Month: April 2018

What happened at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen come to blows, while Lewis Hamilton lucks in to a race win and the F1 series lead after a bonkers race in Baku.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The build-up
Baku was the site of Sebastian Vettel’s angry swerve at title rival Lewis Hamilton’s car in last year’s race, but the Ferrari driver kept his head and rode his luck in Azerbaijan qualifying to take his third straight pole position this year, the first time he’d nailed three poles in a row since his Red Bull days (Italy, Singapore and Korea 2013). His lap of 1min 41.498secs was a strong one in the tricky winds that whipped around the seaside street circuit, but the German made a mistake at Turn 3 on his final lap, and it looked like teammate Kimi Raikkonen would be the Ferrari on pole. A lurid slide by the Finn at Turn 16 on his final run (“it was a f**k-up,” was his analysis of what went wrong afterwards) cost him not only pole, but saw him fall all the way down to sixth, behind both Mercedes’ (Hamilton ahead of Valtteri Bottas by 0.160secs) and both Red Bulls, Daniel Ricciardo nicking fourth off Max Verstappen on his final lap by 0.083secs after stealing an aerodynamic tow down Baku’s endless 2.1km straight as Raikkonen completed his messy lap. “I had to make it clean,” the Australian said. Further back, Nico Hulkenberg’s run of six straight races starting from seventh (as in the best of the rest) came to an end when his Renault needed a new gearbox, triggering a five-place grid penalty from ninth. Both Force India drivers were in the top 10 for the first time this year (Esteban Ocon pipping Sergio Perez at the circuit where the pink cars played bumper cars last year), while further back, we were spared a terrifying shunt between the Toro Rosso drivers after Pierre Gasly somehow avoided Brendon Hartley on the 300km/h-plus run to Turn 15, the Kiwi slowing with a puncture after clipping the wall and not seeing Gasly steaming along behind him. The Frenchman’s reflexes were incredible, and Hartley was quick to put his hand up. “I owe him a big apology for getting in the way and nearly causing a huge accident,” he said after what Gasly called the “scariest moment of my career”.

The race in exactly 69 words*
Vettel looked on course to take his third win of 2018 before Verstappen and Ricciardo collided on lap 40. Bottas led the field after the safety car restart, but debris gave him a puncture with three laps left, Hamilton assuming the lead. Raikkonen, who pitted after lap one contact with Ocon, was second, Perez rounding out an unlikely podium after Vettel locked up and fell to fourth challenging Bottas.
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)

Ricciardo recap
Last year, Ricciardo won a madcap race on the Baku streets; this time, the race was equally as crazy, but his mood heading home would have been far darker after the incident with Verstappen that overshadowed the (approximately) 200 other talking points from the race …

The scene for what was to follow was set on lap six after the restart following the lap one safety car for debris on circuit after the retirements of Ocon’s Force India and Sergey Sirotkin’s Williams, when Verstappen and Carlos Sainz’s Renault muscled their way past Ricciardo on the first full race lap. The Red Bull teammates later made contact on lap 12 at Turn 1 as Ricciardo tried for a pass around the outside, and came to within centimetres of other incidents at several other stages before Ricciardo finally made his way past at the first corner on lap 35. He pitted two laps later, discarding the supersoft tyres he’d started the race on for ultrasofts to its conclusion, but Verstappen stayed out one lap longer and made the most of Ricciardo’s struggles to get his new rubber up to temperature to edge ahead again after his own stop.

On lap 40, Ricciardo was right in Verstappen’s wheeltracks, the Dutchman desperately trying to break the tow as they came onto the start-finish straight. Ricciardo looked for an opening down the outside again, switched back to the inside, and the pair collided.

After the race, Ricciardo was asked for his views on the incident, and his teammate.

“We’re not into each other right now,” he said of Verstappen.

“It’s more just about saying sorry to the team, just apologise the best way we can.

“We don’t want to be in that situation. Just down I guess, for the situation. Thankful that we’re allowed to race, especially myself and Max, we love to race. That’s cool.

“We did get close already in the race a few times, touching, sometimes we were on the limit. Unfortunately it’s ended how it did. It’s not a nice situation.”

Four races into the season, Ricciardo is in fifth place in the championship with 37 points; Verstappen has just 18 points (eighth overall).

What the result means
Somehow, Hamilton leads the championship by four points after four races despite never being in a position of dominance since Melbourne, where took pole by a country mile and lost a win he should have had because of a Mercedes strategy error under safety car conditions. His celebrations of his 63rd career win were understandably muted after teammate Bottas lost a victory through no fault of his own, but he could be excused for seeing Azerbaijan as some sort of karmic payback for Australia.

Vettel has three poles from four races and could have very easily won all four, meaning Ferrari can return to Spain for the next race to see whether its car can challenge Mercedes at a circuit where the Silver Arrows looked to have pace to burn in pre-season testing. A good result there, and we might have a title fight that lasts the whole season this time, not two-thirds of it like last year before operational and driver errors cost the Scuderia dear.

As for Red Bull, and any future implementation of team orders? Won’t happen. Speaking to TV crews after the race, Red Bull’s motorsport adviser Helmut Marko had this to say: “It was a racing accident between the two, there was not more fault for one or the other. We always let the drivers race, we don’t have a number one, we don’t have a number two, but we expect responsibility from the drivers.”

Team principal Christian Horner said the drivers were “both to blame” for the incident.

For historical purposes …
Perez’s third place for Force India means Baku has now produced the only three races in the past 38 Grands Prix where the podium hasn’t been made up solely of drivers from Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull (Perez third in 2016, Lance Stroll third for Williams in 2017, and Perez third again this year).

The number to know
978:
The number of races since a driver from Monaco last scored points in a Grand Prix before Charles Leclerc’s brilliant sixth for Sauber on Sunday. Louis Chiron finished third in the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix, the second race of the inaugural world championship; Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix was the 980th race in Formula One’s history.

Under-the-radar winner(s)Hamilton’s win got plenty of press, obviously. But plenty of others had reason to smile as others picked up (or swept up) the pieces after a manic race. Leclerc was close to speechless after finishing sixth in just his fourth race, taking Sauber’s best result since Felipe Nasr finished in the same position at the 2015 Russian Grand Prix. Stroll scored the first points for him and Williams this year with eighth, while speaking of firsts, Hartley finished 10th to score his maiden world championship point for Toro Rosso.

The naughty corner
We hate to kick people while they’re down, but the two drivers who haven’t scored points yet this year (Sirotkin and Romain Grosjean of Haas) won’t remember this weekend fondly. Sirotkin was out on lap one after rear-ending Perez at Turn 2, which led to Perez hitting teammate Ocon. Sirotkin then made contact with Hulkenberg’s Renault and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, breaking the front left side of his Williams and sending Alonso back to the pits with two punctures. Sirotkin was handed a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Spain. Grosjean looked set to score points after qualifying last when his car broke down on Saturday, but bizarrely crashed from sixth place as the field was behind the safety car for the Red Bull shunt with eight laps to go.

What’s next?
Next? After that? Bottas was prescribing “10 pints of beer” to wash away his disappointment … For the Finn and everyone else, we’re back in Europe proper next time out for the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (May 13), the track every driver knows like the back of their hand from lap after lap of pre-season testing. The circuit offers few surprises, but the cars might – Spain marks the start of phase two of the season, most teams bringing significant updates to their cars that have largely been frozen in development terms from when they made the long journey south to Melbourne.

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The Dan Diaries: Keeping calm to carry on

In his latest driver column, Daniel Ricciardo writes about a China win that came from the clouds, and how an early-season victory has restored his belief. 

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

It’s a good job we didn’t have to race last weekend, and that Azerbaijan wasn’t a back-to-back with China. Last weekend? I was knackered, had some stitches in and pretty much cooked as far as energy goes. Not at my best at all. It’d been a full-on week, not that I was complaining after getting a race win at a Grand Prix where it looked like I wasn’t even going to be able to qualify …

It took me five days to get back to Monaco after winning in Shanghai, and it seriously felt like I was on the go for all five. I wish I had some decent stories of crazy three-day parties and that sort of thing to share with you, but it was about as uneventful as celebrations get. I was on multiple flights connecting the night after the race, went straight into the Red Bull Racing factory at Milton Keynes, had time in the simulator, and then I had to get some minor surgery (OK, so that’s overstating it, but you know what blokes are like).

I had this weird thing with my lip happen in Bahrain the weekend before where I bit it, and it must have got infected or something because I kept biting it over and over. So I had to get that taken out and stitched back up in London, so that – and a fair bit of talking about China – was basically the week after Shanghai. I got back to Monaco last Friday, where I could finally put my feet up.

My celebrating leaves a lot to be desired, I didn’t go too well after Baku last year either. The last win I properly celebrated was Budapest 2014 just before the summer break that year, and that was … yeah, that was messy. I definitely have to lift my game though, I’m either all-in or not at all when it comes to celebrating.

China and what happened just happened so fast. I mean, let’s be honest, the first half of that race was pretty boring – and I was in it! Not a lot was happening from my side, but then Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly had their little moment (I thanked both of them at the airport afterwards!) and the safety car gave us a chance to try something.

I’ll be honest, when we made the call to pit behind the safety car, I thought I’d be quick on the soft tyres, but I didn’t think the win was on. I passed Kimi (Raikkonen) pretty quickly, then Max (Verstappen) opened the door and I immediately latched on to Lewis (Hamilton). At that point I recognised the car’s speed and knew the win was on. I went dead-silent on the radio from there. I basically didn’t say anything until I got past (Valtteri) Bottas for the lead, and then I probably carried on a bit. But I was really calm, which might be a surprise – you might think I’d be so full of adrenaline or aggression or whatever, and be a bit hyper. I knew what could be done, and just had to get it done. I’m fired up, sure, but Shanghai was just crazy calm for some reason. I knew what I needed to do and didn’t get overly excited about it, and I’d doubt my heart rate got above 120 (beats per minute) for that run from sixth to first. I felt super-chilled in there.

What surprised me in China was how quickly I got to the front. I’d been pretty quiet on the radio until that time as I was passing people, so I asked (race engineer) Simon (Rennie) how far we had to go once I’d taken the lead, and couldn’t believe it was still 11 laps or so. What was I supposed to do with 11 laps? I pushed initially to create a gap, but then started managing it, and that’s when your mind can start to wander. You have all this adrenaline after a carrot like a race win gets dangled in front of you, and then it’s like ‘what now?’ Driving on the limit is easier. You’re much more present. The day before, we’d had the turbo failure, so every time I started on that long back straight in China on those last 11 laps I was thinking ‘I hope I don’t hear any funny noises like yesterday …’. When you start to cruise and manage a gap, you think about that sort of thing. When I was hunting the others down, not once.

I got asked a bit about the Bottas pass for the lead, in that why did I go for it where I did into Turn 6 when I probably could have waited until later in the lap where I had an advantage with DRS, or even on another lap seeing as though we were a fair way from the end. Both fair calls, but there was more at stake than just that one pass. The way I saw it, you need to set your intentions. I’d been asked in the press earlier in China about Valtteri’s race in Bahrain where he’d had a chance to attack Seb (Sebastian Vettel) on the last lap and what I thought about it, and so in my mind I had no choice. I had a chance, so I had to have a go. I’d talked the talk, so I had to walk it …

When I crossed the line, that chilled side changed, and I ran through a lot of emotions for the next hour or so. Went pretty crazy in the car of course, the podium was quite emotional, I had a few lines for Martin (Brundle) in the interview, and then I was a bit reflective for a while. I had not just the 24 hours before that moment on my mind, but the week before when I’d done one lap in Bahrain and had to retire. I was actually really flat after that, and seven days later, here I am winning a race after overtaking both Ferraris, both Mercedes and my teammate in about 10 laps.

I always believe in myself and I believe I can do it, but you have a race like Bahrain and you’re thinking that no matter how hard you work, it can be taken away, and that can be massively frustrating and really get to you. I know it’s not personal and it’s out of my control, but it can still take a toll. Saturday morning in China with the engine, it didn’t look like we were going to get out for qualifying at all, but the boys did an amazing job and we just made it. And then out of nowhere you win, everyone’s going nuts … It was a whole mix of things that left me happy and made me emotional at the same time.

Being able to prove that the belief I still have in myself and what I can do when I’m given the chance means something, so it was all of those things wrapped into one. I was a bit run-down as well with the time zone changes – we’re in Oz, pretty much on the same time as China, and then we go back to Bahrain and basically back on European time for a weekend and then head to China – the calendar makes no sense to me at all. So everything aligned to make me more emotional than I usually am when I win.

Would you be shocked to know that winning a race meant I got asked about 1000 more times about my contract for next year, as if winning made it any more clear about who I’ll be driving for? Nah, me neither. To be honest, since Max re-signed with the team last year, the same question has been coming non-stop. I’ll see if I can answer the same questions another way this weekend too. Wish me luck …

Speaking of the weekend, it’s about time to head to Baku. It’s always good to go back to somewhere where the last time you were there, something good happened. Like Grand Prix-winning good! It doesn’t do anything to your confidence as such, but there is a certain feeling that comes with being somewhere where, in the past, you were the best on one day out of everyone. I’ve never won a race so early in a season before, so being right in the mix with a win under my belt already is pretty good for the fourth race of the season. I’m ready to go. Two in a row isn’t too much to ask for, is it?

Miller Time: A battle in Texas

Aussie MotoGP rider Jack Miller writes from Austin about overcoming a shoulder injury and a bad qualifying to sneak into the top 10 again.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

Another top 10 finish? Yeah, I’ll take that – that’s six in a row for me now. It was a tough old weekend for us in Texas and definitely a bit of a let-down after how good Argentina was, but sometimes you have to make the best of a shitty situation and get what you can out of it, so ninth place is a pretty positive end to what wasn’t the most positive of weekends.

I expected more coming into the weekend, but we struggled with the bike set-up from the get-go (as the Americans would say), and I was struggling with a shoulder injury that I carried into the weekend as well. Not ideal.

We kept pretty quiet about the shoulder all weekend, but now we’re done, I can admit that it wasn’t great. I was out training in California after Argentina, and I fell off doing some mountain biking. The injuries are nothing that some rest time and recovery can’t handle, but I ended up with some muscle damage, some bruising and a little tear on my rotator cuff on my right shoulder. And a crack in my collarbone as well. I tell you, sometimes the time between the races can be more dangerous than the race weekends themselves …

I had a crash in final practice just before qualifying and had to use my second bike for Q1, so that was partly the reason I struggled and only started from 18th. Saying that, 18th and not hurting myself again after the injury I came in with actually wasn’t a bad result – there’s no small crashes here because of the nature of the track, as I found out the hard way a few years ago when I had to miss the race here. So, 18th sucked, but being upright and not too sore afterwards was a win of sorts.

I would have liked to have finished in front of my old teammate Tito (Rabat), but he got me in the end after I passed him for eighth with about three laps to go. We had a good last-lap battle and I think we both enjoyed it a lot, but he got me this time. He passed me at the end of the back straight on the last lap but ran a little wide, so I got back through. But then he got me at the left-hander soon after that; I ran narrow to try to block the inside kerb, but as I did that I saw his front tyre coming out of nowhere, so I guess he was pretty set on coming through. He got me by about a tenth of a second at the line by the end. But a good battle anyway, and I’ll have to make sure I get him back next time.

The Circuit of the Americas is an amazing facility and they’ve clearly spent a heap of money on it, but the track itself doesn’t tend to produce great MotoGP races for whatever reason. Part of that is because Marc (Marquez) clears off and wins every time we come here, but the track layout doesn’t give you as many passing chances as you’d think. I did most of my passing at Turn 1 up the hill, because it’s so wide there that you can take all sorts of different lines and still get the bike stopped up the top. I always try for a tighter line there, and that made my race in some ways today because I got a few spots on the first lap of the race, and I was able to get past Jorge (Lorenzo) there later on too.

It’s Turn 1 and the corner before the long back straight, they’re my preferred spots. But it’s funny, passing is way harder than you’d think here. There’s some good passing spots in theory, but if you pass you can run wide so easily, and then the other guy cuts back on you, squares the corner off and stays ahead anyway. It’s a wide track with a lot of run-off, so that’s the result. It’s a bit one-line, follow the leader, that sort of thing.

The other big talking point about the track was how bad the surface was, especially on Friday when we realised what had happened to it after they’d tried to remove some of the worst of the bumps from when we were here last year. Friday was definitely the worst it has ever been, it was filthy. It’s time to resurface the whole thing really, you can’t keep sticking band-aids on it and expect the problems to go away, it just won’t happen. It’s gone past being able to be fixed and patched up, and I reckon it needs a fair bit of work.

It’s back to Europe now after a long few weeks away, and it’ll be good to get back “home” and do some training, and try to get the shoulder more right for Jerez. I’ve got young Billy Van Eerde near me in Andorra at the moment, he’s the young Aussie who’s doing the Red Bull Rookies Cup this year and has been there a couple of weeks, so I’ll spend some time with him and get him ready for what he has coming up. And maybe ease up a bit on the mountain bike …

Cheers, Jack

Bigger in America: How Marquez mastered the USA

Nine races, never beaten – here’s how the reigning MotoGP champ has laid the foundations for a perfect 10 in Austin this weekend.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

If the answer is Nicolas Terol, then what’s the question? The date: August 29, 2010 – the last time Marc Marquez raced in the world motorcycle championship in the United States and wasn’t the winner of the race. No, really.

It was the Indianapolis 125cc Grand Prix of that year, and Marquez, from pole, was leading on lap nine before crashing, re-mounting and crossing the line fifth, 19 seconds behind compatriot and race-winner Terol. But it didn’t end there – Marquez was penalised 20 seconds after the race for performing an “illegal manoeuvre” by cutting Turns 3 and 4 of the track on the penultimate lap and gaining ground. He was eventually classified 10th. Even back then, the 17-year-old had a penchant for drama …

The reason we’re bringing this up? There’s nine of them, actually. For the four-time MotoGP world champion comes into this weekend’s Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on a remarkable nine-race winning streak in MotoGP in the US – yes, every race he’s ridden under a fluttering Stars and Stripes on a flaming orange Repsol Honda. He’s started all but one of those races on pole too, Stefan Bradl denying Marquez by 0.017secs in qualifying at Laguna Seca in 2013 to spoil his clean sheet.

Scouring through the archives, it appears the only way to slow down Marquez’s rate of victories in America is to reduce the number of races held there. There were three in his rookie season of 2013, which coincided with Laguna Seca’s final year and the first race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. For the following two years, there were two races in the US until Indianapolis dropped off the schedule after 2015. Since, he’s had to content himself with a single annual trophy collection ‘Stateside at COTA.

Marquez isn’t just prolific in MotoGP races in the US, either. Even in Moto2 he was victorious there: he won at Indianapolis in 2011 and 2012 in his only two seasons in the intermediate class, meaning he’s actually on an 11-race winning streak across seven years in America ahead of this weekend.

As we wonder who to put our hard-earned cash on for this weekend at COTA (tip: number 93 will do quite nicely, even after the dramas and controversy of Argentina last time out), here’s how Marquez put the building blocks in place to score a perfect 10 this Sunday.

2013, Grand Prix of the Americas
Qualifying:
2mins 03.021secs (2nd: Dani Pedrosa, +0.254secs)
Winning margin:
1.534secs (2nd: Pedrosa)
Recap:
A weekend of breakthroughs at the Circuit of the Americas for Marquez; his first MotoGP pole and win in just his second MotoGP start, and one where he became the sport’s youngest premier-class winner (20 years, two months, four days). Marquez took the lead from teammate Pedrosa just after half-distance in Austin’s maiden 21-lap race, and never allowed his senior compatriot a look-in as he got on the board in MotoGP.

2013, US Grand Prix
Qualifying:
1:21.193 (2nd, +0.017secs behind Stefan Bradl)
Winning margin:
2.298secs (2nd: Bradl)
Recap:
It was Marquez’s first (and only) experience of the undulating Californian circuit, remembering that the junior classes didn’t race at Laguna Seca when it was on the schedule. His inexperience mattered not: Marquez bounced back from a qualifying crash that enabled Bradl to pip him for pole to beat the German 24 hours later, recovering from a tardy start and passing Valentino Rossi in a memorable move at The Corkscrew that saw both riders briefly in the dirt. Ah, things were so friendly between Marquez and Rossi back then …

2013, Indianapolis Grand Prix
Qualifying:
1:37.958 (2nd: Pedrosa, +0.513secs)
Winning margin:
3.495secs (2nd: Pedrosa)
Recap:
Marquez had winning form at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Moto2, but rose to a new level on his first visit to ‘The Brickyard’ on the bigger bike, setting a new circuit record in qualifying, breaking the lap record in the race and keeping both teammate Pedrosa and countryman Jorge Lorenzo at bay after assuming the lead for good at the halfway stage.

2014, Grand Prix of the Americas
Qualifying:
2:02.773 (2nd: Pedrosa, +0.289secs)
Winning margin:
4.124secs (2nd: Pedrosa)
Recap:
Marquez was on a different planet in qualifying, repeatedly shattering his own circuit record, and was only headed briefly in the race after a bizarre jump start from Lorenzo, whose Yamaha was nearly halfway up the hill to COTA’s signature first corner before the lights went out. Once Lorenzo pitted to serve a ride-through penalty, Marquez stretched his lead to over five seconds before a wobble on the final corner of the final lap gave his pit crew a scare. It was the one moment all weekend he didn’t look completely in control.

2014, Indianapolis Grand Prix
Qualifying:
1:31.619 (2nd: Andrea Dovizioso, +0.225secs)
Winning margin:
1.803secs (2nd: Lorenzo)
Recap:
Marquez came to Indy in a season where his title defence from 2013 couldn’t have been going much better – he’d won all nine of the previous races, and took his eighth pole for 2014 on Saturday despite running wide on his first attempt. He made if a perfect 10 on Sunday, but this was a hard-fought win – embroiled in a scrap with Rossi and Lorenzo for the first half of the race, he escaped as the factory Yamaha teammates fought one another to ease to victory.

2015, Grand Prix of the Americas
Qualifying:
2:02.135 (2nd: Dovizioso, +0.339secs)
Winning margin:
2.354secs (2nd: Dovizioso)
Recap:
COTA in 2015 may have produced the best single lap of Marquez’s career in qualifying, after his bike shut down on the pit straight as he was about to start his final lap. He abandoned his Honda, sprinted down the pit lane to board his spare bike, and then rode it like a man possessed, seemingly within millimetres of crashing on every corner to jump from seventh place to pole in 122 seconds of white-knuckle genius. The race was, by comparison, a more tame affair, Marquez passing Dovizioso on lap five for a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

2015, Indianapolis Grand Prix
Qualifying:
1:31.884 (2nd: Pedrosa, +0.171secs)
Winning margin:
0.688secs (2nd: Lorenzo)
Recap:
Marquez was a long shot for the title by the time the series hit Indianapolis for its final visit, but that didn’t stop him winning in the US for a seventh straight time. He was made to earn this one, though; Lorenzo got the holeshot from the outside of the front row and set the pace, Marquez sitting behind him for lap after lap without attempting to pass. Marquez then struck at the first corner with three laps to go, and held firm for the closest victory of his nine on the bounce in the US.

2016, Grand Prix of the Americas
Qualifying:
2:03.188 (2nd: Lorenzo, +0.069secs)
Winning margin:
6.107secs (2nd: Lorenzo)
Recap:
Having barely kept his unblemished pole record at Austin alive – Lorenzo was just six-hundredths of a second slower – Marquez appeared vulnerable to Yamaha’s world champion on race day, but only if Lorenzo could produce a flawless race. Note the use of ‘could’: two first-lap mistakes by the Yamaha rider saw him drop behind Dovizioso, and by the time Lorenzo got back to second place on lap five, Marquez had checked out. His margin ballooned to eight seconds before easing off as the chequered flag loomed.

2017, Grand Prix of the Americas
Qualifying:
2:02.741 (2nd: Maverick Vinales, +0.130secs)
Winning margin:
3.069secs (2nd: Rossi)
Recap:
COTA came at a good time for Marquez, Yamaha’s new signing Vinales having won the opening two races of the year in Qatar and Argentina to skip to a decisive series lead, helped by Marquez crashing out in round two. Pole put the pressure on Vinales, who then fell at Turn 18 chasing Marquez on lap two. With a chance to get right back into the title fight, Marquez scurried past teammate Pedrosa on lap nine. You know what happened next …

What happened at the Chinese Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo comes from the clouds to win an extraordinary race – here’s 10 things you need to know about a GP packed with incident and accident in Shanghai.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The build-up
With China coming hot on the heels of Bahrain the previous weekend, there were still stories from Sakhir to sort out – Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton eventually calling a truce after trading barbs following their on-track clash, Pierre Gasly explaining his subtle trolling of McLaren after finishing a career-best fourth (he admitted it was to give Honda credit), and plenty more besides. When qualifying finally got underway under overcast skies and in temperatures of just 12 degrees, it was Sebastian Vettel who picked up where he left off in Bahrain, breaking the circuit record on his final lap with a 1min 31.095secs stunner to edge Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen by just 0.087secs. Ferrari’s first back-to-back front-row lockouts in 12 years was one thing, but the margin back to the best Mercedes (Valtteri Bottas in third was half a second slower) was alarming for the Silver Arrows. World champion Hamilton was oddly off Bottas’ pace and aborted his final lap after running wide, but he was at least faster than the Red Bulls, Verstappen (fifth) beating Daniel Ricciardo by 0.152secs in a session Ricciardo didn’t look destined to start at all after a spectacular turbo failure in final practice. The team installed a new engine in next to no time, having the appreciative Australian back out on track three minutes before Q1 ended. Further back, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg at least knew where to line up on race day – he started seventh for the sixth straight race – while Bahrain standout Gasly fell back to earth with a thud, eliminated in Q1 and starting just 17th, behind Toro Rosso teammate Brendon Hartley.

The race in exactly 69 words*
Vettel led early but looked set to lose to Bottas after the Mercedes undercut him in the pit stops, but a mid-race safety car saw Red Bull roll the dice from third (Verstappen) and fifth (Ricciardo) with second stops for tyres. Verstappen ran wide fighting Hamilton on lap 39, and Ricciardo then passed Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas to take a lead he wouldn’t relinquish with 12 laps left.
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)

Ricciardo recap
Let’s face it, 6900 words, not 69, would do justice to Ricciardo’s sixth Formula One win. So we’ll restrain ourselves to these …

That Ricciardo was sixth on the grid at all was thanks largely to his mechanics performing a herculean task to replace his engine in swift order for qualifying, but his race didn’t seem destined to reach any great heights when he was stuck where he started in the first stint, Verstappen looking the Red Bull more likely to make the rostrum after his superb start that saw him jump Raikkonen and Hamilton on lap one. The Dutchman was far enough ahead of Ricciardo that the team could double-stack the cars for their first pit stops on lap 17, and it appeared Red Bull would nurse the medium-compound tyres to the end and Ricciardo would finish, at best, fifth. But when Toro Rosso teammates Gasly and Hartley clashed at the Turn 14 hairpin and left debris strewn all over the circuit, Red Bull spied a chance to pit both drivers in quick succession again under safety car conditions, and Ricciardo suddenly had a sniff on a brand-new set of soft Pirellis he could thrash to the flag.

Raikkonen was dispatched into the hairpin on lap 37 with what – at the time – looked to be the move of the race, but Ricciardo was barely getting started. Verstappen’s off-track excursion after coming perilously close to touching Hamilton as they fought two laps later promoted the Australian to fourth, and he then nailed Hamilton at his favourite spot a lap later with a pass that was late on the brakes even by his standards. Vettel was his next victim on the back straight on lap 42, and three laps later, he dived underneath Bottas for the lead at Turn 4, and that was that.

Ricciardo careered away to win by over eight seconds, set the fastest lap of the race two laps from home, and looked like he couldn’t quite believe what he’d done when he beamed on the podium before – you guessed it – the obligatory post-race shoey.

“I don’t seem to win boring races,” Ricciardo laughed, and he has a point. All six of his F1 victories have come from outside the top three on the grid.

“I have lots of emotions,” he added.

“On the in-lap I was just smiling and I didn’t have many words, then on the podium I was nearly in tears. In the press conference I was just thinking about the whole race and also about last week; how disappointed this sport can make you feel but also how high it can make you feel.”

What the result means
Vettel looked odds-on to snare his 50th Grand Prix win after his qualifying masterclass, and Bottas then seemed set to take a victory that he arguably needed considering the amount of airtime given to his failed pursuit of Vettel for the win in Bahrain seven days earlier. But Ricciardo’s victory vaulted the Australian right back into the championship mix after his second-lap exit at Sakhir the Sunday prior, and just fourth for Shanghai specialist Hamilton extended Mercedes’ strangely slow start to 2018. As it was, the world champion was promoted a place after Verstappen was penalised for causing a collision when he collected Vettel at the hairpin on lap 43, the Dutchman having 10 seconds added to his race time for a clash he admitted fault for and which dropped him to fifth.

Vettel struggled after the incident and fell to eighth by the flag, robustly passed (with some joy, we’re sure) by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap.

With 54 points, Vettel leads the standings by nine points from Hamilton, with Bottas in third (40) and Ricciardo (37) surging to fourth. In three Grands Prix, we’ve had two different teams on pole, two teams win races and the reigning champs of the past four years yet to spray the champagne of victory. Reads like a recipe for a fun season to us …

For historical purposes …
Ricciardo’s win means Mercedes has gone three races without a victory for the first time since the advent of Formula One’s V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014 – a remarkable span lasting 82 races.

The number to know
6:
Ricciardo’s starting position on the grid before taking his sixth win. For the record, the only race won from outside the top five on the grid in 20 Grands Prix last year was by Ricciardo in Azerbaijan, where he started 10th after crashing in qualifying.

Under-the-radar winner(s)
Winners (and their grins) didn’t come any bigger than Ricciardo in China, but you could argue Hamilton was a winner of sorts despite his race being a “disaster”; the world champion halved his series deficit to Vettel on a weekend Ferrari were indisputably faster, and Mercedes jumped the Scuderia to take over the lead in the constructors’ championship by one point. The Briton also set a record for most consecutive finishes in the points (28). Hulkenberg finished inside the top seven again and has scored 22 of Renault’s 25 points so far, while Alonso was his usual opportunistic self for McLaren, snaring a third-straight top-10 finish despite failing to qualify for Q3 yet this season.

The naughty corner
A week after his brilliant fourth in Bahrain, China was a horror show for Gasly, penalised 10 seconds for his clash with teammate Hartley that saw the New Zealander eventually retire with gearbox damage while Gasly nursed a damaged car to 18th. Verstappen’s 10-second penalty for the Vettel clash saw Red Bull motorsport boss Dr Helmut Marko suggest the Dutchman had “given away” a win that was “on the table”, while Vettel would have expected to have left China with more than four points to his name after his pole and leading for the first 20 laps.

What’s next?
Other than a large exhale, you mean? The rhythm of the season takes an atypical twist next time out with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as round four on the 2018 calendar (April 29); in its previous two years on the schedule, Baku has been the eighth Grand Prix of the year, and well into the northern hemisphere summer in late June. Last year’s winner on this curious mix of street circuit and flat-out motorway blast alongside the Caspian Sea? None other than Ricciardo in what was, by any measure, one of the craziest races of recent times – before last Sunday, anyway …

Miller Time: A rollercoaster in Argentina

Jack Miller writes his first pole position, a podium near-miss and Marc Marquez’s antics after a crazy second race of the year.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

Hi everyone,

I’m speaking to you about an hour after finishing fourth in the race in Argentina and it’s hard to really know where to start. I mean, a bit went on as you probably saw … So let’s start at the start. I don’t completely know myself what went on, so bear with me … It was chaos, to be honest.

We went to the grid, and I felt it wasn’t going to rain anymore and stayed out there on slicks. The others didn’t feel that way, I guess – and they all peeled back into the pit lane and left me out there by myself. For me, slicks was the way to go, there’s no way we should have started on wets and the weather afterwards proved that. Once I saw how quickly the track and the pit lane were drying, it was for sure slick tyres. So the others all peel back in, I’m sitting there on pole position wondering where the hell everyone is, and then they delay the start by 15 minutes. Everyone else made the wrong call by choosing the wrong tyres; we didn’t. So why I do I get penalised for that? I understand the guys in charge of the series are under a whole heap of pressure, but it’s a shame for us because we made the right choice and got dicked around for it.

My tyres were pretty knackered towards the end of the race, but I’m more annoyed that I made two mistakes that almost certainly cost me a podium, or maybe even a victory. Who knows, the other guys, Cal (Crutchlow), Johann (Zarco) and Alex (Rins), they were all struggling with their tyres and maybe a win could have been on in the final laps. But saying that, I’ve just finished fourth in a race, it’s the second-best result I’ve had in MotoGP, so there’s a lot to be happy about. Us motorcycle riders are wired to always want more and you can’t help but think about that, but if you’d given me fourth from pole before the weekend started, I would have said ‘you beauty, thanks’ and snapped that up, and probably told you that you were dreaming too … So to have that happen was still pretty cool.

As you can imagine, everyone here has an opinion about Marc’s (Marquez) race, and I don’t even know if I’ve caught up with it all yet – I know about his incident with Valentino (Rossi), but apparently there were more, even though that one will rumble on for probably, well, forever.

All I know is that when he came past me on lap two I was pretty happy, because it gave me someone to follow and a reference for how hard I could push, you’re always a bit of a pioneer in the sketchy track conditions when you’re out the front. It was a bit disappointing when he had to pull in for the penalty off the start from that side of things. It’s not often you see someone get penalised three times in 24 laps though, I’ll say that.

On the grid, when he stalled it and then was going backwards, forwards, doing three-point turns or whatever he was doing, that was a bit weird. I was more thinking about my tyres and how they were cooling off waiting for him to get himself organised. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ was a polite version of what was going through my mind at the time …

Anyway, it was an exhausting race to be in, and probably the same for everyone watching it. There’s definitely a bit to process after a race like that, so maybe it’s just as well it takes forever to get back from here, the circuit is in a pretty remote part of Argentina and we all had stories of the journeys we took to get here last week.

Between now and the race in Austin I’m going to head out to California to do some training and some cycling, so that’s something to look forward to. We’ll talk again after the next one, which surely won’t be as crazy as that was …

Cheers, Jack

What happened at the Bahrain Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel prevails in a late-race thriller, but it was a dark night under night skies for Red Bull – here’s 10 things you need to know about what went down at Sakhir.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM

The build-up
Ferrari may have ridden its luck with a fortuitously-timed safety car and a Mercedes strategy stuff-up to win in Melbourne, but Australian Grand Prix victor Sebastian Vettel owed his 51st pole position to a fast car and a heavy right foot, the German leading a Prancing Horse front-row lock-out as he headed teammate Kimi Raikkonen by 0.143secs in qualifying. The red cars were the class of the field throughout practice, and their march to pole was made even easier when Mercedes revealed Lewis Hamilton needed a new gearbox for the race, triggering a five-place grid penalty. As it was, Hamilton could qualify only fourth, behind teammate Valtteri Bottas, and while he was set to start the race on the more durable soft-compound Pirelli tyre in an attempt to run a longer first stint than his rivals, Mercedes were already talking of “damage limitation” as qualifying concluded. Daniel Ricciardo inherited Hamilton’s fourth place on the grid and was moderately pleased with being just four-tenths of a second off Vettel’s pole time, while teammate Max Verstappen was the biggest casualty of qualifying, the Dutchman throwing his Red Bull at the Turn 2 fence in Q1 after what the team called a sudden burst of extra horsepower he clearly could have done without. Further back, Pierre Gasly turned heads when he wrestled his Honda-powered Toro Rosso to sixth, leaving ex-Honda customer McLaren “astonished” when Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne could qualify just 13th and 14th respectively.

The race in exactly 69 words*
Vettel led comfortably early, but Mercedes forced the Ferrari into a one-stop strategy to attack the German on fading tyres, and nearly stole it – Vettel was just 0.6secs clear at the flag from Bottas. A strong start propelled Hamilton into the fight, and he inherited third when Raikkonen retired after a calamitous pit stop where he hit a mechanic. Both Red Bulls? Out with mechanical failures after five laps.
(* 2018 is the 69th season of Formula One)

What the result means
While Australia was a race Ferrari controlled, Bahrain was one where they were on the defensive after Vettel switched to Plan B after pitting for soft tyres 18 laps in. Eking out 39 laps on soft rubber at Sakhir was no mean feat, and the German said his tyres “were done for the last 10 laps”, meaning his second victory of the season was one won by guile as much as grunt. Bottas had a solid weekend, but when you start seven places ahead of your teammate, finish less than six seconds in front and make a fairly tame attempt at a pass for the win at the first corner on the final lap, Bahrain wasn’t your finest hour. Would Hamilton, let alone either Red Bull, have been more audacious with the big prize on offer in the same situation? Regardless, while Mercedes looked the faster car throughout pre-season testing, it’s Ferrari leading 2-0 on two very different circuits to kick off 2018.

Ricciardo recap
Not a lot to say here for the Australian, whose wretched run at Bahrain continued – he’s still never made the podium at Sakhir, and was out after just two laps with a gearbox failure that shut down the car completely. “It was as if I just switched the car off, I had nothing,” he bemoaned afterwards. “Being out so early in a race is the worst feeling, especially when it’s a night race. You’re up all day waiting for those two hours, and after two minutes it’s over.” It was Ricciardo’s first DNF in Bahrain, but means that seven races at Sakhir have yielded zero pieces of silverware.

For historical purposes …
Hamilton’s third place saw his points-scoring streak extend to 27 straight races, equalling Raikkonen’s all-time record. The last time he didn’t finish inside the top 10? Malaysia 2016, when an engine blow-up arguably cost him that year’s championship.

The number to know
200: Vettel joined Hamilton (Belgium 2017), Nico Rosberg (Singapore 2016), Michael Schumacher (Europe 2004) and Jenson Button (Hungary 2011) as drivers to win on their 200th F1 start.

Under-the-radar winner(s)
Behind the big three teams (which became a big two after Verstappen’s retirement on lap five following a Turn 1 clash with Hamilton and subsequent puncture on lap two), Gasly was the star of the show at Sakhir, finishing fourth for Toro Rosso in just his seventh F1 race, while engine supplier Honda had its best result in the V6 turbo hybrid era, which would have elicited some thoughts further down the pit lane at McLaren … Kudos also to Sauber and Marcus Ericsson, the Swede finishing ninth for his first points in 50 races, and the team’s first points since Azerbaijan last year, when Pascal Wehrlein finished 10th.

The naughty corner
Raikkonen squandered a podium at one of his strongest circuits with his pit stop dramas, while Force India’s Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley both finished well behind their teammates while spending most of the race squabbling, Hartley penalised 10 seconds at his first pit stop for turning the Mexican around at Turn 4 on the opening lap, and Perez then pipping the Kiwi at the chequered flag – for 12th. But really, this space is reserved for Red Bull – at a circuit where a podium was on the cards, having both cars out so early was gutting.

What’s next?
There’s no rest for the teams and drivers, with the first of five 2018 back-to-back Grands Prix happening in China next Sunday. Shanghai has been Mercedes territory in recent years; the Silver Arrows have won five of the past six races in China, and no other team has won the Chinese GP since the advent of the V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014. Put your hard-earned on Hamilton, then …