as having any chance whatsoever if they’d won one of the past 22 races, which is Rossi’s record after the Austrian GP?

The Italian’s victory at Assen in June was one from the top shelf, but with Ducati surging, the satellite Yamaha (Tech 3) and Ducati (Pramac) teams stealing occasional podiums, and greater depth at the front than ever, gone are the days when you can turn up on a factory Yamaha, be off the pace and still finish fourth at worst at the back of a two-team fight with the Repsol Hondas.

Rossi remains in the mix for now, but how long he stays there has as much to do with Marquez, Dovizioso, Vinales et al stumbling than simply his own results.

5. The ‘Samurai’ could play spoiler

Somewhat lost in the chat about the magnificence of Marquez, the instant success of Vinales on a factory Yamaha and Ducati’s emergence as a genuine threat has been the season of Dani Pedrosa, who already has more podium finishes to his name (seven) after 11 races than he managed in the whole of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The ‘Baby Samurai’ is at the back of the five-rider group from which this year’s world champion will surely be crowned, and with three podium finishes on the bounce, is well placed for a charge across the final seven Grands Prix.

The Spaniard’s durability is always a question-mark – he’s not completed a full season in three years thanks to myriad injuries from crashes or recovery from surgery – and it’s hard to imagine that the rider who has been in Honda’s factory outfit for 11 previous seasons without winning title can flip that script this year. But could Pedrosa’s pace have a say in who does salute if he doesn’t? Absolutely yes.

Miller Time: Why I’m moving to Ducati

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes from Austria about a race that was cut short, and why he thinks he’ll be better off red next year.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

There’s been some pretty big news this week with my future as you’ve all probably heard by now, but before that, there’s a race to talk about. Saying that, there’s not heaps to talk about when you qualify on the ninth row and don’t finish, but Austria was better than that, all things considered.

It seems a strange thing to say when you crash and don’t make the end, but there were a few positives from Sunday even though it won’t look like it. I didn’t hurt myself in the crash for one, so compared to what happened to me last year there, that’s a big plus. We were the top satellite Honda when I went down which was pretty good all things considered, and my race pace was decent considering where we started way back in 19th. I got a good start, gained six places on the first lap, and then the race pace was solid – I only did one lap in the 1min 26s, the rest were all 25s. The slower one was when (Karel) Abraham basically ran me off the track. I had a really good rhythm and felt comfortable, so it was shame the feeling with the rear tyre just kept getting worse and worse.

The tyre on the right-hand edge just started chewing out, and that was what caught me out in the end. I kept losing the rear on the entry to that corner, Turn 9, and it finally got me on lap 20. I lost the rear, and when it straightened up, the front went away on me, and that was it.

Austria is just about the toughest track of the year for our team and our bike with the long straights and the slow corners before them, we tend to wheelie and struggle out of the slow-speed stuff on the Honda, and that’s what this place is all about. It’s a complete horsepower track, basically. It’ll be good for us to get back to some more ‘normal’ tracks like Silverstone next, Misano and some of the others before the end of the season where our bike doesn’t work too bad.

Anyway, the bigger news of the week was – finally – I could tell everyone what I’d be doing for 2018 by going to Pramac Ducati to be teammate to Danilo Petrucci. The discussions have been going on since Jerez so it has been a long process for sure, but I’m really happy with how it has all worked out. It feels good to have the news finally out there, and it means I can now focus on the job for the rest of this year before starting something brand-new next year. We’re equal 12th in the championship now and I set myself a goal of top 10 before the start of the year, so it’s time to really pull my finger out. It won’t be easy, but it’s still possible. And then it’ll all be about Ducati and 2018. That’s for the future, but I’m definitely excited for it.

The move to Pramac just feels right, the right move at the right time. Something different that has come along at a good time in my career when I’m ready for that. We saw today with ‘Dovi’ (Andrea Dovizioso) that Ducati has a winning bike this year, and their satellite program clearly works pretty well too – that’s the bike I’ll be on next year. So I’m excited to get over there, and I have a good feeling about the staff there and how I’ll fit in. I had the option to continue with Marc VDS and there would have been nothing wrong with that at all, but at this point in my career, I think it was time for a change, and the offer and the opportunity felt right.

Saying that, I’ll never forget what the Marc VDS team did for me, and Assen last year is something all of us will remember wherever we end up for the rest of our careers. I’ll leave there on good terms and it’s a good little team that gets on – with Austria coming as a back-to-back with the Czech Republic, we actually did a little bit of team bonding and rode from Brno to the Austrian border. Here’s some of the bits you’re allowed to see …

With the contract stuff and then the two races in a row coming after the break when I did the Suzuka 8-Hour either side of going home to Townsville to be at my brother’s wedding, things have been a bit crazy lately – I haven’t actually been home to Andorra since before Assen, and that was back in June. So the plans for the next week are a whole lot of not much. Get home, pick up my dog, do some training but mostly chill for a few days. There’s been a lot happening, so I reckon I’ll need it.

Catch you after Silverstone in a few weeks.

Cheers, Jack

5 F1 stories to shape the rest of 2017

What’s happened in F1 this season that reveals plenty about what’s yet to come? Read on …

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Formula One may be in its mid-season siesta – the next race isn’t until August 27 when the campaign resumes in Belgium – but we’ve learned plenty over the first 11 races of the season that will shape the story of the last nine from Spa-Francorchamps onwards.

What has happened already that gives us a pointer of what’s likely to follow? Plenty, but we’ll restrict ourselves to five storylines to watch.

1. Hamilton v Vettel: naughty or nice?

They’re statistically two of the greatest drivers Formula One has ever seen, but circumstances have conspired to largely keep Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel out of one another’s way in the 10 seasons they’ve spent together on the grid. But that was then – and how the ‘now’ plays out for the rest of 2017 will make for fascinating viewing.

Their brief stoushes in Spain were a sign of things to come, and initially at least, both drivers seemed almost thrilled with the prospect of a head-to-head fight, Hamilton saying after his Barcelona win that it was “such a privilege” to race against the four-time world champion in one of the “rawest” fights he could ever remember. That all changed of course in Baku, when Vettel rammed Hamilton when the field was behind the safety car after he felt the Mercedes driver had brake-tested him, and the sniping through the media lasted for days.

The pair aired their differences via text message in the days before last month’s Austrian Grand Prix, but haven’t spent much time on track together since Azerbaijan as Hamilton took a gearbox penalty at the Red Bull Ring, ran rings around Vettel and the rest at Silverstone, and was too far back from the German in Hungary to threaten his race-long lead.

Will these two play naughty or nice when – not if – they’re disputing the same piece of tarmac over the final nine races? Perhaps that depends on …

2. Does teamwork make the Mercedes dream work?

Hamilton’s decision to honour an in-race agreement in Hungary to let teammate Valtteri Bottas back through into third place after his fruitless attempt to attack Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen did wonders for Mercedes inter-team relations. But in the cold light of day, that decision cost the team’s leading driver three world championship points. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider the title has been decided by that margin or less 18 times in F1’s 70 seasons, you start to realise how big the gesture was, and how costly it could be.

Ferrari has no such problems putting all of its eggs in the Vettel basket, as the German is 86 points ahead of Raikkonen who, lest we forget, is out of contract at the end of 2017. With Hamilton sitting 14 points adrift of Vettel’s series lead and Bottas hovering just 19 points behind his teammate, does having two dogs in the fight help or hinder Mercedes as it attempts to combat the only Ferrari driver the red team wants to win the title?

It’s a conundrum for team boss Toto Wolff, and while it’s hard to imagine that a more collaborative working environment than the one Mercedes had when Nico Rosberg was Hamilton’s teammate is a negative, what if an easier place to work doesn’t stay as a winning one? Expect Mercedes to back both drivers for now, and expect Bottas to gift Hamilton points – maybe even a win – if Mercedes has an overwhelming upper hand at any track later in the year.

3. Bulls stuck in third gear

Yes, Red Bull has won a Grand Prix this year – and Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in what surely go down as the year’s wackiest race in Azerbaijan is one that will live long in the memory – but the painful fact for those at Milton Keynes is that the team has been in a race by itself all year, not on the pace (in normal circumstances) of Mercedes and Ferrari, and well advanced of the rest.

Five of Red Bull’s six podiums have been third places (four for Ricciardo, plus Max Verstappen’s third in China), while the Australian and Dutchman have qualified alongside or immediately behind one another six times in 11 races. Hungary shaped as an opportunity to strike on an atypical circuit, but Verstappen striking the sidepod of Ricciardo on lap one put paid to one Red Bull’s race while making you wonder what might have been for the other – even with a 10-second penalty for causing the collision, Verstappen finished 13.276secs behind race-winner Vettel.

The tight confines of Singapore shape as a good chance of better, but other than that, the circuit layouts from here until the season’s chequered flag in Abu Dhabi look like races where, all things being equal, Red Bull will be fighting for little more than the minor podium places.

4. The rivalry that could get nastiest

Studying the relationship between teammates on this year’s grid remains as fascinating as ever. The Hamilton/Bottas axis appears to be completely tension-free on the account of the Finn’s apparent abhorrence of politics, while Raikkonen knows his place alongside Vettel at Ferrari. Ricciardo/Verstappen generally is smooth sailing publicly at Red Bull, and the Dutchman’s quick apology after Hungary wasn’t much of a surprise. Elsewhere, Felipe Massa acts as almost a wise old uncle to teenage rookie Lance Stroll at Williams.

Which leaves us with back-of-the-grid Sauber, where Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson seem to be forever telling the team to get their teammate to let them by … into 17th place … and Force India, the rivalry that has the greatest potential for fireworks from here on in.

The team sits in fourth place in the teams’ race, well behind Red Bull but well ahead of Williams and the rest, and repeating its best-ever constructors’ finish of last year is close to a certainty. More tension between Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon after what we’ve already seen in Canada, Hungary and especially Azerbaijan? More absolute than that.

Perez has proven himself to be a steady midfield hand for years, has exquisite tyre management skills that can snaffle a surprise podium, and brings plenty of sponsorship cash to the team, while Ocon is fast, on loan from Mercedes, ambitious and has something of a reputation for getting in the way when drivers are on hot laps and he’s not, Ricciardo commenting that he was “not a fan” of the young Frenchman in Hungary.

Perez is the leading driver of the pink pair for now (56 points to 45), but expect this inter-team fight to get more fractious as we tick off the final nine races.

5. Who’ll be king of the middle?

You could throw a blanket over fifth through eighth in the constructors’ championship, but the standout driver of the eight who ply their trade for Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault this year has been Carlos Sainz, who has the potential to take Red Bull’s sister squad to heights it has never previously hit.

The Spaniard has 35 of his team’s 39 points to almost single-handedly overhaul Williams’ tally of 41, 15 of which came when Stroll benefitted from the Baku chaos to score a shock first podium in third place (for context, the Canadian’s second-best result came at home in Montreal, when he finished ninth).

Romain Grosjean has had Kevin Magnussen’s measure at Haas, but not by a lot, while Daniil Kvyat’s near-disappearance at Toro Rosso and Jolyon Palmer’s non-contribution as Nico Hulkenberg’s teammate at Renault means Sainz shapes as the star of F1’s second division, and the man most likely to see Toro Rosso finish in the top five in the teams’ race for the first time in its 12-year history.

The 30 F1 stats you need to know

Front to back, top to bottom – here’s the 2017 season in a numerical nutshell.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Ferrari is back, Mercedes isn’t going anywhere, and Red Bull is beginning to get back into the game; these are all storylines we know from the 2017 Formula One season to date. But what about the statistics behind those stories? Which numbers tell the truth about the 11 races this season to date, and which – when spun the right way by their teams – try to paint over a murkier picture?

With the season in recess until the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month, these are the numbers that matter – and for the sake of being egalitarian (which F1 clearly isn’t), we’ll spread the love between all 10 teams and 20 drivers in equal measure. Lights out – let’s go.

Mercedes
Constructors’ championship: 1st (357 points)
Drivers’ championship: 2nd Lewis Hamilton (188 points), 3rd Valtteri Bottas (169 points)

1. Mercedes continues to lead the constructors’ championship this year, but hasn’t enjoyed the same level of dominance it has had over F1 since the advent of the V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014. At the mid-season break, the Silver Arrows have 357 points, which compares to 378 (2016), 383 (2015) and 393 (2014).

2. With six pole positions in the first 11 races this season, Lewis Hamilton now sits just one pole behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68. For the record, Schumacher’s tally came in 306 races; Hamilton’s last start in Hungary was his 199th.

3. Valtteri Bottas has led 136 laps in his 88 career races, 131 of them coming this year in his first season for Mercedes.

Red Bull Racing
Constructors’ championship: 3rd (184 points)
Drivers’ championship: 4th Daniel Ricciardo (117 points), 6th Max Verstappen (67 points)

4. With 11 finishes in 11 races this year, Red Bull has had at least one car finish a Grand Prix since the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, a span of 96 races (while Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, he finished the race in second place before being excluded).

5. All five of Ricciardo’s career victories – the fifth of which came in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June – have come from outside the top three on the grid.

6. Max Verstappen has spent more laps in fifth place this season (204) than any other position, and hasn’t been on the podium since round two (third in China).

Ferrari
Constructors’ championship: 2nd (318 points)
Drivers’ championship: 1st Sebastian Vettel (212 points), 5th Kimi Raikkonen (116 points)

7. How dramatic has Ferrari’s turnaround been this season? The Prancing Horse has won four of the 11 races so far (after no victories in 21 races last year), and is averaging 28.9 points per race as a team this season (18.9 last year).

8. Sebastian Vettel went into the mid-season break in the championship lead, and has led after every race since taking the season-opener in Melbourne. But Hamilton trumps the four-time world champion for most laps spent in the lead of races this season (262-221).

9. Kimi Raikkonen remains without a victory in his second stint at Ferrari from 2014 onwards; the Finn hasn’t won a Grand Prix since Australia 2013 for Lotus, 86 races ago.

Force India
Constructors’ championship: 4th (101 points)
Drivers’ championship: 7th Sergio Perez (56 points), 8th Esteban Ocon (45 points)

10. With 101 points at the mid-point of the season, Force India is well on track to smash its previous season-best tally (173), which it achieved last year. At the same time last year, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez had scored 74 points between them.

11. Perez’s run of 37 race finishes in a row came to an end in Azerbaijan when he retired with accident damage; the record for most races classified in succession continues to be held by Nick Heidfeld (41).

12. After never qualifying and finishing inside the top 10 in the same race before this season, Esteban Ocon has achieved that feat six times in the first 11 Grands Prix.

Williams
Constructors’ championship: 5th (41 points)
Drivers’ championship: 11th Felipe Massa (23 points), 12th Lance Stroll (18 points), 22nd Paul Di Resta (0 points, one race)

13. Williams has laboured through its worst first half to a season since 2013, when it scored just five points for the entire campaign. Its 41 points at the mid-season break compares unfavourably to 94 (2016), 151 (2015) and 135 (2014) at the same stage of the year over the previous three seasons.

14. With 260 F1 starts, Felipe Massa sits sixth on the all-time participation list – but is just third on the 2017 grid behind Fernando Alonso (281) and Kimi Raikkonen (262).

15. Lance Stroll’s third-place finish in Baku made the Canadian rookie the youngest-ever podium finisher in F1 history (18 years, 239 days).

McLaren
Constructors’ championship: 9th (11 points)
Drivers’ championship: 15th Fernando Alonso (10 points), 18th Stoffel Vandoorne (1 point), 23rd Jenson Button (0 points, one race)

16. It’s the third season of McLaren’s troubled re-marriage with Honda engines, and the sad news is that things are going from bad to worse; from 17 constructors’ championship points at the mid-point of the 2015 season rose to 38 last year, the team has managed just 11 in the first 11 races of 2017.

17. In his 10 races this season (remembering he missed the Monaco GP to compete in the Indianapolis 500), Fernando Alonso has a paddock-high six non-finishes, one of which was technically a non-start after his car failed on the formation lap for the Russian Grand Prix.

18. It took Stoffel Vandoorne 10 races before he out-qualified a teammate this season, taking eighth on the grid for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Toro Rosso
Constructors’ championship: 6th (39 points)
Drivers’ championship: 9th Carlos Sainz (35 points), 17th Daniil Kvyat (4 points)

19. Toro Rosso sits sixth in the constructors’ championship with 39 points at the mid-year break, only two points behind Williams; only once before has Red Bull’s B-team finished that high in its 11 previous seasons (sixth in 2008, when Sebastian Vettel took the team’s only victory to date).

20. Carlos Sainz has out-scored Daniil Kvyat 77 points to eight in the 28 races they’ve been teammates since the Spanish Grand Prix of 2016.

21. While Sainz leads Kvyat 35-4 in points this year, it’s the Russian who has held sway in their head-to-head qualifying battle (6-5).

Haas
Constructors’ championship: 7th (29 points)
Drivers’ championship: 13th Romain Grosjean (18 points), 14th Kevin Magnussen (11 points)

22. Eleven races into its second F1 season, Haas has already scored as many points (29) as it managed in its entire 2016 debut campaign.

23. After scoring points five times in 21 races last year, Romain Grosjean has already matched that tally in just 11 Grands Prix this season.

24. With no appearances in Q3 yet this season, Kevin Magnussen’s most recent top-10 qualifying performance remains the final race of the 2014 season for McLaren, where he started ninth in Abu Dhabi.

Renault
Constructors’ championship: 8th (26 points)
Drivers’ championship: 10th Nico Hulkenberg (26 points), 19th Jolyon Palmer (0 points)

25. With 26 points in the opening 11 races, Renault has easily surpassed last year’s tally of eight points with half the season remaining.

26. Nico Hulkenberg is the only driver to have an unblemished qualifying head-to-head record over his teammate (11-0) this season.

27. Since scoring his sole F1 point in 31 races for 10th place in Malaysia last year, Jolyon Palmer has finished 11th – one place outside the points-paying spots – three times in 2017 (Monaco, Canada, Austria).

Sauber
Constructors’ championship: 10th (5 points)
Drivers’ championship: 16th Pascal Wehrlein (5 points), 20th Marcus Ericsson (0 points)

28. While Sauber sits 10th and last in the constructors’ championship, its cars have only occupied the back row of the grid at two of the 11 races this season (Canada and Austria).

29. Stuck in last place in the drivers’ championship of the regular drivers, Marcus Ericsson is on a 39-race run of finishes outside the top 10 and world championship points.

30. Eighth for Pascal Wehrlein in Spain was Sauber’s best race finish since Felipe Nasr was sixth in the 2015 Russian Grand Prix, a span of 30 races.

Miller Time: Rolling the dice

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes about a Czech GP longshot that didn’t pay off, and weighs in on his contract status for 2018 and beyond.

THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Sometimes you have to take a gamble when you’re not looking very likely to get a good result by doing a ‘normal’ race, and Sunday at Brno was one of those opportunities. It’d rained a fair bit in the morning, and being back on the fifth row of the grid like I was, there was absolutely no point playing it conservative and doing what everyone else did – all that would have guaranteed was that I’d finish where I started. So we pitted early for slick tyres, I made some ground … and then slid back to more or less where I started. Sometimes you look like a genius, other times an idiot. Sunday was more somewhere in the middle. Worth a shot? Of course. Did it work? Not really.

Getting back on the MotoGP bike this weekend after doing the Suzuka 8-Hour in Japan last weekend on a Superbike took some getting used to, maybe more than I expected it to. I’d done that many laps on the Superbike through July when we were on our summer break that I needed to readjust. Japan was hot, Suzuka is a tough track that I’d never been to before, I was sharing a bike with two other riders and we were on Bridgestone tyres. Brno was mostly wet, I’d not ridden there for two years because I missed last year with injury, I was back on Michelins and on a MotoGP bike … there was a bit going on.

The track was too wet to start on slicks on Sunday, but that didn’t last long, so we dived into the pits for slicks early on with a few other guys who were brave at the start like Marc (Marquez), and it worked out alright for him … For me, I got up inside the top 10 but knew there were some fast guys that had come in (probably wrongly) later than me, but we’re not going to be able to hold off Vale (Valentino Rossi) and Maverick (Vinales) and those guys once we get into a more normal dry-weather race. I was hoping to finish on the edge of the top 10, but the two Tech 3 boys (Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger) got me in the final laps, so 14th was what it was. Not a heap to get excited about, but like I said, we didn’t have much to lose by trying what we did. Wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible, just a bit of a nothing result. Put it this way, it’s always good after a race like that to have another one as soon as we can, and that’s what we have with Austria next weekend.

Back to Suzuka and the 8-Hour, and that race was one I’d wanted to do for years but never had the right offer or the opportunity, so I really enjoyed it. I rode with Takumi Takahashi and Taka Nakagami (from Moto2) and we came in fourth, which was a bit of a shame as a podium would have been good, but we had a crash and some damage to deal with, so couldn’t quite get there. But as an event, really enjoyed it. I’d heard heaps about the track and obviously from when GP raced there and it was cool, very technical and hard to get your head around, but a pretty amazing layout. The whole thing was a good experience for me with Honda and I’d have another go at it if I got asked, for sure.

Before that I was back home for a while in the break in Townsville for my brother’s wedding, so that worked out pretty perfectly with timing for Suzuka and the month off from GPs. And of course there were heaps of questions from family, mates, fans, media people … well, one question really – where was I going to be riding for 2018? Truth is I thought I knew the answer and that I’d have something to say at Brno, but things have changed a bit and I still don’t have anything to announce. There’s a bit to weigh up and I’d like to get it done sooner rather than later to have it secured and move on with the season, but at the same time you want to make sure you’re happy with the decision and know it’s the right one, so there’s no news yet. Soon, hopefully.

The main thing for me at the moment is working out which of the options I have that’ll give me the number one priority, a competitive bike and one I can move forward with. Having more than one option is good, it’s good to be talked about. I’m not going to do it for nothing of course, I’m a professional sportsman these days and it’s my job, and I need to make money from my job like anyone. But it’s more about what I’m riding than the dollar signs at this stage of my career, and being more competitive is worth more than anything. So, I know I said that I’d have something to announce soon last time after Sachsenring, so I’ll say that again – yes, it’ll be soon, and yes, I want it done as soon as possible. You’ll know pretty soon after I do!

Austria is next weekend with the quick turnaround, and we’ll be aiming for better than Brno for sure – I’ll speak to you from there.

Cheers, Jack