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 …


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.


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.

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).

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.

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).

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).

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.

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).

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.

The F1 mid-term report

Who has starred, who has slumped and who needs to step up at the halfway stage of the F1 season?


The verdict on Formula One so far in 2017? Pretty positive. There’s genuine competition between teams for race wins and the drivers’ championship, which there hasn’t been in some time, and the new-for-2017 regulations have delivered monstrously fast and mean-looking cars that look spectacular on track (but struggle to overtake one another, as the Hungarian GP made very evident). Add to that the craziest race in recent times in Azerbaijan when Daniel Ricciardo saluted, and there’s a lot to like.

What’s more, the look and feel of an F1 weekend in the post-Ecclestone era has been a breath of fresh air. Ladies and gentlemen, social media! Actual vision from inside a drivers’ briefing! Something extra for the fans at a race weekend! It’s been quite the eye-opener.

Before we launch into our mid-season report, and before you ask, we haven’t failed maths – yes, Hungary was race 11 of the 20-race F1 season, but coming as it did before the one-month hiatus and the next race in Belgium at the end of August, it was worth waiting until school was out properly until making some mid-year grades. On that very subject …

Dux of the class

We’ve been waiting a long time for a proper championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton – since 2007 in fact, when both made their Formula One debuts in the same season (Vettel became a full-timer on the grid a year later). And at the halfway stage of the season, it’s Vettel who has shone brightest. But only just.

Both drivers have four wins, but the German has led the title chase since taking the opening round in Australia, and has been his consistent self since – 11 races, 11 finishes, eight podiums, and a worst finish of seventh at the British Grand Prix, when he suffered a puncture in sight of the flag. It’s hard to see how he could have done much more.

The intrigue in this battle is how both protagonists go about achieving the same goal in different ways – Vettel’s metronomic approach contrasts sharply with Hamilton’s peaks and troughs. When the Mercedes W08 isn’t in the set-up sweet spot, Hamilton has been outshone by new teammate Valtteri Bottas, who seems better equipped to cope with a car that’s not quite there. But when the Mercedes is dialled in, Hamilton has been brilliant in qualifying (he has six poles in 11 races), and occasionally utterly dominant in races – his Silverstone weekend was as emphatic as it gets.

Both drivers have their emotional frailties – again, which manifest themselves in different ways – which makes the second half of the season and their likely first head-to-head battle for the title so mouth-watering in prospect. You can’t help but wonder if the three points Hamilton relinquished in Hungary after pulling over to let Bottas finish third to honour an in-race agreement will come back to bite him later in the season, though. The in-house tension at the Silver Arrows since the apolitical Bottas replaced the cunning Nico Rosberg has dissipated almost completely, but what if that new-found harmony comes at the cost of a title?

Encouragement award

We’re not going with the ‘every child wins a prize’ philosophy here, but this one could be split four ways.

Bottas, firstly: after coming across to Mercedes in the wake of Rosberg’s shock decision to walk after winning the 2016 crown, the Finn has made every post a winner in what is essentially a make-good contract; nail 2017, and his future should be rosy. He’s won twice (Russia and Austria), matched Vettel for the most podiums in 11 races (eight) and proven to be the consummate team player. Mercedes would be mad not to keep him in 2018 – he’s clearly fast enough and apolitical enough.

Ricciardo deserves a mention here too. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, he’s always there, pressing on relentlessly like a honey badger attacking a hive of bees. His Azerbaijan win – when all looked lost early in the race when an unscheduled pit stop had him at the back of the field – was almost unsurprising in that he made the best of what was on offer on a crazy day, and that ‘best’ was good enough for a fifth career win. Is there a driver better or cleaner in wheel-to-wheel combat?

As a team, Force India deserve a pat on the back here. Fourth in last year’s constructors’ championship, the Indian-owned British-run team has consolidated that in 2017, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon both finishing in the points nine times in 11 races. The pink-liveried team has clearly established itself as the best squad outside F1’s ‘big three’; now, all it needs is for its drivers to stop tripping over one another in races …

Finally, a nod to Nico Hulkenberg, who is now an uncomfortable two races away from equalling compatriot Adrian Sutil’s unwanted record of most F1 starts without a top-three finish (128). You can’t do much more in a Renault than Hulkenberg has this year, the German scoring points in five races and qualifying in the top 10 six times.

Could do better

Reasons Ferrari shouldn’t retain Kimi Raikkonen next year: in 70 races since he re-joined Ferrari for the 2014 season, he’s been beaten by teammates Fernando Alonso (2014) and Vettel (since) 49-21 in qualifying, 7-0 in race wins (he hasn’t won a race since Australia 2013 for Lotus, 86 Grands Prix ago), 30-11 in podium finishes, and has scored 37 per cent of his team’s points in that time, explaining why the team with this year’s drivers’ championship leader trails Mercedes by 39 points in the constructors’ race.

Reason Ferrari will keep Kimi Raikkonen next year. Hungary.

You can understand Ferrari’s logic here; while Raikkonen is a long, long way from his 2007 world championship-winning heyday, he doesn’t play politics, has a wealth of experience, gets on with Vettel and doesn’t rock the boat. When Ferrari orchestrated races in Monaco (unofficially) and Hungary (officially) to ensure the Finn stayed behind a race-leading Vettel, he expressed his disappointment, sighed and moved on. It would have been so easy for Raikkonen to push an ailing Vettel hard in Hungary to stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in an age, but, out of contract and with (arguably) no other team likely to offer him one, that wouldn’t have been the brightest idea.

Expect Raikkonen to be renewed at or before the Italian Grand Prix next month – and expect plenty of F1 fans to wonder just what another driver could do in a car that Vettel has proven is a genuine race-winner. Raikkonen is clearly worthy of being in F1 for his name and pedigree alone, but with a top team?

Needs a strong second semester

Both Toro Rosso drivers could use a good end to 2017, but for entirely different reasons.

Carlos Sainz must wonder what he needs to do to get a break; the Spaniard has scored 35 of his team’s 39 points this year alongside Daniil Kvyat, and amassed 77 points to the Russian’s eight since the pair became teammates at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, when Max Verstappen took Kvyat’s place in Red Bull’s ‘A’ team. Sainz is good enough to drive further up the grid, but won’t be going anywhere as Red Bull’s insurance policy in case Verstappen or Ricciardo bolt one day.

As for Kvyat? Considering he has more penalty points on his FIA super licence (10) than he’s scored points (eight) in the past 28 races, the end for the driver derisively referred to as ‘the torpedo’ must surely be nigh, with 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly waiting impatiently in the (Red) Bull pen.

Extra detention

One driver and one team get the unwanted nomination here. Jolyon Palmer hasn’t made much of a case to be retained by Renault, being out-scored 26-0 and out-qualified in all 11 races by Hulkenberg this season. He couldn’t have come much closer to a top-10 finish – Palmer was 11th in Monaco, Canada and Austria – but with Renault in a tight fight for places 5-8 in the constructors’ championship, it needs more than one car to make a contribution.

As for McLaren – or more pertinently, McLaren-Honda – the less said the better. Sixth for Alonso and 10th for Stoffel Vandoorne in Hungary gave the team that has won 182 Grands Prix and 12 drivers’ championships nine points in one race – compared to the combined two points from the opening 10 races this year …

Can the team extract itself from the Honda engine deal to go elsewhere (Mercedes?) while covering the financial shortfall an early divorce with the Japanese manufacturer would create? That’s uncertain, but what we do know if that while Vandoorne has time and talent on his side, it’s a crying shame to see a 36-year-old Alonso struggling like this. F1 is undoubtedly in a better place when the Spaniard is mixing it up the front of the field.

What happened at the Hungarian Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel heads a Ferrari 1-2 in Budapest, while friendly fire thwarts Red Bull’s chances of a podium on one of its strongest circuits of the year.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 4th, finished 4th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 3rd, finished 3rd.
If Formula One truly is a team sport – and there are some who will scoff at that suggestion – Mercedes played it perfectly at a track where the Silver Arrows were a clear second-best to the Prancing Horse. Bottas had the measure of teammate Hamilton for most of the weekend, and while the Finn was ahead of the Briton for much of the first half of the race, Hamilton was clearly the faster of the pair after their pit stops on lap 30 and 31 respectively. Hamilton was given the green light to move past his teammate in an attempt to go after Raikkonen in second, on the proviso that he was to let Bottas back past before the end of the race on lap 70 if he couldn’t make it work. Hamilton did his best to no avail, and as he rounded the final corner on the final lap, slowed sufficiently to let Bottas back through – and just kept a fast-finishing Verstappen at bay in the process. Mercedes better hope the three points Hamilton relinquished don’t cost him this year’s world championship by the time we get to Abu Dhabi in November … With Vettel’s victory, Hamilton now drops 14 points behind the German in the drivers’ standings – and Mercedes now knows, after a four-race run of outscoring Ferrari 151-79 after Monaco, that the red team is well and truly back in the fight.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 6th, did not finish. Max Verstappen: qualified 5th, finished 5th.
At Silverstone last time out, both Toro Rosso drivers hit one another on lap one, but were able to continue. At Hungary, the senior Bull team’s pilots clashed on the first lap, but the result was more costly; Ricciardo, who had led both Friday practice sessions and was eyeing a fourth Hungarian podium in a row, was out three corners into the race, Verstappen understeering into the Australian at Turn 2 and puncturing Ricciardo’s radiator. It was the first time in Ricciardo’s 120-race career that he’d been eliminated on the first lap, and his normally beaming visage was replaced by a face of barely concealed rage and contempt. “That was amateur to say the least,” he fumed, adding “he (Verstappen) doesn’t like it when a teammate gets in front of him – it was a very poor mistake.” The race stewards were quick to apportion blame to the Dutchman, hitting him with a 10-second penalty in the pits when he made his one and only stop. Verstappen flew the longer the race went, the heavily-revised RB13 looking mighty on the Hungaroring’s twists and turns, but the damage had been done. Verstappen’s margin to the winner at the end was 13.276secs, showing that, with Vettel ailing out front and a rare weekend of Mercedes not being on top of its game, the team may have blown one of its best chances for a win to add to Ricciardo’s victory in Baku through friendly fire. After the race, Verstappen immediately put his hand up. “It’s not nice and I apologise to Daniel and the team for that,” he said. “We could’ve scored some really good points here …”.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd.
When you lock out the front row in qualifying and take a 1-2 24 hours later, Ferrari’s Hungarian weekend looks stress-free on paper, but it was quite the opposite. Vettel was metronomically brilliant in qualifying, taking pole and producing two laps within 0.002secs of each other, but knew he was in trouble from the moment the lights went out in the race, the car’s steering wheel pointing slightly to the left when traveling in a straight line, prompting the team to advise him to keep off the kerbs as much as he could, a near-impossibility at a track that seemingly never stops turning. Raikkonen was in his teammate’s wheeltracks for the entire race, but didn’t get the answer he wanted when asking to be allowed to move ahead of Vettel’s clearly compromised sister car, and spent the back half of the race under massive pressure from Hamilton. The Finn – out of contract for 2018, remember – stayed where he was, and Ferrari recorded its second 1-2 for 2017 (after Monaco, where Raikkonen was similarly unhappy), and its first 1-2 finish in Hungary since 2004 (Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, the latter of whom could probably tell Raikkonen a few stories about being Ferrari’s second driver). For all that, it’s hard to fault Ferrari’s arithmetic, given Vettel is 86 points ahead of his teammate and that the title fight essentially boils down to a three-way fight with Hamilton and Bottas.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 14th, finished 8th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 12th, finished 9th.
A double-points finish – Force India’s ninth in the first 11 races – looked very unlikely on Saturday, when neither Perez nor Ocon made the top 10 in qualifying, and the team was clearly struggling to get its Mercedes-powered chassis – so competitive on high-speed tracks – to work effectively on the tight Hungaroring layout. Perez made a strong start in the race and had the seemingly obligatory stoush with his teammate – this time on the opening lap – to be the better of the pink cars on the day, finishing nine seconds ahead of Ocon on what was a good salvage job for the team.

Paul Di Resta: qualified 19th, did not finish. Lance Stroll: qualified 17th, finished 14th.
With regular driver Felipe Massa ailing with an inner ear problem, Williams brought in Di Resta for his first race since Brazil 2013 with Force India, and the DTM driver and TV pundit’s first laps for the weekend were in qualifying, in a car he’d never driven on a circuit and only in the simulator, and with next to no notice before he was strapped in. In many ways, to qualify within seven-tenths of a second of teammate Stroll – and beating Ericsson’s Sauber to not be last on the grid – made the 31-year-old one of the stars of Saturday. Completing 70 laps of one of the most physical tracks on the calendar on a scorching Budapest summer’s day was never going to be easy, but Di Resta largely stayed out of trouble and drove a clean if not particularly quick race before being stopped by an oil leak eight laps from the end. Stroll got bottled up behind Kvyat’s Toro Rosso, which was on the more durable soft-compound Pirelli tyre, for much of the race, and could make little headway from a lowly grid spot.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 8th, finished 6th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 9th, finished 10th.
It’s been a wretched year for everyone at McLaren-Honda, but Hungary shaped as a good race for the beleaguered team, the lack of straights that place a premium on sheer grunt a welcome relief for Alonso and Vandoorne. Both were instantly in the top 10 on Friday, qualified eighth and ninth on Saturday, and combined for nine points on Sunday, a huge haul considering the team had managed just two points in the first 10 races of the season. Alonso was the last car not to be lapped and, showing that there’s not a lot wrong with the McLaren chassis, set the fastest lap of the race (1min 20.182secs) on the penultimate tour. Vandoorne might have finished ahead of Ocon in ninth had it not been for a costly lap 42 pit stop when he over-shot his mechanics and caused them to scramble to change his tyres. At the end, he was just half a second behind the Force India.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 13th, finished 11th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, finished 7th.
Sainz came to Hungary in the midst of an unwanted run of outs – he’d had three non-finishes in the past four races – but came alive in Budapest, a superb 10th in qualifying coming as something of a surprise. The Spaniard had a heated battle with compatriot Alonso in the opening stages after the safety car period following Ricciardo’s retirement, and beating both Force India’s on merit was just reward for a stellar drive. Kvyat was penalised three grid positions for impeding Stroll in qualifying – the Russian now has 10 penalty points for a series of indiscretions over the past 12 months and is just two penalty points away from a one-race ban – and raced to 11th after trying an alternate tyre strategy from most of the rest of the field in an attempt to springboard into the points for the first time since Spain.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 12th, did not finish. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 16th, finished 13th.
Haas will be desperate to consign Hungary to the dustbin of history as soon as possible. Test driver Antonio Giovinazzi crashed Magnussen’s car on Friday morning, while Grosjean struggled with brakes and balance problems on a day team principal Gunther Steiner described as “brutal”. Magnussen was desperately unlucky in qualifying – his time of 1:19.095 was identical to that of Perez, but the Mexican advanced to Q2 as he’d recorded his time earlier than the Dane. In the race, a cross-threaded wheel nut did for Grosjean after he pitted on lap 22 with a slow puncture, while Magnussen was found to be at fault for shoving Hulkenberg’s Renault off the track at Turn 2 late in the race and had five seconds added to his race time, which dropped him from 11th on the road to 13th in the results. We’d tell you what he said to Hulkenberg afterwards, but perhaps Google can help you out there …

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 11th, finished 12th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 7th, finished 17th.
Palmer had the new floor fitted to his car that teammate Hulkenberg had used so effectively to claim sixth at Silverstone, and promptly destroyed it when he ran over the Turn 4 kerbs in opening practice. The under-pressure Briton then crashed at the final corner in second practice and buried the car in the barriers, missed Q3 by one-tenth of a second, and was out-qualified by Hulkenberg yet again – he’s now the only driver not to have beaten his teammate once in the 11 races to date. A long first stint didn’t pay off as his wait for 2017 points labours on. Hulkenberg clashed with Grosjean on the opening lap but looked like still scoring points despite being shunted back five spots on the grid for an unscheduled gearbox change, but a long pit stop caused by a sticking front-right tyre on lap 45 saw him drop to the back.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 20th, finished 16th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 18th, finished 15th.
As has been custom in recent races, Sauber made more headlines off the track for anything it did on it, the recent Honda engine deal brokered by team principal Monisha Kaltenborn before her hasty departure ripped up in favour of continuing with Ferrari power next season. In the race, both drivers made very early pit stops (Ericsson lap one, Wehrlein lap three) under the safety car to try to do something different than the rest, but needed to pit again for fresh tyres and finished only ahead of Hulkenberg’s parked Renault after 70 laps.

What happened at the British Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo dramatically charges from the back to fifth, while some late-race Ferrari tyre drama sees Lewis Hamilton slash Sebastian Vettel’s championship lead.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 4th, finished 2nd.
Hamilton copped some stick before the race when he was the only driver not to show up at a pre-race promotional opportunity in London, but once he got to Silverstone from a brief holiday between the Austrian and British Grands Prix, the three-time champ was all business, winning his home race for a record-equalling fifth time, and a fourth time in succession. Hamilton set up his Sunday with an extraordinary pole lap on Saturday, his 1:26.600 half a second faster than anyone else could manage, and a lap that smashed the previous circuit record by three seconds. He cleared off from the start on Sunday and was untroubled thereafter, and received a late gift when punctures to Ferrari duo Raikkonen and Vettel saw him narrow the latter’s championship lead to a solitary point at the halfway mark of the season. A second 1-2 finish for the season for Mercedes looked unlikely when Bottas copped a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change ahead of qualifying, and even less so when the Finn could qualify just fourth, meaning he began back in ninth. But Bottas started on the more durable soft-compound Pirelli tyre, ran a longer first stint than his rivals, and then inherited second when Raikkonen had his puncture with two laps left. “We got lucky,” he admitted afterwards.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 20th, finished 5th. Max Verstappen: qualified 5th, finished 4th.
It seems Verstappen can’t win for losing this year – after the Dutchman finally snapped a run of wretched luck to finish fourth after starting from the same spot thanks to Bottas’ penalty, his teammate Ricciardo stole the show with an astonishing drive from the back of the grid after some of Verstappen’s poor fortune crossed to the Australian’s side of the garage. The chances of Ricciardo extending his run of five straight podiums before Silverstone looked slim when he, like Bottas, was set to drop five grid positions for a gearbox change ahead of qualifying, but worse was to come for the ‘Honey Badger’ when, leading the field in Q1, he ground to a halt with a turbo failure. Ricciardo still felt he could challenge for the top 10 from the very back, and was up to 12th after five laps before running off at Woodcote and dropping to last. No matter; Ricciardo gritted his teeth and went for it, producing several spellbinding passes into Stowe at the end of the Hangar Straight, and tore through the field to fifth to be voted Driver of the Day. Verstappen played a big part in the story of the race when he jumped Vettel – who left the start-line with overheating brakes – on lap one to be third, allowing Raikkonen in second and leader Hamilton to scoot away. The Red Bull didn’t have the raw pace of the Ferrari, but Verstappen’s robust defence of Vettel on more than one occasion saw Ferrari eventually pit the championship leader on lap 18 to undercut Verstappen. Vettel gained track position when Verstappen stopped on the next lap, but the Ferrari man’s earlier stop necessitated a 33-lap run to the end on his final set of tyres, which proved to be too much when he suffered a puncture on the penultimate lap. Verstappen made his own cautionary stop for a tyre change with two laps left to avoid the same fate as the Ferraris, and re-took sixth place in the championship standings from Perez as a result.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 3rd, finished 7th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 2nd, finished 3rd.
It was all looking so good for Ferrari with three laps left, Raikkonen in second, where he’d been since lap one, and Vettel recovering from having his race compromised by Verstappen’s lightning start to be in a strong fourth place and with a decent haul of points in his pocket. Two front-left punctures in the space of a minute ruined all of that, and Raikkonen in particular looked gutted when he faced the press in the post-race interviews for the top three, looking even more than usual like he’d prefer to be anywhere else. The Finn has – justifiably in most cases – been criticised this year for being so far off Vettel’s pace in the sister scarlet car, but was Hamilton’s nearest challenger in qualifying and had a good shot at holding off a charging Bottas late until his tyre cried ‘enough’. Vettel’s own blowout was less fortunate, the German having to limp back to the pits from earlier in the lap than his teammate on the second-last tour, sparks showering the track as the British crowd erupted, realising Vettel’s woes were good news for Hamilton in the title race. There was enough of a gap to the Force India duo of Ocon and Perez to see Vettel slot into seventh after his stop, which was crucial as he was able to retain the championship lead – just – he’s owned since he won in Australia in March.

Force India
Sergio Perez:
qualified 7th, finished 9th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 8th, finished 8th.
Perez was impressed with the cornering speeds able to be achieved by the 2017-generation F1 cars at a circuit that features more sweeping turns than any other. “Of all the tracks we have raced this season, this is probably the one on which I have experienced the biggest difference compared to last year,” he said on Friday. “All the reference points you have built up in the past change.” For the fourth race in a row, the Force India pair were line-astern in qualifying, and for the fourth time in succession, Perez edged Ocon, this time by 0.172secs. They finished together in the race too, but with Ocon in the ascendancy after the Frenchman made a swift start as Perez hesitated when the lights went out. In 10 races this year, Force India has now had eight double-points finishes.

Felipe Massa:
qualified 15th, finished 10th. Lance Stroll: qualified 16th, finished 16th.
Just the one point for Williams at its home Grand Prix, with both cars running a counter tyre strategy to the norm after starting outside the top 10, but only Massa making it work as he snared the final point on offer by beating McLaren’s Vandoorne to the line. After the aerodynamic updates Williams brought to the previous race in Austria left it struggling on the penultimate row of the grid in qualifying, the team split strategies for its two cars at Silverstone, Massa and Stroll each running a mix of old and new parts – but not in the same configuration – as the team scrambled to acquire data. Massa had been inside the top 10 in all three practice sessions, so was very disappointed to only qualify 15th, while Stroll, with precious little F1 experience in wet conditions, struggled in qualifying and fared little better in the race, labouring with aero problems to the flag.

Fernando Alonso:
qualified 13th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 9th, finished 11th.
Alonso gave McLaren a rare reason to smile when he fitted dry-weather tyres on a track damp with rain right at the death of Q1 and executed a white-knuckle lap that had him in P1. “Even if it’s just for one moment, to be up there at the top of the timesheets feels good,” he said. That was as good as it got for the Spaniard; Alonso changed multiple engine components in his McLaren on Friday and was hit with 30 grid places worth of penalties, meaning he was condemned to starting from the back of the grid. He latched onto Ricciardo’s tail and came through the pack, though not to the same extent, early on before retiring with a loss of power on lap 34. Vandoorne beat Alonso in qualifying for the first time this season and made the top 10 for the first time to start a career-best eighth after Bottas’ gearbox penalty, but couldn’t capitalise on his best chance of scoring a first point for the season when he finished just behind Massa in what was his most competitive showing of the year to date.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 12th, finished 15th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 14th, did not finish.
To put it mildly, the first 60 seconds at Silverstone didn’t go well for Toro Rosso, with Kvyat and Sainz banging wheels entering the super-fast Maggots-Becketts sequence on the opening lap, Kvyat spearing off the track, and then coming back onto it and clattering into Sainz, ending the Spaniard’s race. “Tell Dany he did a very good job there,” Sainz sighed, while Kvyat – “he just turned into me” – made it very clear he felt the incident was his teammate’s doing. The stewards disagreed, and a week after being penalised for causing the shunt that eliminated Alonso and Verstappen in Austria, the Russian was hit with another drive-through penalty, and toured around with a damaged floor to finish 15th. Kvyat said before the race he wanted a decision on his future to be made as soon as possible, but with just one points finish from the past nine races and having managed just four points (to Sainz’s 29) so far this season, he might want some more time to make up for a messy last seven days.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 10th, finished 13th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 12th.
Haas will have to wait until Hungary in a fortnight’s time to try to top the 29 points it scored in its maiden world championship season in 2016, after Grosjean and Magnussen couldn’t take advantage of favourable track positions on Sunday. Grosjean was furious with Hamilton on Saturday after qualifying 10th, feeling he could have leapfrogged Vandoorne’s McLaren for ninth had he not – in his words – been “completely blocked” by the pole-sitter at the last corner. Hamilton apologised for getting in Grosjean’s way and said it was inadvertent, and the stewards agreed, issuing no penalty to the Mercedes driver. Grosjean’s mood wasn’t improved by the verdict, saying Hamilton had been let off because of his place in the championship standings. “Maybe if it was another driver, there would have been something,” he mused. The Frenchman finished just 13th on Sunday, while Magnussen, way down on the grid, tried to play the long game by running his initial set of soft tyres all the way to lap 37, but couldn’t regain his spot in the top 10 afterwards and finished just ahead of his teammate.

Jolyon Palmer:
qualified 11th, did not start. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 6th, finished 6th.
Hulkenberg felt the cornering speeds of the 2017-spec F1 cars at Silverstone were “a little bit insane,” adding that they were “cool, and bloody fast.” The German could have been talking about his own form at the British GP, as he took Renault’s best qualifying and finish of the season, narrowly missing out on fifth as he tried to hold off Ricciardo’s charging Red Bull late before falling behind the Australian on the penultimate lap. With Vandoorne edging Alonso in qualifying, Hulkenberg is now the only driver on the grid to have an unbeaten record on Saturdays against his teammate. Speaking of said teammate, Palmer was stiff to miss the top 10 in qualifying by less than a tenth of a second, and unluckier still when hydraulics failure saw his car coast to a halt on the warm-up lap, the under-pressure Briton not even able to start his home Grand Prix as rumours swirl that he could be replaced sooner rather than later. Hulkenberg has scored all 26 of Renault’s points this season.

Marcus Ericsson:
qualified 19th, finished 14th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 18th, finished 17th.
There were plenty of moves off track for Sauber at Silverstone, with the Swiss squad appointing former Renault boss Frederic Vasseur as team principal after the sudden departure of Monisha Kaltenborn before Azerbaijan following a disagreement with ownership. Vasseur took the reins with increasing doubt over the Honda engine supply arrangement brokered by Kaltenborn before she left, with Sauber’s owners considering a deal for a customer Ferrari or Mercedes engine that would be more competitive in the short-term rather than a factory deal with Honda, given McLaren’s seemingly never-ending struggles with the Japanese company’s powerplant. The Sauber stablemates started only ahead of the penalised Ricciardo and Alonso, and Ericsson finished the better of the two when Wehrlein tried to make his final set of soft tyres last the majority of the race after pitting twice under the safety car caused by the Kvyat/Sainz shunt.

What happened at the Austrian Grand Prix?

Daniel Ricciardo makes it five podiums in a row by taking third at the Red Bull Ring, while an ‘unhuman’ start sets up a win for Valtteri Bottas.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 3rd, finished 4th. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 1st, finished 1st.

Bottas set up his second career win with a superbly-taken pole on Saturday – his time of 1min 04.251secs the fastest pole lap in any Grand Prix for 32 years – and then produced a getaway so good on Sunday that it prompted an investigation into whether he’d jumped the start; 20 laps into the race, it was revealed he’d reacted to the lights going out within 0.2 seconds, as close as you can get to anticipating the start without jumping it. The Finn battled blistering tyres late in the race and had Vettel closing on him at a rate of knots, but just as he’d done in Russia earlier this season, kept his nerve to deny the German and get himself within 35 points of Vettel’s series lead. Much of Hamilton’s preparation for Sunday’s race was spent talking about the incident with Vettel last time out in Azerbaijan, and any chance of a repeat fight with his main title rival evaporated when he had to take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, which, counter to speculation, wasn’t caused by Vettel running into the back of him in Baku. The Briton opted to start the race on the slower supersoft tyre from eighth on the grid after his penalty was assessed to be on the faster ultrasoft tyre for the final laps, but ran out of time to catch Ricciardo for the final podium place.

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

Ricciardo didn’t need a second invitation after a chance to win in Baku fell into his lap, but he celebrated his third at the Red Bull Ring with almost as much gusto after fending off a flying Hamilton in the closing stages. The Australian made a brilliant move on Raikkonen’s Ferrari at Turn 3 on the first lap to set up the chance of a podium place, and while Bottas and Vettel were never realistically within reach, he did everything in his power to hang onto the final rostrum spot, a firm Turn 4 defence on the penultimate lap scuppering Hamilton’s best chance to pass. The podium was Ricciardo’s fifth in succession, the best run of his career, and saw him consolidate his fourth place in the title chase. This week’s post-race shoey ‘victim’? Former racer turned TV pundit Martin Brundle. By contrast to his teammate, Verstappen’s luck seems to go from bad to worse; some 10,000 Dutch spectators turned the grandstand near Turn 1 into a sea of orange, but the masses of Max fans were left gutted after the first 20 seconds of the race when their man was backwards in the adjacent tarmac run-off area, nerfed into a spin by Alonso’s McLaren, which had been harpooned by Kvyat’s out of control Toro Rosso. Even before the accident, a failing clutch saw Verstappen made a poor start, and he’s now retired from five of the past seven races to drop to seventh in the drivers’ standings behind Perez.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, finished 5th.

Vettel was convinced Bottas had jumped the start – questioning it straight away over the radio and doing his best not to answer questions about it after the race before eventually describing it as “unhuman” – but second place was his seventh podium in nine races this season, and a six-point gain on Hamilton extended his lead atop the standings to 20 points. Vettel’s deficit to Bottas ebbed and flowed throughout, and with four laps to go, the German was just one second in arrears and an unlikely win became a possibility. In the end, just 0.658secs was the margin between the pair after 71 frantic laps. Raikkonen started third with Hamilton’s penalty, but was monstered by Ricciardo on lap one and didn’t feature much thereafter, Ferrari keeping him out for 44 laps before his sole pit stop in an attempt to hold up Bottas after the Mercedes driver ceded the lead in his own stop, hoping to bring Vettel back into play for the win. It didn’t work, and Raikkonen spent much of the race moaning about steering wheel settings while finishing in no man’s land, 20 seconds behind the winner, but miles ahead of Grosjean in sixth. Nine races into the 20-race campaign, Vettel (171 points) has already doubled Raikkonen’s tally of 83, which goes a long way towards explaining Mercedes’ 33-point lead over the Prancing Horse in the constructors’ championship.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 9th, finished 8th.

After the last race in Baku, Force India’s instructions to its drivers were simple – race hard, but do not, under any circumstances, run into one another. Ocon was largely felt to be the guilty party after he and Perez clashed in Azerbaijan – the Mexican said before the race in Austria that his young French teammate needed to be “more intelligent” in future – and when they qualified eighth (Perez) and ninth (Ocon) with less than a tenth of a second between them, the chance for more paint-swapping between the pair loomed large. In the end, Perez’s superior pace saw Ocon more concerned with Massa’s Williams behind him than mounting a charge for seventh, and with 10 points between its drivers, Force India was able to extend its comfortable margin for fourth in the constructors’ standings despite never looking likely to challenge for the podium as it did in Canada and Azerbaijan.

Felipe Massa: qualified 17th, finished 9th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 10th.

Three points combined for Massa and Stroll looked like a pipedream after qualifying on Saturday, when the Williams duo were down on the second-last row of the grid in a car that had been updated with a new front wing, bargeboards and sidepods since Azerbaijan, but struggled for balance and to get temperature into its tyres. “We’re not quick here, and we don’t know why at the moment,” lamented technical director Paddy Lowe after qualifying, but Massa felt the car would be better in the race. The experienced Brazilian was right, using a marathon first stint on the soft tyre to vault into top-10 contention, and Stroll joined him as the pair took advantage of the chaos caused by Kvyat at the first corner. To score points at all after the team’s worst qualifying of 2017 had to be considered, in the circumstances, a decent save.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 12th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 13th, finished 12th.

“They cannot play bowling,” was Alonso’s assessment of being skittled by Kvyat the first corner and his race lasting all of 300 metres, the Spaniard paying the price for his customary strong start by being in the firing line as the field filed into the first right-hander of a 71-lap journey. Vandoorne had to make two visits to the pits after being penalised for taking too long to respond to blue flags while being lapped by Raikkonen, but it didn’t affect his finishing position, and the Belgian remains one of three full-timers on the grid (Palmer and Ericsson are the others) yet to score a point this season.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 14th, finished 16th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, did not finish.

The race at the Red Bull Ring was a nightmare for Red Bull’s sister squad, with Kvyat getting a drive-through penalty for causing the first lap mess and finishing dead last, and Sainz forced to retire on lap 45 as his car, beset by reliability problems for most of the weekend, finally cried ‘enough’ when he was running on the fringes of the top 10. The Spaniard spent the weekend making headlines more for what he said out of the car for what he did in it, saying said he felt a fourth year at Toro Rosso in 2018 was “unlikely” if no space opened up at the senior Red Bull Racing team. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko poured cold water on that idea though, Horner saying Sainz will be at STR next season, and Marko questioning his loyalty and suggesting he “focus on driving”.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 7th, finished 6th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 15th, did not finish.

There were contrasting emotions at Haas on Sunday night, with Grosjean scoring the team’s best result of the season with sixth, but the luckless Magnussen forced to take an early bath for the second day running. Grosjean was pleasantly surprised to be starting sixth after Hamilton’s penalty promoted him a spot on the grid, and he briefly fought Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the initial stages before settling into a rhythm, and while he finished well over a minute behind Bottas, his was the last car not lapped as he snared eight precious championship points. Magnussen was despondent when his car’s front suspension broke after he’d made the second part of qualifying on Saturday, and was plenty peeved on Sunday when he had a hydraulics failure that saw the car stuck in gear after 30 laps, a chance to attack Stroll for what became the final points-paying position going begging.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 16th, finished 11th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 11th, finished 13th.

Palmer finished 11th – one place out of the points – for the third time in the past four races in Austria as the wait to break his 2017 season duck rolls on. Hulkenberg, who missed out on Q3 by six-thousandths of a second on Saturday, took an early gamble to fit the more durable soft-compound Pirelli tyre in attempt to get to the end of race on lap 16, but could only advance as far as 13th on a day where nearest rivals Haas had their strongest race of the year.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 15th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 20th, finished 14th.

Sauber were in a race of their own in Austria – Ericsson and Wehrlein were well over a second per lap slower than any other car in Friday practice – and owned the back row of the grid in qualifying, Wehrlein then electing to start from the pit lane after the team fitted a new turbocharger to his car before the race. Neither made much progress – only the penalised Kvyat finished behind the two blue cars – and Ericsson was lapped twice to Wehrlein’s once, but both were more than half a minute outside of the points.

The Dan Diaries: Crazy good, crazy bad

Daniel Ricciardo writes about a post-win celebration that wasn’t, marvels at Valentino Rossi, and weighs in on Hamilton v Vettel in Baku.


Things I didn’t expect to do at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix? Win it. If I’d have thought I was a chance of a victory, I would have planned something better than what happened afterwards. As celebrations go, it wasn’t particularly high up there – but I couldn’t help it.

I finished the race, did the podium, walked into about two hours of media, then went straight to the charter flight with the team that had been waiting for me to finally stop talking. We took off, straight back to England, and I was checking in where we stay at Milton Keynes near the factory around 2am Monday morning, which was probably 5am Baku time. Tried to get some sleep, mostly failed because my mind was still ticking over thinking about the day, and then I was at the factory at 9am in the simulator for a 10-hour day. This F1 thing is pretty glamorous, don’t you think? Saying that, if someone was to say ‘you can win this weekend, but you still have to do simulator on Monday’, sign me up. Every time.

It’s been a week or so since Azerbaijan, but I’m struggling to remember any race I’ve done that was as crazy as Baku was. It got to the point where we’d done that many re-starts and that much had happened – every two laps it seemed like my race engineer Simon (Rennie) was on the radio telling me something had happened to someone else – that anything seemed possible. When I got up to third and Lewis (Hamilton) and Seb (Vettel) were in front, I was anticipating a penalty for Seb for what happened with Lewis – don’t worry, I’ll get to that – so I figured second would be great. Then Simon tells me Lewis has a loose headrest, of all things, and has to pit. You seriously couldn’t make it up. And there I am in first.

I was pretty stoked that I was leading, but there was half the race to go, and you figure that everyone else has been having dramas, so my next one can’t be far off. I’d had to pit earlier than I wanted because of the debris I picked up from (Kimi) Raikkonen’s front wing early on that sent the brake temps through the roof, but surely something else was going to happen, wasn’t it? But it didn’t, and after all that, I’d won my fifth Grand Prix. When they crossed to me in the car on the slow-down lap, I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, what was I supposed to say after that? Even if I’d finished fifth, I would have come out of that one with a massive smile on my face.

Everyone wanted to talk and re-watch the pass I did to get up to third after the re-start when I got past the two Williams boys, and it was definitely one I enjoyed, and one that set the win up for me in the end. The funny part about it was that I’d actually discussed doing it before it happened. We were in the red flag period and I said to my trainer Stu (Smith) that I thought third might be on at turn one at the re-start, and he didn’t disagree. I guess I was committed to going for it even before I got back in the car! Definitely a sweet one to pull off, and at the time I thought that might have set up third for me, so I was stoked with that. It got better though …

What’s weird is that I’ve won five races now, but haven’t qualified well for any of them – I was 10th in Baku after stuffing up qualifying and sticking the car in the wall, and all five of them have been from outside the top three on the grid. Maybe qualifying is over-rated? But in all seriousness, in all five of those races, something has happened where a chance to get up there has presented itself, and I’m not going to let that go if it happens. It’d be nice to know what it must be like to qualify on pole and then disappear and win by 20 seconds, but all of them have been about seizing an opportunity. The races that I’ve won have all been exciting races, and when I got the call to box about five laps in or so, I thought I was done and I’d probably be retiring, a bit like I did in Russia when the brakes were on fire. Definitely thought it would be a DNF.

The big talking point out of the race was the incident with Lewis and Seb – told you I’d come back to that – and everyone seems to have an opinion about it. So here’s mine. There’s a view going around that Seb got off lightly with the penalty he got, but to me, that’s only because he ended up beating Lewis, and that only happened because Lewis had his own issues with the headrest. If that hadn’t happened and Lewis won, which he looked like was going to, and Seb was, say, fifth or something, then there wouldn’t be as much noise about it. For me, a 10-second stop-go penalty, the one Seb got, is the biggest penalty you can have without being black-flagged. There’s no bigger time penalty because you lose 20 seconds in the pits, and then you have to be stationary for 10 seconds. A light penalty in my view would have been if the stewards had added 10 seconds to his race time at the end, and I would have agreed that a penalty like that wouldn’t have been enough. But I thought what they did was fine, and I don’t think what he did was enough to be disqualified. So for me, it was the right penalty. What he did wasn’t right, but it wasn’t dangerous – we were doing 40km/h – so it was more silly than anything. It’s done, and I don’t think it should drag out any more. Somehow I reckon it might get discussed in Austria though!

I got some downtime eventually on the Wednesday after Baku, and got to spend some time at home training and do some stuff for my birthday on the weekend, so that was cool. Turning 28? Yeah, not unhappy with that. But it did get me thinking about one of my favourite sportspeople and one of my favourite sports – Valentino Rossi and MotoGP. He’s 10 years older than me, and someone told me that the span between his first win and his most recent one at Assen (the same day we raced at Baku) was 21 years. 21 years! The winning – and he’s clearly done heaps of that – is one thing, but he’s an inspiration even just from a physical standpoint. MotoGP is such a physical sport (not to mention the injuries you put up with), so for him to still be doing it the way he is and to be right up near the front in the championship again – it’s pretty remarkable.

Mentally, he clearly hasn’t been ground down by the travel, the off the bike stuff, the commitments outside of racing, and that’s almost as impressive. For me, when the day comes one day (hopefully not for a fair while!) that I stop, I reckon it’ll be the fatigue with the whole circus and wanting to lay low for a bit and not see an airport that would be more of a factor than physical fatigue or losing that thrill of competition or driving these cars. With Valentino, what amazes me is that I know the commitments I have and how busy life can be, and if you multiplied that by 50 (or probably more), that’s him. Combine that with the physical side and how he’s racing against guys a generation younger than him and he’s still right up there, he just amazes me.

Anyway, I’ve got off-topic a bit. There’s a race this weekend, and given it’s Austria we’ll be pretty busy, which is cool. Baku was such a crazy race that it’s hard to read too much into the performance side of things, but we were more competitive even when things were more normal on Friday, and I reckon we’ve made a step. But in saying that, I reckon Mercedes gave us a look at what they might have up their sleeve in Baku when (Valtteri) Bottas was chasing down (Lance) Stroll in those last few laps. When he turned up the wick, that thing absolutely flew, and they probably still have a chunk of time over us, nobody is denying that. But things are getting better for us, and we have a few updates coming for Silverstone and a few again for Budapest. I’m hopeful that, with a combination of the Budapest track suiting us and some improvements on the car, we can be competitive there. And if there’s any more craziness to take advantage of, then I’ll be in there again …