The Dan Diaries: I’m asking the questions …

In his latest exclusive driver column, Daniel Ricciardo talks dollars, being mistaken for famous Hollywood celebrities, and what secret skill he wishes he had.


We’re going to get a bit left-field with the old Diary this time. Change things up a bit. There’s a reason for it, I swear …

We spend so much of our time in F1 answering questions – from media (they often ask the same ones 37 different ways!) and the fans, so it’s time we flipped the script here. Time for a takeover!

I’ve come up with 20 questions to ask … myself. Some of them I get asked a fair bit. Some I’ve never been asked until now! Some of them get a bit off-topic. You’ll learn some things. I know I did … In no particular order and for no particular reason, here we go.

What happens to all of your trophies when you finish on the podium?

Excellent question! My Red Bull contract means I get replicas. Which means they’re real replicas, but the team keeps the ones on the podium. I’ve had 27 podiums, so they’re scattered around a bit. Some are at home in Monaco, some I got shipped back to Australia, so they’re a bit spread out.

How did your driver helmet collection start, and whose helmets do you own?

First one was with Fernando (Alonso), when he was still at Ferrari. It was at the end of 2014 in Abu Dhabi when he asked me to swap, which was pretty sweet. It kind of built from here. How many … not sure of the exact number. Let’s just say a few, and hopefully I’ll add a few more.

How does a Formula One driver get paid? Weekly, monthly, in advance, in arrears? Do you get bonuses and incentives?

Most of us in F1 have the similar structure of a base retainer – so no matter how bad the season is, there’s a figure – and then there’s podium bonuses, bonuses for poles, points and things like that. We’re all pretty much the same, it’s just that the numbers would be different for some of us! We know the minimum we’ll make but not the maximum. There’d be a bit extra for a world championship too. No wonder those guys look pretty happy …

What’s the best alias you’ve used to check into a hotel (and will now never use again!)

Simon Hectic. No, really. True story. My mates and I, when we were younger, we used to prank-call people and we’d use all of these stupid names, and that was one of them. No idea why. Simon Hectic has got a run when there’s someone waiting at an airport to pick me up or something like that.

What’s the most random famous person you’ve been mistaken for?

I got Adam Sandler once! Seriously. ‘Screech’ from that TV show ‘Saved By The Bell’, that was another one. And in F1, I used to get Sebastien Buemi all the time. When he was at Toro Rosso and I was a reserve quite a few years ago, people would give me photos of him to sign all the time …

Have you ever used ‘don’t you know who I am?’ to get something you wanted?

I haven’t … but some of my mates have, like ‘don’t you know who he is?’ I wouldn’t have the nerve to do it … but people have done it for me.

You do so many flights per year. How did you survive them: music, reading, movies, sleeping, what?

I actually used to count my flights, ‘it’s flight 109 for the season this week’, that sort of thing. Not so much anymore. I’m not a massive sleeper on planes, so it’s mostly music, of course, and then lots of movies on the long flights. I actually look forward to that because I’d never see them otherwise. And your phone is off. No texts, no emails. I actually like it …

Who organises your travel schedule, and how do you keep track of it all?

It’s a mix. Partly me, partly my PA that I have back in Monaco, Viola, and then Red Bull’s logistics department. There’s something weirdly satisfying about sitting down at the start of the year and planning the whole year in one go, with some flexibility for things that come up of course. Getting it all mapped out is a bit of a relief too, having, say, 80 per cent of it sorted takes the stress out.

Off the track, do you prefer to be the driver or a passenger when there’s more than you in the car?

On a race weekend, my trainers Stu or Sam, whoever is with me, they’ll drive into the circuit. A lot of F1 drivers are bad passengers, but as long as I have the music to control, then that’s good enough for me.

What are you thinking about in the post-race press conferences when other drivers are speaking in their native languages?

Most of the time, not a lot – there’s usually a bit of daydreaming going on! Drinking water if we’ve had a hot race. If there’s someone speaking, say, Finnish and I have no idea what’s being said, then the daydreaming starts!

Red Bull always come up with some different ways of promoting the brand – what’s the most fun activity you’ve done over the years?

Last year we did some motocross in the desert in Abu Dhabi which was pretty cool, that’s something I’d done before so that was really fun. And the caravan race Max (Verstappen) and I did around the Red Bull Ring earlier this year was hilarious. Both of us were just losing it laughing. We might have got a bit off-script that day …

Tell us something (within reason) about two of your F1 teammates so far that people might not know?

Seb (Sebastian Vettel) is quite superstitious. He has a lucky charm that he wears in his suit or in his boots, I can’t completely remember. Max … this is pretty funny. In the Sunday morning strategy meetings, he sits with his head down towards the table. If you didn’t know better you’d swear he was sleeping! You 100 per cent know he’s taking it all in and listening to everything, it just looks like he’s not!

If you could play any other sport professionally for a living, what would you want it to be?

Tennis, for sure. I’ve always enjoyed that one-on-one nature of it, and there’s no bullshit in terms of the best guy wins the match. There’s no blaming your racquet, your shoes, none of that. I love how there’s a big playing arena compared to how little space the players take up in it, there’s no helmets or armour, every facial expression is for the spectators to see. And I like how there can be such massive momentum swings and how that momentum can shift so quickly. It’d be amazing to have that level of talent to deliver under that much pressure.

Do you have a secret skill, and if so, what is it?

I’ve never tried a unicycle, so that’s out. Let’s say I can catch really well. Good eyes and good reflexes! Not very glamorous. But I’ll back myself to catch anything.

If there was one skill you could have that you don’t, what would it be?

Singing or playing an instrument, it’s not even close. People who can play four different instruments and still sing, I’m like ‘damn you’ … Imagine being able to rock up to, say, a piano and be able to play whatever you wanted? That’d be cool.

How often do up-and-coming drivers ask for advice, and is that something that sits well with you?

I recognise I’m in that position a little bit more now, I’m not the young rookie coming in guns blazing any more. So it does happen sometimes, and I’m good with that. The guns are still blazing, don’t worry, it’s just that there’s some more depth to me now. I acknowledge that’s a bit more my position in the sport and motorsport generally now, to be a role model or perhaps give people some advice. The wise old bloke …

What’s the best and/or worst investment in something that someone has asked you to make?

You get some good ones, for sure. You’d be amazed at how many people come completely out of the woodwork and say ‘hey, you should stick your money into this’ when you’ve never met them before. Because there’s an app for everything these days, you’ll get a lot of approaches to invest in those – and you realise some of the best ideas already exist … The best ones for us drivers are things like real estate – because it’s safe and strong – and because of what we do, cars.

What’s your off-season binge food favourite when you can let loose?

A massive juicy greasy hamburger. Massive. It has to be a good hamburger, it just doesn’t have to be a very healthy one. One that’s massive and half of it falls out and runs down your forearms as you’re eating it. You need a bath afterwards. Nice.

What podium have you never stood on yet that you’re most keen to?

Suzuka, that’s finally ticked off now. I’ve physically stood on the Australian one (2014) even though I didn’t get to keep the second place, so I won’t say that. Mexico would be pretty cool, and I technically did get to stand on it last year, but that was hours after the race and when pretty much everyone had gone home! So I’ll say Monza, just for that atmosphere.

What’s the best thing about going back to Australia – weather, accents, open space, what?

There’s so many … Bottle shops and pre-mixes is a random one. Cracking a can open and knowing you don’t have to mix it! So, so Australian. And good Aussie bakeries, where you roll in and get your pepper steak pie and that sort of thing, that’s Australia. Bakeries remind me of heading down south or up north in WA to go on holidays, so there’s a nostalgic part of it too. You definitely get more aware of that sort of thing as you get older.


What happened at the Japanese Grand Prix?

Hamilton flies, Ferrari flops and Red Bull scores a second double-podium in seven days as F1 storms Suzuka.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 2nd, finished 4th.

Suzuka has been Mercedes territory ever since the advent of the V6 turbo hybrid era – the Silver Arrows had won all three races at the esteemed Japanese track since 2014 – and Hamilton made it a Mercedes clean sweep since that sweeping change to the sport’s regulations when he won his eighth Grand Prix of the year and fourth in the past five races. With Vettel’s retirement, Hamilton’s championship lead has ballooned to 59 points with 100 still available, and the Briton’s momentum, allied to Ferrari’s propensity to shoot itself in the foot, surely means a fourth world title is a certainty. Pole for Hamilton on Saturday was – remarkably – his first at Suzuka in 11 Japanese Grand Prix, and he set it with the fastest-ever lap of the revered circuit, the car’s cornering speed in the twisty first sector a sight to behold. “It’s like the craziest rollercoaster ride,” he beamed afterwards. His race was relatively uncomplicated, save for some late drama after a virtual safety car period to recover Stroll’s stricken Williams that saw Verstappen close to within a second, but a fourth Japanese Grand Prix victory will see him arrive in Austin in two weeks with one hand – perhaps more – on the title.
On the other side of the garage, Bottas came to Japan under pressure after a series of underwhelming performances since the mid-season break, and blotted his copybook when he clouted the wall in final practice, damaging his car to such an extent that it required a gearbox change and subsequent five-place grid penalty. He fitted the faster supersoft tyres for his final stint of the race and closed in on Ricciardo at a rapid rate, setting the fastest lap of the race with four laps to go, but ran out of time and was less than a second adrift at the flag.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 3rd, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 2nd.

Last week’s double-podium in Malaysia was Red Bull’s first in a year; seven days later, the team did it again, with Verstappen a late, albeit unlikely, chance to nab a second win in succession as he reeled in Hamilton in the final two laps. The pair came across Massa and Alonso battling for 10th on the penultimate lap, and the Dutchman was unlucky to catch the Brazilian in the twisty Esses section at the start of the last lap, where moving aside for blue flags is difficult even if you’re so inclined to. Ricciardo had Verstappen’s measure for much of the weekend until the lights went out on Sunday, but Verstappen made a superb getaway from the second row and slotted in behind Hamilton by the time the field completed the second lap. He made his sole pit stop on lap 21 in an attempt to undercut the Briton, but Hamilton pitted a lap later and controlled the race from there. Verstappen’s second podium in a week was his third for the season.
Ricciardo at least out-qualified his teammate for the first time in seven races, but blinked at the start and then was boxed in by a slow-starting Vettel at the first corner, which gave Verstappen the invitation he needed to leap ahead. Ocon then took advantage and zapped the Australian in the Esses, and by the time Ricciardo cleared the Force India 11 laps later, third was the best he could have hoped for. Bottas’ pace at the end gave him a few nervous moments, but third was Ricciardo’s first podium at Suzuka in seven visits. Nine podiums for the season is the most he’s earned in a single campaign. “Once the start was done, it’s pretty difficult to overtake around here,” he said. The back-to-back double podiums were Red Bull’s first since, remarkably, the US/Brazil races in 2013.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 3rd, did not finish. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 6th, finished 5th.

Sunday’s retirement after just four laps almost certainly put an end to Vettel’s quest of a fifth world title, which is hard to believe after he led the standings for the opening 12 rounds of the season. In the five races since F1 took its mid-season break before Belgium, Vettel has managed just 45 points to Hamilton’s 118. Alarm bells were ringing when Ferrari mechanics were frantically working on Vettel’s car in the moments before the start, the engine cover off the car as the team changed a spark plug at the last possible moment. The German made a slow getaway and then had no pace at all down the main straight, losing positions hand over fist until he was called into the pits to park to become the second retirement of the race.
Raikkonen’s race was compromised by his accident in third practice, when he slid off at hit the barriers at Degner 2 and needed a new gearbox. Starting 10th, the Finn had battles with Hulkenberg and Vandoorne on the opening lap and fell back to 15th, and while superior car speed saw him make short work of the midfield runners, he finished in no-man’s land, 22 seconds behind Bottas in fourth, and 35 seconds ahead of Ocon in sixth. At least he completed more than one lap, which he didn’t manage in either Singapore or Malaysia …

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 8th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 7th, finished 6th.

There was little to choose between the Force India duo all weekend, with Ocon out-qualifying Perez by 0.149 seconds and beating him by three seconds after 53 laps. But it wasn’t as straightforward as that – it never is with Force India’s drivers – and Perez was miffed by Ocon’s pace at several stages throughout the race as he looked for a way past, telling the team the Frenchman was “going too slowly” with 15 laps left as he chased sixth spot. It didn’t end in tears between the pair as it did in Azerbaijan and Belgium earlier this season, but it didn’t do much for team morale either. With four races left this season, Perez leads his vastly less experienced teammate by 17 points – what will happen if that margin narrows?

Felipe Massa: qualified 9th, finished 10th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, did not finish.

Suzuka was very much a case of what might have been for Williams, with Massa hanging on to the final point after resisting plenty of pressure from old Ferrari teammate Alonso in the closing stages, and Stroll suffering his first retirement for 13 Grands Prix when he few off with just six laps left, a failure on the right front of the car sending him spearing into the gravel trap at a fearsome speed as he traversed the Esses. The veteran Brazilian doubled his lead over his teammate in the drivers’ standings (to two points) with four races to go; the only question is if those four races are the last of Massa’s career, with the team confirming over the Japan weekend that test driver Paul di Resta, who deputised for an unwell Massa in Hungary this year, and former BMW-Sauber and Renault driver Robert Kubica are being evaluated to potentially take over the seat alongside Stroll for 2018.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 10th, finished 11th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 11th, finished 14th.

McLaren has endured plenty of barren races since it started its ill-feted second marriage with Honda in 2015, so it was perhaps fitting that Sunday’s race in Japan made it zero points from three Grands Prix at Honda’s home track as McLaren prepares to move to Renault engines for next year – the same Renault engines (rebadged, of course) that have propelled Red Bull to consecutive double podiums in the past week. Alonso had designs on changing that stat on Thursday before the race when he was in a typically combative mood, but that optimism quickly died after Friday practice when it was announced he’d need yet another engine replacement for the race, a hydraulic leak condemning him to a rear-of-grid start. His late-race fight with Massa was predictably feisty and ultimately futile. Vandoorne came into the weekend buoyed by consecutive seventh-place finishes in Singapore and Malaysia, and had plenty of experience and form around Suzuka from his days in the Japanese Super Formula championship. Alonso edged him from the top 10 shootout for pole on Saturday, and any chance of another points haul evaporated almost instantly when he fell to the back on lap one.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 17th, finished 13th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 15th, did not finish.

Suzuka was a surprise farewell for Sainz at the only F1 team he’s ever known, as it was announced after qualifying that his 2018 move to Renault would be fast-tracked to the US Grand Prix in Austin in a fortnight’s time, his new employers keen to move on from Jolyon Palmer. As farewells go, Japan was underwhelming – Sainz had to start from the back with engine penalties, smashed his car at the hairpin in first practice, and then lasted six corners in the race before burying his car into the barriers as the field snaked its way through the Esses for the first time. The Spaniard has been a one-man band for Toro Rosso this year, scoring 48 of the team’s 52 points, his contribution keeping the team in seventh place in the constructors’ championship, ahead of, amongst others, Renault. For newcomer Gasly, in his just his second Grand Prix, Suzuka was at least more familiar than Malaysia last time out, the young Frenchman knowing the track well from his Japanese Super Formula campaign this year. He had an emotional moment before the race weekend when he visited the corner where friend Jules Bianchi crashed at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, an accident that would eventually cost Bianchi his life. Like Malaysia, points remained elusive for a team that struggled in the past two Grands Prix. Daniil Kvyat, parked to make way for Gasly in the last two races, returns in Austin in two weeks.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 16th, finished 9th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 13th, finished 8th.

Haas had its second double-points finish of the year – and first since Monaco way back in round six – when Magnussen and Grosjean picked up the scraps at Suzuka, although to paint their races as ones where they simply got lucky would be entirely unfair. The fiery Magnussen has managed to get under the skin of several rivals this year, and his robust pass of Massa at turn one on lap 42 was a brilliant mixture of aggression and skill, and one that allowed Grosjean to sneak past the Williams as well. They were less than a second apart at the flag, and the combined six world championship points saw them sneak past Renault for seventh overall, progress from last year’s eighth-place finish. Considering how Friday (Magnussen had a water leak) and Saturday (Grosjean crashed heavily in qualifying) went, it was an unlikely result that was welcomed with open arms.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 14th, finished 12th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 12th, did not finish.

The news of Palmer’s departure from Renault effective immediately caught a few on the hop, but the stats don’t lie – and they show that in 36 races, the Briton scored points just twice, and Saturday’s qualifying deficit to Hulkenberg made his head-to-head mark against the German 0-16 on Saturdays this season. He then took a 20-place grid penalty for new engine components, and flirted with a top-10 finish through running a marathon first stint before dropping to 12th at the flag. “It is my last race for Renault, not my last race in Formula One,” Palmer said. It’s hard to see how. On the other side of the garage, Hulkenberg was gutted after his own lengthy first stint of the race, where he ran as high as fifth, came to naught when his DRS flap stuck open after his pit stop, the rear-wing assembly failing and necessitating his retirement. The final four races of the season will be an interesting entrée to his partnership with Sainz next season, with two drivers capable of scoring good hauls of points giving Renault what it needs to vault up the grid.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 20th, finished 15th.

Ericsson had plenty of confidence for Suzuka, a track he knows well from his pre-F1 days racing in Japan, and it was no surprise he reversed his recent qualifying form against teammate Wehrlein to beat the German by three-tenths of a second on Saturday. That experience didn’t help him much on Sunday though, where the Swede lasted all of eight laps before running wide at Degner 1 and having the almost-inevitable accident at Degner 2, burying the Sauber into the outside wall just before the circuit underpass. Wehrlein made two unscheduled pit stops in the opening four laps and was always going to finish last from there, as Sauber’s drought without points stretched to eight races.

What happened at the Malaysian Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen wins his second race in Malaysia’s final GP, while Daniel Ricciardo’s third caps a season-best day for Red Bull Racing.


Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 4th, finished 3rd. Max Verstappen: qualified 3rd, finished 1st.

For a driver whose year has had complications at every turn, Verstappen’s second career win was a breeze, the Dutchman starting well from third, sailing past Hamilton’s Mercedes into the braking zone at the first corner on lap four, and only briefly being headed through the pit stop phase from there on as he cruised to a 12-second victory. Win number one – on his debut for Red Bull Racing in Spain last year – owed itself partly to good fortune, but this was an imperious display, putting a gap of five seconds on Hamilton in eight laps after passing the championship leader, his pace in Sepang’s twisty second sector a sight to behold. Those seven non-finishes and three first-lap exits would have been the last thing on his mind on a sweltering Sunday night in Kuala Lumpur, and it would have been hard to have found the birthday boy (Verstappen turned 20 on Saturday) a better present.
Ricciardo, the race-winner in Malaysia last year, had no answer for his teammate’s pace for much of the weekend, the Australian out-qualified by Verstappen for the sixth race running. But after dispatching a fast-starting Bottas to claim the final podium place on offer on lap nine, Ricciardo hung on as best he could against Vettel’s flying Ferrari, which was on faster tyres, in the final stages, shutting the door decisively on his old teammate at the first corner with seven laps to go. Finishing over 20 seconds behind Verstappen wouldn’t have pleased him, but giving Red Bull its first double-podium of the season certainly did.

Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 2nd. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 5th, finished 5th.

Hamilton left Malaysia with a larger lead in the world championship over nearest rival Vettel – the Briton has a 34-point advantage with five races left – but he would have been excused for expecting more after he started from pole at Sepang for the fourth straight year, and with Vettel dead last after the Ferrari’s engine packed up in qualifying. Hamilton had nothing in response for Verstappen after the Dutchman took an early lead, and his race was a lonely one, the team understandably keeping an eye on Vettel’s progress from behind rather than worrying about Verstappen’s pace in front. While Hamilton’s three-race winning streak from the mid-year break was snapped, a 20th consecutive finish saw him inch closer to that coveted fourth world title. While Hamilton would have left Malaysia happy, Bottas would have been utterly disconsolate by finishing where he started, but more alarmingly, 56 seconds behind Verstappen. The Finn elected to keep using Mercedes’ upgraded aerodynamic package that Hamilton abandoned after the opening day of practice, and was nowhere thereafter, qualifying a whopping seven-tenths of a second behind his teammate’s pole time on Saturday, and fading into anonymity in the race.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 20th, finished 4th. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 2nd, did not start.

Was Malaysia a massive fail or a massive save for the Scuderia? Worst news first; after Vettel was left at the back of the grid following engine problems in qualifying, suspected turbo dramas hit Raikkonen on the reconnaissance lap to the grid before Sunday’s race, the Finn dragged back into the garage as Ferrari desperately chased a quick fix that came to nought. While Raikkonen was a spectator, Vettel was spectacular. The German made quick early work of the back of the field to be up to 11th within six laps, but it was his prodigious pace when he fitted the supersoft tyres on lap 27 that showed why many believe the Ferrari is the fastest car in the sport at the moment – when it’s actually working. Vettel dispatched Bottas and set off after Ricciardo, and very nearly jagged a podium from last at the start. A strange weekend got even stranger for Vettel when Stroll’s Williams ran clean into him as the field tooled around back to the pits, the impact smashing the left rear of Vettel’s Ferrari to bits and – potentially – necessitating a gearbox replacement (and subsequent penalty) at next week’s race in Japan.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 9th, finished 6th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 6th, finished 10th.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots in F1 was best demonstrated by Perez’s excellent sixth place, a result even more meritorious when you consider the Mexican was battling a virus at the most physical race of all. Eight points were great, but the Force India driver was the final car not lapped, and finished 78 seconds behind race-winner Verstappen. While his race was relatively event-free, teammate Ocon’s was anything but; the Frenchman hit Massa’s Williams at the second corner on lap one, made an early pit stop to get onto the more durable soft-compound tyres after two laps, spun at Turn 1 on lap 25 after contact with Sainz’s Toro Rosso, and had several run-ins with Massa at Turn 4 before finishing 10th to pick up the final point on offer.

Felipe Massa: qualified 11th, finished 9th. Lance Stroll: qualified 13th, finished 8th.

The Williams drivers have been an amicable duo all season as veteran Brazilian Massa has helped eased Canadian rookie Stroll’s transition into the top flight, but the pair were never far apart at Sepang, Stroll aggrieved that Massa had undercut him in the pit stops when they squabbled on track together on lap 13. Stroll finished the better of the pair by six seconds after 56 laps, Massa’s car clearly struggling after he picked up some damage in the first-lap incident with Ocon. Stroll’s take on the bizarre end-of-race smash with Vettel? “It was a strange incident, I was driving very slowly, back into the pit lane. The race wasn’t going on, so it wasn’t intentional for either of us. He came around the outside like the race was still going. It all happened very quickly.”

Fernando Alonso: qualified 10th, finished 11th. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 7th, finished 7th.

Malaysia was another very solid weekend for Vandoorne, who equalled his career-best result of seventh earned in the Singapore Grand Prix a fortnight ago. That the McLaren worked well on Singapore’s twisty city streets wasn’t a surprise, but Vandoorne’s pace despite an obvious power deficit down Sepang’s two long straights was unexpected. The Belgian made a brilliant start to be fifth after the first lap, and is now ahead of teammate Alonso in the drivers’ standings. Alonso’s race had few highlights, save for his lap 33 fight with Magnussen’s Haas, which ended with the Spaniard block-passing the Dane into Turn 2 and dismissively calling him “an idiot”.

Toro Rosso
Pierre Gasly: qualified 15th, finished 14th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 14th, did not finish.

Random Toro Rosso stat from the weekend; every time Daniil Kvyat has been demoted (from Red Bull to Toro Rosso in Spain last year, and from Toro Rosso to the team’s subs bench for Malaysia), Verstappen has won the race … Gasly, drafted in for Sepang and Suzuka (for the time being), described Friday’s first practice as “very special”, and while the French 21-year-old hovered around the back of the midfield for most of his debut weekend, qualifying just 0.156secs behind Sainz showed his potential. The unlucky Sainz, who came into Malaysia after a career-best fourth in Singapore, was technically the only retiree at Sepang (given Raikkonen didn’t start the race), his engine letting go on lap 28 when he was running in the points.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 16th, finished 13th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 12th.

Grosjean was the headline from Friday practice at Sepang, the Haas driver pitched into a frightening accident after a puncture caused by a loose drain cover at Turn 12, the Frenchman very fortunate to escape injury despite his car being totalled. The team’s mechanics pulled an all-nighter to get his car ready for qualifying, but there wasn’t much more to be proud about for either Grosjean or Magnussen, both cars out in Q1 and faster only than the backmarker Sauber duo of Wehrlein and Ericsson. Grosjean was bullied off track on the first lap by the Toro Rossos (his complaints earning a stinging rebuke from Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost) and barely featured after that, while Magnussen had a more eventful outing, storming to 10th after an opportunistic first lap, but falling back after clashes with Alonso and former Renault teammate Palmer, who he referred to as “a lunatic” after they came together at the first corner on lap 39.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 12th, finished 15th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 8th, finished 16th.

Renault went backwards in Malaysia, Hulkenberg’s off onto the dirt at the final corner on lap one forcing him into an early pit stop to cure imbalance issues. The German tried to get to the end on the same tyres he fitted on lap 10, but was forced into another stop six laps from home and finished well outside of the points. Palmer’s weekend, one race after his Singapore sixth, was messy; he hit Verstappen at the end of final practice, spun all by himself at the penultimate corner on lap 38, and then hit Magnussen two turns later, ending up off the track and pointing in the wrong direction.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, finished 18th. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 18th, finished 17th.

The Sauber duo had nothing to lose by starting on the soft-compound Pirellis and trying to go as long as they could in Sunday’s race, but the lack of a safety car or wet-weather intervention saw them tool around at the back, both making just the one stop, and Wehrlein finishing a long, long way ahead of his Swedish teammate. The German’s only moment of note? Giving compatriot Vettel a lift back to the pits after the race.

What happened at the Singapore Grand Prix?

A start-line smash hogs the headlines, as Daniel Ricciardo goes oh-so-close yet again to achieving Singapore success.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 5th, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 6th, finished 3rd.

After qualifying fifth and over six-tenths of a second behind Vettel’s pole time, Hamilton felt Mercedes needed “a miracle” to stay in the same postcode as the Ferrari and Red Bull duos in the race, and that’s exactly how his start panned out. The Briton made a superb getaway to round up Ricciardo’s slow-starting Red Bull into the first corner, and was ahead of the Raikkonen-Verstappen-Alonso carnage that unfolded in the opening 10 seconds, and perfectly placed when Vettel hit the wall at Turn 3 seconds later.

From there, Hamilton was in control of the race in conditions wet or dry, and 58 gruelling laps later, had taken his third win in a row – and assumed a season-best 28-point championship lead on a circuit that shaped as Mercedes’ worst for the remainder of the year. Bottas was never a match for his teammate all weekend and suffered with a failed drinks bottle in his car for the two-hour duration, but rounded out the podium on a critical weekend that might just secure Hamilton the title once we get to Abu Dhabi in late November.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 3rd, finished 2nd. Max Verstappen: qualified 2nd, did not finish.

Verstappen shone in qualifying again, out-performing teammate Ricciardo when it mattered most and slotting into second behind Vettel, but it was that starting position that was the beginning of the end for the Dutchman 24 hours later. Raikkonen, immediately behind him, made a blinding start and stormed down the inside, and as pole-sitter Vettel came across to cover, the Red Bull was steaming towards a gap that was closing rapidly, the contact seeing both Verstappen and Raikkonen out on the spot and Vettel last only a few corners more. In 14 races this season, Verstappen has now retired on seven occasions, three times on the first lap. If it was a familiar tale for the teenager, it was much the same for Ricciardo, who finished second in Singapore for the third year in a row, and on the podium at a track where so many from his native Perth come to watch for the fourth year in succession. The Australian had every reason to be bullish for another race win when he dominated Friday practice, but this wasn’t the usual swashbuckling Ricciardo rostrum result – his poor getaway saved him from the first-corner carnage, and while he kept Hamilton honest, he never looked like challenging the Mercedes for the top spot as he pushed on despite an oil pressure problem with his gearbox. “I can’t win the bloody thing, but I’m trying,” he half-grinned afterwards.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 1st, did not finish. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 4th, did not finish.

Ferrari came to Singapore desperate to atone for being thrashed by Mercedes at its home race at Monza a fortnight before, and had every reason to be optimistic at a tight and twisty street circuit that most resembles Monaco of the other F1 tracks, where it finished 1-2 earlier this year. Instead, Singapore became a historical black eye for the Scuderia, who had two cars retire on the first lap of a race for the first time in its storied F1 history. While most pointed the finger of blame at Vettel, the team took a slightly different view …

Vettel said after the race that he was uncertain what happened at the start; what’s easier to ascertain is that with six races to go, the German’s chances of a fifth world title this year look more tenuous than ever. After his brilliant pole on Saturday with a lap many observers called one of the best of his career, it was quite the come-down.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 12th, finished 5th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 14th, finished 10th.

Things looked dire for Force India on Saturday, where the team failed to get a car into the top 10 on the grid for just the third time all year at a circuit that plainly didn’t suit the car’s slippery straight-line strengths. But Perez was his usual canny self in the race, and despite having never made Q3 in Singapore, he’s now finished inside the top 10 seven times, Sunday’s fifth his best effort yet. It capped off a great day for the Mexican, who signed a contract extension to stay with the team for 2018 on race morning. Ocon, on his 21st birthday, found himself in a furious fight on the fringes of the top 10 with Massa and Magnussen mid-race, and continued his perfect finishing record in F1 to date (23 races, 23 times seeing the chequered flag) as he joined Hamilton as the only drivers to complete every race so far this year.

Felipe Massa: qualified 17th, finished 11th. Lance Stroll: qualified 18th, finished 8th.

For Williams to make the points with one car and just miss with the other was something of a save for a weekend that started out poorly and then got worse when both cars were ousted in Q1 for the fourth time in the past six races. The attrition rate of faster cars ahead of them certainly helped, but in conditions that caught out plenty of more experienced rivals, Stroll’s eighth at a circuit he’d never previously driven was commendable. Massa was one of the first drivers to move to slicks as the circuit dried on lap 24, and it didn’t quite work out, the veteran Brazilian finishing less than two seconds behind Ocon for the final point on offer.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 8th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 9th, finished 7th.

Vandoorne took a career-best result from his first visit to Singapore, which came after he and teammate Alonso had qualified inside the top 10 for just the second time all season. While the Belgian shone, it was yet another early shower for Alonso, who retired on lap nine after his car’s telemetry failed thanks to damage from the shunt at the first corner, the Spaniard finding himself in the firing line after a typically scorching start. Alonso has seen the chequered flag just once in the past six races, but at least has kept his sense of humour …

While Vandoorne’s Singapore race was strong and Alonso’s short, this will be a weekend remembered more for the divorce from a failed three-year marriage with Honda – and move to Renault power for 2018 – than anything McLaren’s drivers achieved on track. Convincing Alonso to stay is the next – and most vital – task.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 13th, did not finish. Carlos Sainz: qualified 10th, finished 4th.

Singapore was a big weekend in Sainz’s career, confirmation coming that the Spaniard will be loaned to Renault for next season as part of the engine musical chairs that saw Toro Rosso’s Renault powerplant supply heading to McLaren, and Honda switching to STR. Sainz qualified 10th and felt he’d be fighting a rear-guard action in the race; instead, he was superbly opportunistic and finished a career-best fourth, making the most of a day where numerous big names barely lasted a few corners. His continued success contrasted sharply with Kvyat’s repeated woes, the Russian furious after missing Q3 on Saturday, and then stuffing his car into the fence at Turn 7 in the wet after 11 laps in the race, prompting the second of three safety car interventions. The last time Kvyat scored points? Barcelona, way back in May.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 15th, finished 9th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 16th, did not finish.

Things looked grim for Haas when the American team could only outpace backmarkers Sauber on Friday, and when Grosjean barely scraped into Q2 and Magnussen failed to join him, points looked like a pipedream. Plenty of incidents and accidents ahead of the pair changed all of that on Sunday, and Grosjean persevered to nab two points, while Magnussen had an MGU-K failure eight laps from the end that saw him become the eighth and final retirement of the race.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 11th, finished 6th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 7th, did not finish.

It’s been a miserable year for Palmer, outqualified by teammate Hulkenberg in every race and failing to score a point before Singapore, and his tenure in F1 was ended in the lead-up to the race when it was announced Sainz would take his seat for 2018 at the latest, and perhaps as early as the next round in Malaysia. The Briton’s response was impressive and surprising; after just missing Q3 on Saturday, Palmer was an excellent sixth on Sunday for a career-best result, his assuredness in the wet at the start a standout. Will it be his final race? Only time will tell. The news wasn’t as positive for Hulkenberg, who, after being pumped up by qualifying ahead of both McLarens on Saturday, had to retire with a hydraulics issue late in the race when running strongly inside the top 10. Speaking of bad news: the non-finish meant Hulkenberg broke the record for most starts in the history of F1 without a podium finish (129), previously held by his compatriot Adrian Sutil.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 20th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 19th, finished 12th.

Ericsson and Wehrlein continued their season-long race within a race at the back of the field, the Swede clouting the wall in practice and needing a new gearbox (the subsequent five-place grid penalty meaning little given he qualified last anyway), and then causing the final safety car period of the race when he crashed on the iconic Anderson Bridge with 20 laps left. Wehrlein was two laps down and last, and with Vandoorne’s seventh place extending McLaren’s lead over Sauber for last in the constructors’ championship to 12 points, it seems the Swiss squad is certain to finishing at the foot of the table.

The Dan Diaries: Flying solo

Daniel Ricciardo writes about why coaching has little place in F1, where to draw the line on routines, and why the omens are good for Singapore this Sunday.


September in Australia means footy finals – no matter what type of footy is your footy – and for me, last Saturday afternoon at home in Monaco was spent getting my heart rate up watching my West Coast Eagles in their AFL elimination final against Port Adelaide. It had everything – extra time, crazy momentum shifts, and a match-winning goal after the final siren (for the good guys, naturally). Awesome. But something I noticed after the game as the players were going nuts and all the team’s support staff spilled onto the field was just how many coaches an AFL team has, and the same applies for most other types of team sports.

Compare that to what I do? Us drivers have personal trainers who help to shape our bodies (and sometimes our minds) to get us ready, and my long-time trainer Stu Smith has had as much (if not more) impact on my career than anyone. But as far as coaching for actual driving goes, there’s nothing. It’s on you. To anyone on the outside, it must seem odd to think that you get to the main motorsport category in the world and you’re mostly on your own, but that’s the way it is – and the way it has to be.

When I first came to Europe to race, I went to a few driver coach days and had some more experienced people than I was teach you some techniques and some approaches to things. I figured that was what you were supposed to do. But the further I got into my career and especially once I got to F1, I realised I had to learn things for myself. I’m the one in the car and things change every year – different rules, different tyres, different teams – so it’s hard for anyone to advise you, you’re the one in the hot seat. So you’re faced with a choice – commit, invest the time and learn for yourself, or you’ll probably soon be an ex-F1 driver.

F1’s a unique sport in that if you’re, say, a tennis player, you can go and practice serving or returning or whatever as you try to work on your game. As an F1 driver, we get very limited test days and simulator time, and it’s not like you can go and “practice” F1 away from race weekends, is it? So how do you get better as an F1 driver?

Data and dissecting it – and then learning not to over-do it – has been a big thing for me. You’ll always take, say, your best lap and compare that to your teammate’s best lap – I was quicker here, he was quicker there – but I don’t think many people want to do a longer dissection and look at, say, 20 random laps in the race. Who was better on older tyres and why? Is your teammate coming off the brakes earlier than you at a certain corner? Which of you is keeping the rear tyres cooler and why? What can your engineer identify for you from looking at the data and give you something to work on? There’s always something to learn, and that’s a part of being an F1 driver that I’ve always enjoyed.

The trick when you’re a younger driver is working out how much analysis is enough. Because I was interested in those early F1 years, looking back at it now, I did a lot of poring over the numbers, probably too much. There was a bit of paralysis by analysis for me early on, and I needed to scale back or I was just going to send myself around in circles looking for tenths of a second that might not be there. I just thought that was what you needed to do to be an F1 driver, and if going over data meant two hours’ less sleep, that’s what I did. You learn over time that more isn’t always better, and as you gain trust in your engineer – and that takes time – they can help you narrow things down, and that’s what Simon (Rennie) does for me.

Developing a routine – and one that has some flexibility in it – is massive for us too when you consider the travel that we do, the time zone changes and all of that. Working out what works for you takes time, but it’s time you have to spend. Looking back again to when I first came to Europe, I didn’t really have an eating or training routine that I followed, and it showed. By my second year, I began to learn what I needed to do away from the car to get me in the best place to operate my best, and then the year before my first full year of F1, 2010, I realised what sleep did for my performances, and became very aware of my sleep patterns, sleep quality and hours as I built up to a race weekend. By my second year of F1, I was much more aware of how to manage my energy and be ready to peak at the right times.

The trick with a routine, at least for me, is not to get so caught up in the order of things or when things have to happen that you get knocked off-balance when strange things happen, like weather delaying qualifying for hours like in Italy in the last race (when I grabbed a camera for a bit!), or somewhere like Melbourne when things are pretty hectic for me and there’s always a last-minute request to do this or that. If I had a set routine that had to be followed to the letter, I’d never get through that Australian weekend because of how busy it is. More strict routines work for some top-line sportspeople – look at Valentino Rossi’s rituals as he leaves the pits on his bike, or the way Rafael Nadal prepares to serve or what he does when he rests between games. But just because a rigid routine works for them, it doesn’t make it right for you. Mine is less strict than that, but I do have a checklist of things I like to do to get me completely at my peak for the most important part of the weekend, Sunday afternoon.

I mentioned Rossi and Nadal and their routines, and while F1 and what we do is so unique, I love looking at other sports and other athletes to see what they do to prepare and whether that can translate, can maybe help me in some way. I’ve probably learned more from other sports than my own, to be honest. Seeing how other athletes perform in the moment and trying to find out why, or how they prepare – I can’t get enough of that sort of thing. You don’t want to get too specific with it because some of it might not apply to your sport, but you can learn so much from watching and listening, and I think that’s why I’m such a sports enthusiast generally, there’s always something you can take away from someone else’s approach.

Other than watch footy last weekend, it was time to think about packing my life into a bag and being on the road for the rest of the year. The last seven races of the season are all outside of Europe, and the main focus after Monza was to ramp up the training and get some work done in the heat for the next two races in Singapore this weekend and then Malaysia two weeks after that. There’s no sugar-coating it, these two are just brutally hard, and I’ve tried to smash myself a bit with the training over the last week but keep myself fresh enough so I’m ready for Sunday in Singapore. You need to be in proper nick for these two.

For the team, Singapore is obviously one we’ve had our sights on for a while, and while it won’t be the only other race we have a chance at winning this year – who would have thought I’d have won at Baku with the characteristics of that track? – Singapore is one race where we have a great chance.

It’s good to head there off the back of a couple of pretty good races, including the podium at Spa which we didn’t expect. That safety car for the Force India boys crashing into each other was handy, for sure. We had a new set of ultrasoft tyres, and I was pretty surprised Mercedes went to the soft tyres, particularly with Valtteri Bottas ahead of me. Fourth would have been good, but the podium was there to be taken, and I had to have a go. I had Kimi (Raikkonen) hovering behind me ready to attack, so the best way for me to defend from him was to attack Bottas, and I had one shot at it after the re-start and nailed it. Pretty sweet.

It would have been awesome to get onto the podium again at Monza too – that’s one podium I’ve still not been on and one I want because that has to be the best podium in all of F1 – but in the end I ran out of laps to get to Seb (Sebastian Vettel) after starting down near the back because of penalties. It’ll happen one day.

That was a fun race and there was plenty of overtakes, everyone saw the one with Kimi and the one with (Sergio) Perez at the second chicane. I’d also managed to pass (Kevin) Magnussen at the same chicane with the same move earlier in the race, but I don’t think it made the TV broadcast. So, a shame to not be on that awesome podium, but good to string a couple of good ones together after coming back from the break.

Hopefully we can make it three this weekend. Singapore has been good to me the last three years – third, second, and second again (and fastest lap) last year, so there’s only one step to go from there …

What happened at the Italian Grand Prix?

Grid penalties get out of control and Daniel Ricciardo unleashes a stunning drive, but it was Mercedes who produced a masterclass at Monza.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 1st, finished 1st. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 6th, finished 2nd.
On a weekend where the F1 penalty system made a complete mockery of qualifying – Hamilton was the only driver to line up in the position he qualified in after nine drivers were hit with penalties for changing gearboxes or engines, or both – the Briton made the red-clad Ferrari fans see blue after his most emphatic performance of the season. Hamilton’s 69th career pole on a rain-delayed Saturday broke Michael Schumacher’s long-standing record, and on Sunday, the three-time world champion aced the start and drove off into the distance for Mercedes’ fourth win in Ferrari territory on the bounce, a victory that saw Hamilton take the championship lead (by three points) for the first time this season. Aside from his trophy nearly being spilled before it was handed to him on the podium, Hamilton’s day was as perfect as you could get. Bottas’ race was less straightforward initially after the Finn didn’t shine in the Monza gloom in qualifying, but he was up to second by lap four and kept a sensible distance between his teammate and the rest of the field to give Mercedes its third 1-2 of the season. More worryingly for the rest is that two of those 1-2 finishes have come in the past four races.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 3rd, finished 4th. Max Verstappen: qualified 2nd, finished 10th.
Finishing one place behind where he qualified doesn’t sound like much to get excited about for Ricciardo, but when you consider he took an engine penalty after qualifying that dropped him to 16th on the grid, finishing just four seconds from the podium showed why the Australian was voted as driver of the day by the sport’s fans via social media as the chequered flag flew. Monza was Ricciardo at his incisive best; after a circumspect getaway from near the back of the pack on the soft-compound tyre, the Red Bull driver began to pick off his rivals at a rapid rate, gaining seven places in the opening seven laps. Overtakes of Perez on lap 17 at the Turn 4-5 chicane after a brilliant dummy, and an audacious mugging of Raikkonen’s Ferrari at the first corner on lap 41 were from the top shelf, and despite setting the fastest lap of the race with five laps remaining, he just ran out of time to knock Vettel off the Monza podium. Verstappen qualified a superb second in a deluge on Saturday before he too was pushed back with an engine penalty, but the Dutchman’s dream of a top-five finish was quickly extinguished when he had a clumsy clash with Massa at Turn 1 on lap three, a right-front puncture seeing him limp back to the pits and re-join in last place. From there, getting back into the points was the best Verstappen could do, but 10th only came after brushing with Grosjean and Magnussen in the closing laps as he finished a lap down.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 8th, finished 3rd. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 7th, finished 5th.
Ferrari banked 25 points from Monza and Vettel got to stand on the year’s best podium, but make no mistake – Italy was a massive wake-up call for the men in red, who haven’t won at home since 2010. Mercedes were always expected to have the upper hand on Ferrari’s home ground, the straight-line speed of the Silver Arrows unsurpassed at the ultimate power track once again, but the extent of Hamilton’s margin over Vettel – 36.3 seconds at the finish – was alarming for the tifosi and the team they support. The German’s race was clean and largely lonely after he worked his way up to third after eight laps, while Raikkonen’s Grand Prix petered out after he let Vettel past him on lap four. The Finn then struggled with an unspecified problem at the rear of the car before finishing more than a minute behind Hamilton. Singapore should suit Ferrari more, but getting thrashed by Mercedes on its home deck would have hurt.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 11th, finished 9th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 5th, finished 6th.
All the pre-race chatter about Force India at Monza focused on the antics of its drivers a week earlier at Spa-Francorchamps, where Perez and Ocon came together multiple times and cost the team a swag of points. Team management told the drivers they couldn’t race against one another from now on and threatened to sit them out of future races if the skirmishes continued, and Perez and Ocon did their best to defuse any tension in the pre-race press conference. The pair were rarely together on track to see if that peace could last in Italy, with Ocon qualifying a brilliant fifth in the rain on Saturday, starting third and running strongly in the early stages before regressing to the mean to finish sixth for the third time this year. Perez just missed Q3, took a five-place gearbox penalty yet started 10th after the ridiculously lengthy list of other penalties were taken into account, and finished at the back of the Ocon-Stroll-Massa train for best of the rest status behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Felipe Massa: qualified 9th, finished 8th. Lance Stroll: qualified 4th, finished 7th.
Williams has struggled in the wet in recent years, which made technical director Paddy Lowe’s comments so refreshing when both cars qualified inside the top 10 in weather better suited for boats on Saturday. “I’m not going to pretend I have any idea why a car is strong or weak in the wet,” Lowe shrugged. Stroll was overjoyed with a fourth-place effort which became a front-row start when both Red Bulls were demoted through penalties, and while the Canadian teenager was understandably cautious off the line and soon overtaken by the recovering Ferraris, he showed plenty of fight when under pressure late in the race from his teammate to record the fourth points finish of his rookie campaign. Massa had enjoyed plenty of prior success at Monza – the long-time Ferrari driver had taken two podiums in the past three years for Williams – and finished six-tenths of a second behind his teammate after clashes with Perez at the first corner and Verstappen towards the end of the race. Ten points for Williams – on a day where its nearest rivals in the constructors’ championship didn’t score – might end up being significant in the fight to finish fifth in the teams’ race.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 13th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 10th, did not finish.
Will they or won’t they? Will he or won’t he? They were the questions McLaren faced at every turn at Monza, where more time was spent talking about matters on track than anything the team did on it. Would McLaren really sever ties with Honda? Would Alonso leave? The two questions aren’t mutually exclusive, and Honda’s plight was best reflected by Alonso needing a 35-place grid penalty for new engine components one race after Vandoorne had the same at his home GP in Belgium – and then Vandoorne taking another 25-place penalty on race morning for yet more engine part replacements. Alonso’s Sunday started badly when the historic car issued to the Spaniard for the pre-race driver parade broke down, and besides a rant after being overtaken by Palmer’s Renault – the race stewards penalised the Briton five seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage – Alonso’s race was pretty pedestrian before he retired three laps from the end. Vandoorne was back in the garage himself by then, his car crawling back to the pits with 19 laps remaining with “no power”. Is a switch to Renault power for 2018 on the cards, and will that convince Alonso to stay? We should know before Singapore in a fortnight.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 14th, finished 12th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 15th, finished 14th.
Toro Rosso had a rather anonymous weekend at the scene of its greatest triumph, Vettel’s victory at Monza in 2008 the team’s sole success in F1. Kvyat started from eighth on the grid after penalties scattered the usual suspects at the front, but couldn’t sustain it and finished a lapped 12th as his run without points extended to eight races. Sainz copped a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change, had an engine blow-up in Friday practice, started towards the back and didn’t advance much further as the team made the short trip home to Faenza with zero points for the third time in the past five races.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 20th, finished 15th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 16th, finished 11th.
Grosjean started dead-last after the Frenchman aquaplaned off the circuit in torrential rain in Q1 and glanced the outside wall on the start-finish straight moments after he’d made it very clear over team radio that conditions and visibility were too poor to continue. “You couldn’t see anything, you couldn’t drive in a straight line,” Grosjean fumed afterwards. With Grosjean last on the grid, Haas took the opportunity to fit a new gearbox that came with a five-place penalty that dropped him to … last. An early pit stop for a damaged front wing thwarted any chance of moving up from there in what was, for most, a one-stop race. The news wasn’t much better for Magnussen, who finished one place out of the points and seething after coming off second-best in his late-race fight with a recovering Verstappen.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 17th, did not finish. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 12th, finished 13th.
Renault’s points totals in the four races before Monza – 0, 8, 0, 8 – should have given us some idea of what to expect in Italy, and the team played the long game for the remainder of the season by installing new engines for Hulkenberg and Palmer, taking the pain of penalties at a track where they expected to struggle to be more ready to race at circuits that better suit them. Hulkenberg beat Palmer in qualifying again – that’s 13-0 for the season over his British teammate for anyone still counting – but a very early pit stop for the German in an attempt to vault into the top 10 didn’t pay off. Palmer hovered around the fringes of the top 10 while he was still in the race (and Alonso was ranting about him to his McLaren engineers), but was retired by his team on lap 31 with a technical problem.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 18th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 19th, finished 16th.
Forget the present; it was all about the future for Sauber in Italy, with the announcement that the Swiss team will run Ferrari junior and Formula 2 series leader Charles Leclerc in first practice sessions in Malaysia, the USA, Mexico and Brazil in the second half of the season, a move that was anticipated after the team elected to use Ferrari engines for 2018. With Ericsson’s backers heavily involved in the ownership of the team and Wehrlein a Mercedes-supported driver, it’s almost certain that the German will be the driver to have his preparations for those four races compromised by missing out on track time. Back to the ‘now’, temporarily; Ericsson (11th) and Wehrlein (12th) started from season-best grid slots after all of the penalties for the rest were handed out, but quickly returned to the back of the field for their customary inter-team fight for last spot. Ericsson was last when he was asked by the team to retire the car with three laps left, leaving Wehrlein to prop up the pack after 53 laps.

Mark Webber’s ticks and crosses for F1 2017

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


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

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

Webber on … Lewis Hamilton

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

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

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

Webber on … Vettel and Ferrari

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

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

Webber on … where Red Bull sits

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

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

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

Webber on … Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes

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

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

Webber on … Fernando Alonso and McLaren

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

Webber on … the new-breed 2017 F1 cars

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

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